Junior professor in soil science and soil fertility

(ref. ZAP-2021-65)

In the Science, Engineering and Technology Group of KU Leuven, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Division of Soil and Water Management and Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, there is a full-time tenure-track academic vacancy in the area of Soil science and soil fertility.

We are looking for internationally oriented candidates with an excellent research record and with educational competence within the field of soil science and soil fertility and offer an attractive research environment with extensive facilities, and an attractive starter package.

The division is embedded within the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. The mission of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences is to carry out state-of-the-art scientific research and teaching with respect to the functioning of geo- and ecosystems at different spatial and temporal scales, including the interaction between humans and the environment and the sustainable management of natural resources.

The Division of Soil and Water Management currently has 9 professors and 65 research and technical staff members. The division conducts research on soil fertility, nutrient and carbon fluxes in terrestrial and aquatic systems, environmental chemistry and microbiology, soil physical and hydrological processes and land surface remote sensing and data assimilation.

The Faculty of Bioscience engineering is the organiser of bachelor-, master-, honours-, postgraduate- and doctoral programmes in the field of the Applied Biological Sciences. De bachelor- and about half of the master programmes are taught in Dutch. The other programmes are English taught. Graduates of most of the Dutch and English taught master programmes are entitled the professional title 'bioscience engineer': https://www.biw.kuleuven.be/en/.

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For the present vacancy, we wish to recruit a junior academic staff member, in the tenure track system, willing to develop a research program at the forefront of soil science, seeking to unravel the biological, geochemical and pedo-genetic processes that determine soil quality, in particular soil fertility, as a determinant of sustainable agricultural production, with attention for productivity in developing countries.

The challenge of producing sufficient food for a growing and more prosperous world population within the carrying capacity of the Earth will form the overarching framework of your research. It will require an integrative approach and close collaboration with related disciplines, and may focus on natural and anthropogenic changes that affect soil quality, on changes in agro-ecosystems, on soil management options that improve the productive capacity of the soil.

You set up an international collaboration around your research program.

You make use of, and provide scientific support for the analytical lab facilities of the Division Soil and Water Management (stable isotope instrumentation, ICP-MS and ICP-OES, growth chambers, radioactive tracer work, state-of-the-art microbiological methods, LC-MS/MS).


You ensure high-quality education within the area of soil science and, more generally, in environmental, agricultural and environmental sciences, with a clear commitment to the quality of the programme as a whole. You also contribute to the pedagogic project of the faculty/university through the supervision of master theses and as a promoter of PhD students.

You develop your teaching in accordance with KU Leuven’s vision on activating and researched-based education and make use of the possibilities for the educationalist professionalization offered by the faculty and the university.


As member of the academic staff of KU Leuven you use your research and educational activities as leverage for collaboration with partners in the global south. You engage in the public debate and in the support of local, regional and (inter-)national authorities for development and monitoring of policy initiatives. In this function you will enable collaborations with industry.

You take up an active role in councils, educational committees, working groups of the university and in particular, of the division, department and faculty you will belong to.


  • You have a PhD in soil science (Bioscience Engineering or related).
  • You have a strong scientific track record with international publications.
  • Your demonstrated scientific mobility is considered a strong asset.
  • You have expertise in field and lab experimentation and analytical techniques.
  • You have demonstrable qualities related to academic education. Teaching experience is an advantage.
  • You have the capacity to lead and animate a research team and to attract research funding.
  • You possess organisational skills and have a cooperative attitude. You also possess leadership capacities within a university context. Strong interpersonal skills with the ability to function in international teams and a cooperative attitude.
  • A good command of spoken and written English is required. KU Leuven offers courses in academic English.
  • The official administrative language used at KU Leuven is Dutch. If you do not speak Dutch (or do not speak it well) at the start of employment, KU Leuven will provide language training to enable you to take part in meetings.
  • Before teaching courses in Dutch or English, you will be given the opportunity to learn Dutch or English, respectively, to the required standard.


We are offering full-time employment in an intellectually challenging environment.

KU Leuven is a research-intensive, internationally oriented university that carries out both fundamental and applied scientific research. Our university is highly inter- and multidisciplinarily focused and strives for international excellence. In this regard we actively work together with research partners in Belgium and abroad and provide our students with an academic education that is based on high-quality scientific research.

KU Leuven, alma mater of acclaimed scholars such as Erasmus, Andreas Vesalius and Georges Lemaître, has a rich scientific tradition and history. Its internationally renowned research and educational programmes lead to its consistent rank among the best 50 universities worldwide.

An attractive package of start-up funding (100.000 euro plus a 4-year PhD-scholarship) is provided to ensure a smooth start-up of your research activities.

You will work in Leuven, a historic, dynamic and lively city located in the heart of Belgium, within 20 minutes from Brussels, the capital of the European Union, and less than two hours from Paris, London and Amsterdam.

As a junior researcher you will be appointed as assistant professor in the tenure track (tenure track docent) for a period of 5 years. After this period and a positive evaluation, you obtain a tenured position as associate professor (hoofddocent).


For more information please contact Prof. Gert Verstraeten, Departmental Chair of Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, e-mail: gert.verstraeten@kuleuven.be, tel.: +32 16 32 64 11 and Prof. Erik Smolders, Departmental Vice Chair of Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, e-mail: erik.smolders@kuleuven.be, tel.: +32 16 32 96 77.

For problems with online applying, please contact solliciteren@kuleuven.be.

Add to your application following documents (more information is available on the KU Leuven job site):

  • your biosketch in which you indicate your added value as an academic for research, education and service to society of your past career and of your future activities (maximum 2 pages);
  • a file on your five most important publications or realizations;
  • an extensive cv including a full publication list;
  • your research plan with focus on the development of your research line and research team in relation with the colleague-researchers of the entity of employment (maximum 4 pages);
  • your vision on academic education and its organization (maximum 2 pages);
  • your contribution to society by outreach and public communication on science and technology, internal representation in boards and councils and service activities directly in relation to your developed expertise (maximum 1 page);
  • your vision on leadership (maximum 1 page).

KU Leuven places great importance on research integrity and ethical conduct and will therefore ask you to sign an integrity statement upon appointment.

You can apply for this job no later than September 30, 2021 via the online application tool

KU Leuven seeks to foster an environment where all talents can flourish, regardless of gender, age, cultural background, nationality or impairments. If you have any questions relating to accessibility or support, please contact us at diversiteit.HR@kuleuven.be.

published: 23 June 2021     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.