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.

PhD position to 'Develop a bioremediation prediction model to enhance decision making in applications' (4 years)

In search of a PhD candidate with the aim to develop a modelling tool integrating microbiological, chemical, hydrological and physical data and processes aiming to serve as decision support tool for bioremediation applications. The position is part of the EU-Horizon Project MiBiRem.

Bioremediation is the process of organic contaminants degradation in the subsurface by micro-organisms. Given that hundreds of thousands contaminated sites exist in Europe and pose a potential risk to humans and the environment this is the key technique to remediate and manage the subsurface and our drinking water reserves. As conventional remediation technologies are often too intensive and inefficient/costly, stimulated microbiomes have a high potential for contaminant removal in the bio-based industry and our living environment.

The MiBiRem project aims to improve development of applications for microbiomes. It includes developing molecular methods for a better understanding and monitoring? isolation and cultivation techniques? quality criteria for deposition? and methods to improve specific functions of microbiomes. During the project, degradation of organic contaminants in soil and groundwater by active microbiomes will be investigated at several field sites. Sampling will gain data for the development of a prediction tool that helps guide bioremediation. For predicting the impact of stimulated remediation efforts, analytical methods are needed to understand the different processes, such as reactivity and transport phenomena.

The main objective of the PhD study is to design and implement the multi-disciplinary prediction tool as a Python package. It will integrate established simulation software for hydrogeological conditions (Modflow), geochemical (PHREEQC), and microbiome/metagenome identification (Genomic & 16S sequencing), functional predictive metagenomics and species vs conditions (Canoco 5.12). Part of the process will be the development of a data management plan for handling and exchanging data across project groups. The prediction tool will be applied to at least one contaminated project field site. This task contains managing available field data (in collaboration with project partners) and setting up the model with hydrogeological and geochemical conditions, as well as microbiome information on contaminants and degraders.

A personalised training programme will be set up, reflecting your training needs and career objectives. About 20% of your time will be dedicated to this training component, which includes training on the job in assisting in the BSc and MSc teaching programmes of the Earth Sciences department at Utrecht University. As a PhD candidate you will be part of an international training network, but you may also benefit from a broad offer of voluntary seminars and support programmes offered at Utrecht University.


We are looking for candidates with:

  • a MSc in Earth Sciences, Biology, Civil Engineering or a topic related field by the time the position starts?
  • knowledge on biogeochemistry and/or bioremediation?
  • affinity to programming and numerical modelling?
  • willingness to work at the interface of academia and application-driven research?
  • the ability to work in a team?
  • excellent English oral and writing skills;
  • knowledge on data storage and experience with data management is an advantage.

Terms of employment:

You will be offered a temporary position initially for one year with an extension to a total of four years upon a successful assessment in the first year, and with the specific intent that it results in a doctorate within this period. The gross salary ranges between €2,541 in the first year and €3,247 in the fourth year of employment (scale P according to the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities) per month for a full-time employment. Filling the position 0.8 fte is optional.

Salaries are supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8% and an end-of-year bonus of 8,3% per year. In addition, you will have access to all equipment in our state-of-the-art laboratory infrastructure, coaching for teaching and supervision of researchers, and training and support regarding the acquisition of external funds. Utrecht University offers excellent secondary conditions external link, 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 over 45 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.

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 Dr Alraune Zech via A.Zech@uu.nl

To apply:

To apply, please follow this link and the guidelines mentioned there. The application deadline is November 18th, 2022. Evaluations and online interviews are planned in December. The aspired start date is January 1, 2023 or at the latest April 1, 2023.

However, 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.

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posted: 26 October 2022     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.