PhD Position in Geoscience
Utrecht University

PhD Position in Geoscience


Job description

The Faculty of Geosciences of Utrecht University invites applications for a PhD position on climate change and the water-energy-food (WEF) nexus in South Africa.

South Africa is one of the most unevenly developed countries in the world. About 33% of South Africa’s population lives in rural areas with limited access to basic services such as clean and safe water, affordable and clean energy, and balanced and nutritious diets. This is exacerbated by climate change and has direct and indirect impacts on public health and wellbeing. This project will assess spatial inequality in water‐energy‐food security, the implications for public health in rural South Africa and how this will be affected by climate change. It will also identify future‐proof interventions to enhance the resilience of vulnerable rural communities to health crises.

This PhD project will map the spatial variability in the WEF security factors that affect health and the relations between these for all of rural South Africa. It will then map how these factors are projected to be affected by climate change. This PhD project will include:

  • quantifying and relating WEF‐factors relevant for health spatially explicitly at a national level;
  • spatially explicit mechanistic modelling of the WEF nexus system;
  • evaluating WEF security for health under climate change and possible health system shocks;
  • identifying local and national interventions to improve WEF security and health across rural South Africa

The PhD candidate will work in a highly interdisciplinary and international research project consortium from both the Netherlands and South Africa.


We are seeking an outstanding and a highly motivated candidate with a deep interest in the WEF nexus, sustainable development and climate change. We are especially interested in interdisciplinary scholars with strong modelling and programming skills.

We gladly receive applications from candidates who:

  • have an MSc in Physical Geography, Environmental Sciences, Hydrology, or a related geoscience domain;
  • have strong affinity with the Water Energy Food nexus and climate change;
  • have experience with spatial and temporal numerical modelling, preferably of components of the WEF nexus;
  • have excellent intercultural communication skills;
  • have proficiency in English;
  • enjoy working in an interdisciplinary and international environment;
  • are keen to travel to South Africa and collaborate with local experts.

You will be offered a temporary position (1.0 FTE), 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. Salaries are supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8% and a year-end bonus of 8.3% per year.

In addition, Utrecht University offers excellent secondary conditions, including an attractive retirement scheme, professional development, (partly paid) parental leave, sports and flexible employment conditions (multiple choice model). For more information, please visit working at Utrecht University.

About the organization

A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching. At Utrecht University, the various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major strategic themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Pathways to Sustainability. Sharing science, shaping tomorrow.

The 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 into four Departments: Earth Sciences, Human Geography & Spatial Planning, Physical Geography, and Sustainable Development.

The research will be carried out within three departments of the Geosciences Faculty: the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development; Human Geography and Spatial Planning; and Physical Geography. Additionally, it will be carried out within the Department of Primary and Community Care of the Radboud University Medical Centre. Practically, the PhD candidate will mainly be based in Utrecht with the opportunity to work at Radboud UMC on a regular basis.

Additional information

For more information about this position, please contact Dr. Floor van der Hilst (associate professor) at or Prof Derek Karssenberg (Professor of Computational Geography) at


Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives.

To apply, please send your curriculum vitae, including a letter of motivation via the ‘apply’ button below.

The first round of interviews is planned to take place on 5 September. The second round is scheduled on 18 September.

The application deadline is

If you apply for this position please say you saw it on Physicaloxy


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