PhD Position in Investigating Micropollutant Biodegradation in Groundwater
Wageningen University

PhD Position in Investigating Micropollutant Biodegradation in Groundwater

Published on
April 23, 2021

Location Wageningen

We are looking for

Do you have a masters degree in Environmental Science, Environmental Engineering, Environmental Chemistry or Environmental Microbiology? Are you looking for a PhD position where you can develop your academic career while also working closely with stakeholders? Do you want to work in a multidisciplinary team on real water challenges? We have a vacancy for a PhD investigating micropollutant biodegradation in groundwater in the new AquaConnect program. Will you join our team?

AquaConnect is a NWO-funded research program with 13 PhD’s and 4 Post Docs supported by about 40 stakeholders that aims to develop innovative solutions for making water supply resilient against future droughts. Collaboration among researchers and with stakeholders is an important part of the job. We aim to start with AquaConnect on September 1st, 2021. AquaConnect offers you the opportunity to do your PhD on micropollutant biodegradation in groundwater, to work with scientists and professionals across disciplines and to add value to the program.

What will you do

You will be part of a wide and dynamic consortium with a big social and environmental impact. You will work to close water cycles and improve water quality by investigating micropollutant biodegradation in groundwater systems. The research focuses particularly on understanding the fate and transformation of micropollutants under different groundwater conditions, for example in the presence of different electron acceptors or organic carbon substrates. Particular focus is placed on assessing and predicting biodegradation of micropollutants into various transformation products. The research includes laboratory degradation experiments and field sampling, and employs methods from environmental engineering, environmental and analytical chemistry, and molecular biology. The research is executed in close collaboration with other PhDs, postdocs and stakeholders in the AquaConnect program.

As a PhD student you will focus your research on the following:

  • Assess the impact of groundwater conditions on micropollutant biodegradation and transformation products in microcosm and column experiments.  
  • Explore microbial ecology of micropollutant biodegradation using 16S rRNA and metagenomics sequencing.
  • Screen field locations together with stakeholders for micropollutants and transformation products.
  • Provide recommendations to stakeholders for improving micropollutant mineralization in groundwater systems.

We ask

  • MSc degree in environmental engineering, environmental technology, water biotechnology, environmental sciences, or a related field from an internationally recognized two year master program taught in English and including a thesis research of 36 ECTS.
  • Background in biological water technologies, especially anaerobic, oligotrophic and drinking water systems;
  • Knowledge of microbial biodegradation processes, preferably of trace organic micropollutants;
  • Proven laboratory skills e.g. in molecular biology, analytical chemistry, contaminant biodegradation, and can think in and work with multidisciplinary research approaches;
  • Proven academic research experience, for example as part of thesis
  •  Affinity with working as a team player, proactive in your work, involved actively in your working environment and capable of independently addressing and solving research problems.
  • excellent English language proficiency (a minimum of CEFR C2 level). Preferably with proven test-results available. For more information about this proficiency level, please visit our special language page.
Candidates with other MSc degrees may need to conduct qualifying exams, successful language proficiency tests (TOEFL, or similar), and other extra requirements before being admitted to the project and the PhD programs of the participating Universities.

About AquaConnect

The Dutch delta faces enormous challenges in fresh water provision for industry, agriculture, nature and drinking water during increasingly frequent severe droughts due to climate change. This requires a major overhaul towards a water system that stores precipitation surplus instead of discharging it to the sea and towards use of alternative water sources, such as waste water treatment plant effluents, rain water collected from residential areas and brackish water. AquaConnect is instrumental in this transition by developing: i) chemical technologies enabling use of domestic/industrial effluents and brackish (ground)water, ii) digital technologies to design smart grid infrastructures to connect supply, demand, and nature based storage, iii) tools to manage related societal changes, and iv) demonstrations in four utilisation cases and international twinning.

