PhD Position in Prebiotic Chemistry Routes on Rocky Exoplanets
University of Amsterdam Faculty of Science

PhD position in Prebiotic Chemistry Routes on Rocky Exoplanets

Publication date 24 April 2020

Closing date 30 June 2020

Level of education PhD

Hours 38 hours per week

Salary indication €2,325 to €2,972 gross per month

Vacancy number 20-256

How universal are life’s building blocks? Organic molecules have been detected on rocky bodies, meteorites, and in the interstellar medium. Prebiotic molecules from exogenous or planetary source could both constitute monomers that may lead to biopolymers and eventually life. Prebiotic polymerisation processes could very well play a key role in the selection of certain building blocks over others with a high dependence on planetary conditions. We aim to investigate the selectivity that polymerization of (extraterrestrial) monomeric building blocks of life can introduce and the role of the environment on this selectivity. We want to examine polymerisation routes at the interface of atmosphere and mineral surfaces with and without water in conditions relevant for Early-Earth, Mars, and Titan. We will focus on branching effects of polymerisation using key differences between monomers from exogenous and in-situ sources. We will examine the control of the environment on these branching effects, focussing on the structural properties of minerals and the oxidation capacity of the atmosphere. This project is part of the NWO Planetary and Exoplanetary Science (PEPSci) programme and ventures on the boundary of astrochemistry and geosciences.

What are you going to do?

As this is a joint project, you will be a member of two dynamic and interdisciplinary research groups located at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) and Utrecht University (UU). You will also join the NWO PEPSci network together with the PhD students from other projects within the network. You will perform experiments at both UvA and UU, which will include laboratory polymerisation experiments and characterisation of minerals. You will also further develop the laboratory setup to include varying conditions and non-invasive sampling. You will analyse and interpret the results. You will report your results in peer-reviewed journals and at international conferences and you will be part of a stimulating and challenging environment.

What do we require?

  • A MSc degree in chemistry, geosciences or related science;
  • good communication skills in oral and written English;
  • ability to collaborate and adapt in an interdisciplinary team.

Experience in laboratory (astro)chemistry and/or geoscience is an advantage. 
Affinity with fundamental, interdisciplinary research is helpful.

Our offer

 A temporary contract for 38 hours per week starting on 1 September 2020 for the duration of 4 years (initial contract will be for a period of 18 months and after satisfactory evaluation it will be extended for a total duration of 4 years) and should lead to a dissertation (PhD thesis). We will draft an educational plan that includes attendance of courses and (international) meetings. We also expect you to assist in teaching undergraduates and master students. 

The salary, depending on relevant experience before the beginning of the employment contract, will be €2,325 to €2,972 (scale P) gross per month, based on a full-time contract (38 hours a week), exclusive 8 % holiday allowance and 8,3% end-of-year bonus. A favourable tax agreement, the ‘30% ruling’, may apply to non-Dutch applicants. The Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities is applicable.

Are you curious about our extensive package of secondary employment benefits like our excellent opportunities for study and development? Then find out more about working at the Faculty of Science.

About the Faculty of Science and HIMS

The Faculty of Science has a student body of around 6,500, as well as 1,600 members of staff working in education, research or support services. Researchers and students at the Faculty of Science are fascinated by every aspect of how the world works, be it elementary particles, the birth of the universe or the functioning of the brain.

The Van't Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences (HIMS) is one of eight institutes of the Faculty of Science. HIMS performs internationally recognized chemistry and molecular research, curiosity driven as well as application driven. This is done in close cooperation with the chemical, flavour & food, medical and high-tech industries. Research is organised into four themes: Sustainable Chemistry, Analytical Chemistry, Computational Chemistry and Molecular Photonics.


Do you have questions about this vacancy? Or do you want to know more about our organisation? Please contact:

  • Dr Annemieke Petrignani assistant professor
    T: +31 (0)20 525 7158

Job application

The UvA is an equal-opportunity employer. We prioritise diversity and are committed to creating an inclusive environment for everyone. We value a spirit of enquiry and perseverance, provide the space to keep asking questions, and promote a culture of curiosity and creativity.

Do you recognize yourself in the job profile? Then we look forward to receiving your application by 30 June 2020. You may apply online by using the link below.    

Applications should include:

  • a motivation letter and CV, including a list of publications;
  • a list of 3 referees.

We will invite potential candidates for online interviews end July (dates TBD). #LI-DNP

No agencies please

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


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