PhD position in Nanopore Transport
in Natural Systems (4 yrs)

Job description:

The Department of Earth Sciences currently seeks a highly-motivated, high-potential applicant for a PhD position on the project:

Experimental constraints on nanoscale fluid flow in natural systems.

Fluid-driven mineral reactions chemically modify enormous portions of the Earth's crystalline lithosphere affecting the stability of mountain belts, forming hydrothermal mineral deposits, sequestering anthropogenic CO2 as well as controlling many other processes. For these reactions to propagate through rocks, fluid transport networks are critical. The European Research Council (ERC) starting grant led by Dr Oliver Plümper, 'The nanoscale control of reactive fluids on geological processes within the solid Earth' (short: nanoEARTH), will focus on the role that these transport networks play in self-promoting fluid-mediated mineral reactions. In particular, Dr Plümper's group has demonstrated that nanoscale transport processes play a critical role in the effectiveness of the fluid-transport system. Therefore, the aim of this 4-year nanoEARTH PhD project is to experimentally and numerically determine fluid flow mechanisms through natural and synthetic nanoporous mineral systems.

The PhD project involves developing a unique experimental setup that directly probes nanoscale fluid transport phenomena. Experiments will be paired with state-of-the-art imaging technologies encompassing focused ion beam-scanning electron microscopy, transmission electron microscopy and numerical simulations. The results will be directly relevant to the development of a constitutive fluid-rock interaction model that links nanoscale processes with the macroscopic behaviour of fluid and mass transport in the Earth's crystalline lithosphere.

ERC promotes the highest quality research in Europe and helps to bring about new and unpredictable scientific and technological discoveries. As such, the student will have direct access to the world-class experimental and analytical facilities at Utrecht University, including brand-new electron microscopes.

The PhD candidate will engage in a trans-disciplinary research environment including closely collaborating with a second PhD candidate as well as Postdoctoral Researcher who are also part of the nanoEARTH project. As part of the personal PhD training programme, the candidate is expected to assist in the teaching programmes of the Department of Earth Sciences for a limited amount of time (~10%).


The successful candidate should be ambitious and have a relevant MSc degree (at the start of the contract) in Physics, Physical Chemistry, Material Sciences, or Earth Sciences, preferably specialised in Experimental (Mineral) Physics or Chemistry. She/he should not have a PhD degree. Candidates must have good quantitative/mathematical and programming skills and ideally should be interested in physical chemistry and/or nanofluidics. Knowledge of high-resolution analytical techniques (e.g., electron microscopy) and/or molecular dynamics simulations is also preferred. Applicants must have excellent written and spoken English skills and be highly motivated to work in an international team.

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, including the new solid Earth cluster Earth Simulation Laboratory. In addition, the department offers an extensive high-end computing infrastructure.

Additional information:

Informal enquiries may be sent to the project leader Dr Oliver Plümper (

How to apply:

To apply, please follow this link and the guidelines mentioned there. Applications will be accepted until January 31, 2020. Evaluations and interviews are planned soon thereafter. The intended starting date is March or April 2020.

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: 06 January 2020     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.