Dr. ir. Wouter van der Wal

Dr. ir. Wouter van der Wal

After an early interest in space I turned my attention to the Earth in my MSc thesis. The topic was rebound after the melting of ice sheets, a fascinating process that combines Earth’s climate with Earth’s interior. I obtained my PhD at the University of Calgary studying this process with finite-element models and satellite gravity measurements. I returned to Delft for a postdoc position in 2009. As assistant and later associate professor I expanded my research field to include dynamics of planets and moons driven by PhD and MSc projects.
Personal page / Google scholar profile

In keywords: planetary dynamics (deformation, dissipation, rotation), gravity field

Research: With PhD candidates and MSc students I maintain and develop a finite element model that can deal with variation in interior properties for the Earth, terrestrial planets and icy moons. On the Earth we study areas of ongoing postglacial rebound, such as West Antarctica, Canada, Scandinavia and Greenland. Currently we study the feedback between ice dynamics and bedrock deformation in the polar areas. Past and current PhD projects include the rotation of planetary bodies, tidal dissipation in Jupiter’s moon Io and in the sub-surface oceans of icy moons. For these different processes, we simulate changes in deformation, gravity or heat flux that can be observed from space. Our goal is to provide the link between space mission measurements and the questions we have about planetary bodies and their evolution.

Education: I teach in the MSc courses Satellite Orbit Determination, and Planetary Sciences 2, and coordinate the BSc course on Simulation, Verification and Validation. I have supervised MSc thesis projects on a range of topics within and outside our research group. I encourage students to look for topics related to any of the current PhD projects so that their MSc thesis can contribute to state-of-the-art research in planetary science.

For possible thesis topics, please have a look at the Brightspace page of the MSc AE profile Space Exploration.