2 PhD position in Organic Geochemistry / Microbial Ecology (4 yrs)

Job description:

Within the framework of the NWO Partnership Sand Filtration call, the Department of Earth Sciences at Utrecht University is currently looking for highly motivated candidates to fill two PhD positions to unravel

the role of biological activity in the performance of slow sand filters for drinking water treatment.

In this Partnership programme, the Dutch Research Council (NWO), domain Applied and Engineering Sciences, finances together with the drinking water companies Vitens and Dunea insightful and innovative research in the application of slow and fast sand filters in drinking water treatment. The project at Utrecht University aims to elucidate the internal carbon cycling, the functioning of food webs, and the role of bioturbation in slow sand filters. The goal is to relate detailed insight in the biological activity to the performance of slow sand filters in removing pathogenic microorganisms and detrital organic matter. By this, we aim to optimise the traditional operation of slow sand filters and to open avenues for innovative concepts in using sand filters.

The PhD candidates will apply state-of-the-art methods and approaches which are used to investigate the microbial ecology and carbon flow in aquatic sedimentary environments. This will include stable isotope labelling in combination with compound-specific isotope analysis of biomarkers and nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometry (nano-SIMS). Characterisation of the food web functioning will be combined with experiments on the removal efficiency of slow sand filters regarding pathogenic microorganisms and organic matter.

The project will be performed in collaboration with the Department of Estuarine and Delta Systems and the Department of Marine Microbiology and Biogeochemistry of the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ). The project leader will be Dr Thilo Behrends at Utrecht University. As part of their personal PhD training programmes, the candidates are expected to assist in the teaching programmes of the Department of Earth Sciences for a limited amount of time (~10%).


We are seeking enthusiastic PhD candidates holding an MSc degree (at the start of the contract) in Biology, Earth Sciences, Environmental Sciences, or Environmental/Civil Engineering. Experience in organic geochemistry, isotope analysis, microbial ecology, or chemical laboratory work is helpful but not essential.

You are interested in performing fundamental, interdisciplinary research in an applied context. You are an excellent team player as this project requires close collaboration within other projects within the Sand Filtration Program. You are expected to communicate scientific knowledge to stake holders and you have excellent written and spoken English skills.

Terms of employment:

You will be offered a full-time PhD position, initially for one year with extension to four years in total upon a successful assessment in the first year, and with the specific intent that it results in a doctorate within this period.

Employment conditions are based on the Collective Labour Agreement of the Dutch Universities. The gross monthly salary starts at € 2,325 in the first year and increases to € 2,972 in the fourth year. The salary is supplemented by a holiday allowance of 8% of annual salary and a year-end bonus of 8.3% of annual salary per year. We offer a pension scheme, (partly paid) parental leave, collective insurance schemes and flexible employment conditions (multiple choice model).

Facilities for sports and child care are available on our main campus (where the Department of Earth Sciences is situated), which is located only 15 minutes away from the historical city centre of Utrecht.

About the organisation:

The Utrecht Faculty of Geosciences offers education and research concerning the geosphere, biosphere, atmosphere and hydrosphere. With a population of 2600 students (BSc and MSc) and 600 staff, the Faculty is a strong and challenging organisation. The Faculty is organised in four Departments: Earth Sciences, Physical Geography, Sustainable Development, and Human Geography & Spatial Planning.

The Department of Earth Sciences conducts teaching and research across the full range of the solid Earth and environmental Earth sciences, with activities in almost all areas of geology, geochemistry, geophysics, biogeology and hydrogeology. The department hosts a highly international group of more than 100 PhD students and postdoctoral researchers and houses a wide variety of world-class laboratories. You will be working within the Geochemistry Group which focuses on the geochemistry of the Earth surface. The Group combines field data with experimental, modelling and theoretical approaches to elucidate biogeochemical cycles and mineral transformations along the aquatic continuum, e.g. from weathering of rocks to biogeochemistry of deep-sea sediments. We investigate (bio)geochemical processes from the nanometer to the global scale and utilise the geological record to better project Earth surface conditions in the future.

Additional information:

Informal enquiries may be sent to the project leader Dr Thilo Behrends (T.Behrends@uu.nl).

How to apply:

To apply, please follow this link and the guidelines mentioned there. Applications will be accepted until November 25, 2019. Evaluations and interviews are planned soon thereafter. We aim to start the positions on January 1, 2020, or as soon as possible thereafter.

Online screening may be part of the selection. Commercial response to this ad is not appreciated.

Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives.

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posted: 25 October 2019     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.