PhD position on the Geochemistry of Sand Filtration (4 yrs)

Job description:

Within the framework of the NWO Partnership Sand Filtration Programme, the Department of Earth Sciences at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, is looking for a highly motivated PhD candidate for a project on geochemical and microbiological processes in sand filters during drinking water production.

In this Partnership programme, the Dutch Research Council (NWO), domain Applied and Engineering Sciences, and the drinking water companies Vitens and Dunea are funding innovative research on the application of slow and fast sand filters in drinking water treatment. 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.

In this project, the Department of Microbiology at Radboud University and Department of Earth Sciences at Utrecht University will join forces, with one PhD student at Radboud University focusing on the microbiology and one PhD student in Geochemistry (this vacancy) focusing on elemental cycling in the sand filters. Specific attention will be given to a quantitative assessment of the dynamics of manganese, iron and nitrogen in the sand filters using a combination of geochemical analyses and reactive transport modeling. Our ultimate goal is to use the new knowledge gained in this project to optimise the operation of sand filters.


We are seeking a PhD candidate with an MSc degree in Earth Sciences, Environmental Sciences, or Environmental/Civil Engineering. Experience in (inorganic) (Geo)chemistry and quantitative modeling is helpful, but not a requirement.

Candidates should be interested in performing fundamental, interdisciplinary research in an applied context. We are looking for an excellent team player as this project requires close collaboration with members of the microbiology group at Radboud University, the researchers involved in the other projects of the Sand Filtration call, and stakeholders. Excellent written and spoken English skills are essential.

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:

Utrecht University's Faculty of Geosciences studies the Earth: from the Earth's core to its surface, including man's spatial and material utilisation of the Earth - always with a focus on sustainability and innovation. With 3,400 students (BSc and MSc) and 720 staff, the Faculty is a strong and challenging organisation. The Faculty of Geosciences is organised in four Departments: Earth Sciences, Human Geography & Spatial Planning, Physical Geography, and Sustainable Development.

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, modeling 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 about the position may be sent to Prof. Dr Caroline Slomp (Professor of Biogeochemistry and project leader), via

How to apply:

To apply, please follow this link and the guidelines mentioned there. Applications will be accepted until April 15, 2020. Evaluations and interviews are planned soon thereafter. The intended starting date is September 1, 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: 10 March 2020     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.