PhD position on Human-Centered Scheduling and Planning (0.8 – 1.0 FTE)

Uren per week: 
30 tot 40
Faculteit of dienst: 
Faculteit Bètawetenschappen
Department of Information and Computing Sciences
Uiterlijk reageren op: 


Utrecht University (UU) and Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS, Netherlands  Railways) extend their cooperation on planning and scheduling. We aim to incorporate personal characteristics of the personnel into algorithms to achieve human-centred planning and scheduling that goes beyond conventional resource optimization. Traditionally, railway planning and scheduling takes into consideration line planning, timetabling, rolling stock planning, duty scheduling, and personnel rostering. This project focuses on duty scheduling and personnel rostering, which is an NP-hard optimization problem. We pursue a human-centered approach, including personnel's personal preferences to the rostering process; for example, by avoiding rostering characteristics that might trigger stress.

Based on both knowledge from psychology and communication sciences and data gathered via questionnaires, interviews, and psychological test batteries, NS’ available data and models will be used and augmented with an additional personnel component. Subsequently, conventional approaches with glass box Artificial Intelligence (AI) methods (e.g., optimization and search strategies) are employed to develop human-centered planning and scheduling models.

You will work at the intersection of Operations Research (OR) and Human-Centered Computing (HCC). Therefore, you will join the UU group on OR (7 PhD-students) and a subgroup of HCC (8 PhD-students), embedded in a department with a group of nearly 130  enthusiastic PhD-students. You will execute your own PhD-project in cooperation with other PhD-students and staff from NS and UU. You will work one day a week at NS within the department Performance Management and Innovation (NS-PI).

As a PhD-student your main task is research. In this position, supplementary to your research, you have educational tasks, which will consume maximally 30% of your time. This includes co-supervision of BSc and MSc-students, supervision of tutorials, and lectures. You will also get coaching on education, such that your development on this aspect is also fueled as much as possible.

You are encouraged to publish in renown scientific journals. Additionally, you can visit conferences to present your work and learn from others. Throughout the process you will build your PhD-thesis, which will be a rewritten combination of your journal articles. Publishing in newspapers, and appearing in other media (e.g., radio) is an option as well.


You are a team player with a strong motivation to pursue a PhD-degree. Additionally, we would like you to bring:

  • a MSc-degree in Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence, Mathematics, Cognitive Science, Econometrics, Electrical Engineering or a related field;
  • demonstrated programming skills;
  • interest in psychology, communication science, and affective sciences;
  • a strong interest in interdisciplinary scientific work; 
  • good English academic writing and presentation skills.

Finally, because of cooperation with NS, proficiency in Dutch is an advantage.


We offer a personalized development programme and extensive lab facilities including support. During your PhD you are ensured of the continuous support of NS. Next to that we offer:

  • a position for 5 years (0.8 - 1.0 FTE);
  • a full-time gross salary that starts at €2,541 and increases to €3,247 per month (scale P of the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities, CAO);
  • 8% holiday bonus and 8.3% end-of-year bonus; and
  • a pension scheme, partially paid parental leave, and flexible employment conditionsbased on the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities.

In addition to the employment conditions laid down in the CAO for Dutch Universities, Utrecht University has several of its own arrangements. For example, there are agreements on professional development, leave arrangements and sports. We also give you the opportunity to expand your terms of employment via the Employment Conditions Selection Model. This is how we like to encourage you to continue to grow.

For more information, please visit working at Utrecht University.

Over de organisatie

A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching. At Utrecht University, the various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major strategic themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Sustainability. Watch the Utrecht University Campus Tour for an impression of our university.

At the Faculty of Science there are 6 departments to make a fundamental connection with: Biology, Chemistry, Information and Computing Sciences, Mathematics, Pharmaceutical Sciences and Physics. Each of these is made up of distinct institutes that work together to focus on answering some of humanity’s most pressing challenges. More fundamental still are the individual research groups – the building blocks of our ambitious scientific projects.

The project is a cooperation between UU and NS, as part of the Utrecht AI & Mobility Lab. At UU, the project is embedded in the OR group and the HCC subgroup of Egon L. van den Broek, which together contain 15 PhD-students. The OR group works on local search heuristics, mathematical programming, hybrid OR and AI algorithms, simulation, machine learning and data-driven predictive modelling and decision making. The HCC subgroup works on data-intensive real-time, real-world interaction paradigms, which utilize a knowledge-driven, data-driven, or combined approach.

The work of both groups is motivated by real-world applications and they have long-term research cooperations with HONDA, NS, ProRail, Qbuzz, and KLM. Their work is published open access in outlets such as Nature Computational ScienceTransportation Science, and Computers & Operations Research and led to several patents. The groups aim to generate value for both science and society and, consequently, have impact.

Within NS you will work closely with staff from the Performance Management & Innovation (PI) department. PI's ambition is to help NS with substantial and demonstrable contributions to serve passengers better and better. PI develops and tests improvements and innovations for the transportation process and provides support for subsequent implementations. The ultimate goal of the innovations is a more reliable and better transport product for the traveler, and a better operating result.

PI consists of a stable group of more than 25 passionate positive-critical professionals. They are often highly educated, with great involvement in the sector and strong mutual cohesion. PI is at its best with mathematical, technical and social innovations for the transport process, both in the long term and in the here and now.

Aanvullende informatie

If you have any questions that you’d like us to answer, please contact Marjan van den Akker at and/or  Egon L. van den Broek via

Do you have a question about the application procedure? Please send an email to


Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives. If you have the expertise and the experience to excel in this role, then simply respond via the “Apply” button!

Please enclose: 

  • a detailed CV;
  • a motivation letter;
  • scans of BSc and/or MSc transcripts (incl. grade list), with certified translation in English if the degree qualification is not in Dutch or English; and
  • your BSc and MSc-thesis.

If you are within a few months from the completion of your MSc degree, we also welcome you to apply! In that case, please enclose a letter from your MSc thesis supervisor indicating when you are likely to graduate. We are flexible with respect to the starting date.

If this specific opportunity isn’t for you, but you know someone else who may be interested, please forward this vacancy to them.

Some connections are fundamental – Be one of them

Uiterlijk reageren op 13 juni 2023.