Utrecht University has great ambitions for its teaching quality and study success rates. This also applies to its clear research profiles which are centred around four themes: Dynamics of Youth, Institutions, Life Sciences and Sustainability. Utrecht University plays a prominent role in our society and contributes to finding the answers to topical and future societal issues. Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives.

Postdoc position on the positive effect of applying microorganisms for the conservation of sedimentary stone (1.5 years)

The Department of Earth Sciences is now looking for highly-motivated applicant to fill a postdoctoral research position on examining the positive effects of microbial treatment on stone weathering at the pore and building scale. Physical, chemical and biological weathering has a profound impact on the Earth's landscape and on its building infrastructure. Rock and masonry are constantly damaged and disaggregated by chemical reactions, water infiltration and temperature changes. Strengthening efforts to protect and safeguard the world's cultural and natural heritage is one of the United Nations' Targets for Sustainable Cities and Communities in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Fluids are a major driver of rock weathering: they trigger, among others, dissolution, precipitation, frost and salt weathering. The key to manipulating weathering lies in understanding and controlling fluid flow within the internal pore structure of rocks and thereby influencing the related pore-scale processes. While microbial organisms are generally known to alter rock surfaces, some actually display physiological capabilities that have beneficial effects on rock properties due to their production of bio-cement and biogas.

The Dutch Research Council founded VICI project, led by Prof. Veerle Cnudde, 'Towards protecting and improving building stones through microbial manipulation of pore structure' (short: BugControl), focusses on the understanding of bio-manipulated pore-scale processes inside rocks. The project aims to steer fluid-rock interaction by applying microbial organisms on and inside stone. This postdoctoral study will focus on the positive effect of microorganisms applied to sedimentary stone in lab (under controlled conditions) and on buildings. Their effect on the water household within the stone as well as their influence on the durability will be examined.

You will work primarily in the lab, using traditional and advanced (non-) destructive characterisation methods to examine the effect on microbial treatment on the stones conservation. The effect of biocolonisation within the pores can be examined both in 2D (using micromodels) and in 3D-4D (using advanced X-ray imaging). Special attention will be paid to the effect of biocolonisation on pore clogging, calcite precipitation, gas production and dissolution, and how these influence fluid flow inside the rocks at the pore and on the centimetre scale in real time. You will help to answer in what way the application of bacteria induces bioclogging, bio-cement and bio-gas production inside the different pore structures and how this activity is influenced by the original pore structure. Additionally, you will test different application methods for optimal used of microbial treatment.

Outcomes of this study will be incorporated into a team-effort to predict the impact of microbial organisms on rock properties and develop smart bio-conservation strategies. The research project is led Project Leader Prof. Veerle Cnudde and will be mainly performed at Utrecht University, The Netherlands. Access to the laboratories at Ghent University, Belgium, is also foreseen within this project


You should be innovative, ambitious and hold a PhD degree by the time that the position starts. A background in geology, stone conservation, cultural heritage and an interest in experimental applied work would be an advantage. A broad interest in Geosciences, and the willingness and capacity to interact in a multidisciplinary team, are essential. You should be fluent in spoken and written English, since the host group is highly international in composition.

Terms of employment:

We offer a temporary position (1.0 FTE) for 18 months in an international working environment. The gross salary - depending on previous qualifications and experience - ranges between €3,413 and €3,974 (scale 10.3 - 10.7 according to the Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities) per month for a full-time employment.

Salaries are supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8% and an end-of-year bonus of 8,3% per year. In addition, Utrecht University offers excellent secondary conditions, including an attractive retirement scheme, (partly paid) parental leave and flexible employment conditions (multiple choice model). For more information, please visit working at Utrecht University. Facilities for childcare and sports are available on campus.

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 a population of 3,400 students (BSc and MSc) and 720 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 tenured staff of about 50 scientists and more than 110 PhD students and postdoctoral researchers. Our research programme spans four intertwined themes: Climate & Life, Earth interior, Earth materials, and Environmental Earth Sciences. We house or have access to a wide variety of world-class laboratories.

This project is based within the Environmental Hydrogeology Group in our department. The group performs fundamental and applied research on the transport of fluids, colloids, and reactive chemical components in the shallow and deep subsurface. We apply a combination of theoretical, statistical, computational, and experimental methods to upscale processes from micro (pore) scale to column, and up to the field scale. Our work is related to environment and subsurface remediation, geo resources, and CO2 storage. The generated knowledge on upscaling in porous materials is highly cross disciplinary fostering collaborations with many scientific groups from (Earth) Science, applied research, as well as industrial partners.

About Utrecht:

Utrecht is the fourth largest city in the Netherlands with a population of nearly 360,000 and forms a hub in the middle of the country. Its historic city centre and its modern central station can easily be reached from the Utrecht Science Park by public transport or by a 15-minute bicycle ride. Utrecht boasts beautiful canals with extraordinary wharf cellars housing cafés and terraces by the water, as well as a broad variety of shops and boutiques.

Additional information:

For informal questions, please contact Prof. Dr Veerle Cnudde (project leader. Professor in Porous Media Imaging Techniques) via v.cnudde@uu.nl.

How to apply:

To apply, please follow this link and the guidelines mentioned there. The application deadline is March 13th, 2023. Evaluations and online interviews are planned soon thereafter. The preferred starting date is April 1st, 2023 or a.s.a.p. thereafter.

Please note that international candidates that need a visa/work permit for the Netherlands require at least four months processing time after selection and acceptance. This will be arranged with help of the International Service Desk (ISD) of our university. Finding appropriate housing in or near Utrecht is your own responsibility, but the ISD may be able to advise you therewith. In case of general questions about working and living in The Netherlands, please consult the Dutch Mobility Portal.

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

Click here to view all Utrecht University ads on the site

posted: 22 February 2023     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.