PhD: Plant Pathogen Removal by Managed
Aquifer Recharge

Faculty/department: Civil Engineering and Geosciences
Level: Master degree
Maximum employment: 38 hours per week (1 FTE)
Duration of contract: 4 years
Salary scale: €2191 to €2801 per month gross

Civil Engineering and Geosciences

The Faculty of Civil Engineering and Geosciences of Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) provides leading international research and education, with innovation and sustainability as central themes. Research and education are closely interwoven and address societal challenges. The Faculty consists of the departments of Transport and Planning, Structural Engineering, Geoscience and Engineering, Water Management, Hydraulic Engineering, and Geoscience and Remote Sensing.

The Water Management Department consists of two research groups. Sanitary Engineering conducts research into the treatment and transport of drinking water, wastewater, and industrial water, including the extraction of raw materials and energy from the urban water cycle. Water Resources focuses on droughts, floods, and how water behaves in the atmosphere and on or beneath the Earth's surface. The research strategy is to provide a scientific basis for decision-making in water-related issues such as flood control, drought mitigation, water quality and ecosystem management.

For more information, please see our website: The department has an excellent international research reputation and is very well embedded in the (inter)national research community. A significant part of the research is done in strong collaboration with (inter-)national research institutes and industry.

Job description

A 4-year PhD position, financed by the Dutch Science Foundation (NWO), is available within the research project AGRIMAR ‘Agriculture and Managed Aquifer Recharge: drainage water recycling for irrigation and surface water quality protection’. AGRIMAR aims to provide solutions for two major agricultural water problems: (1) surface water carries plant pathogens causing diseases such as brown rot to (seed) potatoes and flower bulbs; its use for irrigation is prohibited or unwanted, and (2) brackish groundwater and climate change further deteriorate fresh water availability. AGRIMAR investigates managed aquifer recharge (MAR) technology that collects fresh tile drainage water for storage in aquifers, and retrieves it in summer for crop irrigation. This nature-based solution secures water availability, recycles water and nutrients, improves surface water quality, and yields economic gain. However, major research gaps are the (predictive) understanding of the conditions and processes improving both chemical and microbiological water quality in MAR.

As a PhD student working on pathogen risk assessment, you will actively collaborate with the other and already selected PhD student on water quality treatment. You will be supervised by daily supervisor and coordinator Dr. Boris van Breukelen, Prof. Gertjan Medema (both TU Delft), Prof. Jack Schijven (Utrecht University), and Dr. Jan van der Wolf (Wageningen University & Research).


You will

  • Conduct lab and field experiments to establish the fate of plant pathogens during groundwater transport;
  • Quantify pathogen concentrations with classical methods and PCR;
  • Analyse your data with existing computer models;
  • Perform a dose-response study and a quantitative microbial risk assessment. Besides your work at the TU Delft, you will carry out research in Wageningen, Utrecht, and at two pilot sites over various periods.


  • Relevant Masters degree in Microbiology, Environmental Sciences, Hydrogeology, Earth Sciences, Engineering, or a similar field;
  • Skills in microbial analysis and lab experiments;
  • Knowledge of hydrogeology/soil science;
  • Experience with scientific programming, statistics, and ideally solute transport modelling;
  • Fluency in English;
  • Good communication skills and ability to work in a team.

Conditions of employment

The TU Delft offers an attractive, customisable compensation and benefits package, including a discount for health insurance and sport memberships, and a monthly work costs contribution. Flexible work schedules can be arranged. An International Children’s Centre offers day care, before- and after-school care and an international primary school. Dual Career Services offers support to accompanying partners. Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities.

As a PhD candidate you will be enrolled in the TU Delft Graduate School. The TU Delft Graduate School provides an inspiring research environment; an excellent team of supervisors, academic staff and a mentor; and a Doctoral Education Programme aimed at developing your transferable, discipline-related and research skills. Please visit for more information.

Information and application

For more information about this position, please contact Boris van Breukelen, phone: +31 (0)15-2785227, e-mail:

Please include in your application:

  1. Short motivation letter (max. 1 page) covering your research interest and relevant experience.
  2. 1-2 page CV incl. list of publications (if any) and names, e-mail addresses and telephone numbers of two references (unless reference letters are attached).
  3. Copies of academic qualifications.

Please e-mail your application by 2 April 2017 to, referencing vacancy number CITG16-56.

We expect to hold the job interviews in the period of 10-21 April 2017.

posted: 17 February 2017     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.