AquaConnect scientific research will be performed in the following workpackages:
  • Digital technologies to identify new groundwater resources and determine the impact of its extraction.
  • Risk-assessment of cyclic water systems that include nature-based treatment and storage
  • Chemical and physical technologies for fit-for-purpose water, brine and sludge supply
  • Freshwater provision governance
  • The digital smart water-grid    
The scientific research in all workpackages will be performed in close collaboration with a work-package focussed on application of the scientific results in four demonstration areas in the Netherlands. As a PhD-candidate in AquaConnect, you will be expected to intensively cooperate with other (PhD) researchers and end-users from various companies to translate your scientific results into tangible pilot-application and demonstration in these Dutch demonstration areas.

We offer

Wageningen University & Research offers excellent terms of employment. A few highlights from our  Collective Labour Agreement include:

  • the option to accrue additional holiday hours by working more, up to 40 hours per week;
  • there is a strong focus on vitality and you can make use of the sports facilities available on campus for a small fee;
  • a fixed December bonus of 8.3%;
  • excellent pension scheme.
In addition to these first-rate employee benefits, you will receive a fully funded PhD position and you will be offered a course program tailored to your needs and the research team.
The gross salary for the first year is € 2.395,- per month rising to € 3.061,- in the fourth year in according to the Collective Labour Agreements for Dutch Universities (CAO-NU) (scale P). This is based on a full-time working week of 38 hours. We offer a temporary contract for 18 months which will be extended up to 4 years or for the duration of the project if you perform wellWageningen University & Research encourages internal advancement opportunities and mobility with an internal recruitment policy. There are plenty of options for personal initiative in a learning environment, and we provide excellent training opportunities. We are offering a unique position in an international environment with a pleasant and open working atmosphere.

You are going to work at the greenest and most innovative campus in Holland, and at a university that has been chosen as the “Best University” in the Netherlands for the 16th consecutive time.

Coming from abroad

Wageningen University & Research is the university and research centre for life sciences. The themes we deal with are relevant to everyone around the world and Wageningen University and Research, therefore, has a large international community and a lot to offer to international employees. Applicants from abroad moving to the Netherlands may qualify for a special tax relief, known as the 30% ruling. Our team of advisors on Dutch immigration procedures will help you with the visa application procedures for yourself and, if applicable, for your family.

Feeling welcome also has everything to do with being well informed. Wageningen University & Research's International Community page contains practical information about what we can do to support international employees and students coming to Wageningen. Furthermore, we can assist you with any additional advice and information about helping your partner to find a job, housing, schooling, and other questions.

More information

For more information about this position, please contact Dr. Nora Sutton, or by phone +31 317 483228
For more information about the procedure, please contact Rutger Voorrips, recruiter by phone +31 317 480571 or by e-mail

Do you want to apply?

You can apply directly using the apply button on the vacancy page on our website which will allow us to process your personal information with your approval.
This vacancy will be listed up to and including May 20th 2021. We hope to schedule the first job interviews early June 2021.

Equal opportunities

Wageningen University & Research (WUR) employs a large number of people with very different backgrounds and qualities, who inspire and motivate each other. We want every talent to feel at home in our organisation and be offered the same career opportunities. We therefore especially welcome applications from people who are underrepresented at WUR. For more information please go to our inclusivity page. A good example of how WUR deals with inclusiveness can be read on the page working at WUR with a functional impairment.

We are

Wageningen University & Research

The mission of Wageningen University and Research is “To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life”. Under the banner Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen University and the specialised research institutes of the Wageningen Research Foundation have joined forces in contributing to finding solutions to important questions in the domain of healthy food and living environment.

With its roughly 30 branches, 6.500 employees and 12.500 students, Wageningen University & Research is one of the leading organisations in its domain. An integrated approach to problems and the cooperation between various disciplines are at the heart of Wageningen’s unique approach. WUR has been named Best Employer in the Education category for 2019-2020.

These are the points our employees list as good reasons to come work at WUR: read the 5 reasons to come work at WUR
We will recruit for the vacancy ourselves, so no employment agencies please. However, sharing in your network is appreciated.

Apply now

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