PhD Position in Characterization and Quantitation of Nanoplastics in Environmental Samples

University of Amsterdam Faculty of Science

PhD Position in Characterization and Quantitation of Nanoplastics in Environmental Samples

Publication date 7 April 2021

Closing date 17 May 2021

Level of education Master's degre

Hours 38 hours per week

Salary indication €2,395 to €3,061 gross per month

Vacancy number 21-222

The  Van ‘t Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences is looking for a PhD candidate for the characterization and quantitation of nanoplastics in environmental samples.

In recent years, the scientific focus has shifted from analysing visible plastic particles to detecting microscopic plastic particles, typically using spectroscopic (microscopy‐FTIR or ‐Raman) or thermal degradation analyses (e.g.pyr‐GCMS). Up to now, the efforts have been focused most often on particle sizes above 1 μm. The analytical complexity to identify and monitor nano/microplastics (NMPs) in environmental matrices, increases with decreasing size. This explains why attention has mostly focused on particle sizes much above the 1 μm size range. As a consequence, there is still no consensus regarding methodology for sampling and identifying plastic particles in the nanometric range in complex aqueous matrices, nor are there yet environmental occurrence data available for nanoplastics. This lack of consensus is also caused by the fact that different groups have been investigating and proposing different methods with different size thresholds, which hinders comparison between results and, ultimately, limits progress in this field.

The main goal of this project is to develop an analytical toolbox for detailed analysis of NMPs down to a size of 50 nm using chemical digestion & analysis for samples from municipal and industrial wastewaters and sluge/sediment, surface waters and sediment, groundwater and drinking‐water samples to support and risk exposure assessment studies and substance flow analysis modelling. The PhD candidate will optimize and combine different sample preparation and chemical treatment, field-flow fractionation, and mass spectrometry methods. NMPs of different shapes (fibres, spheres) and diverse chemistries (including fluoropolymers) with a focus on the nanosized plastics will be the focus of this work. For method development, reference materials of plastics in the nanosize range produced within the project (labelled materials) or at collaborators (e.g. Wetsus, Avantium BASF) will be used. The developed methods will be applied to the analysis of real samples (e.g environmental and (sea)food related).

What are you going to do?

You are expected to:

  • participate in the fundamental and/or applied research of our analytical-chemistry group, in close collaboration with IBEDs' environmental toxicology and HIMS' Industrial Sustainable Chemistry group;
  • develop fit-for-purpose sampling and sample treatment procedures for the efficient extraction of NMPs;
  • optimize a series of mass spectrometry and field‐flow fractionation‐based methods to detect, quantify and characterize of nano/microplastics (NMPs) including the smallest size fractions (< 1μm, down to 50 nm), which have so far been mostly ignored;
  • monitor exposure to NMPs through the water cycle and in drinking water;
  • publish and present your work within the project and on international scientific platforms;
  • contribute to the teaching activities of the department.

What do we require?

  • A recent MSc degree in Analytical/Environmental Chemistry and/or Polymer Chemistry;
  • demonstrated affinity with analytical separations;
  • ability to function in an international research team;
  • willingness to collaborate with BSc/MSc students, PhD candidates and postdoctoral researchers in related research projects and with other research groups within and outside the Netherlands;
  • good communication skills in oral and written English.

Our offer

We offer a temporary contract for 38 hours per week 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 €2,395 to €3,061 (scale P) gross per month, based on a full-time contract of 38 hours a week. This is 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 the Van't Hoff Institute for Molecular Science

The Faculty of Science has a student body of around 7,000, 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 University of Amsterdam (UvA) 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 organized into four themes: Synthesis & Catalysis, Analytical Chemistry, Computational Chemistry and Molecular Photonics.

The Industrial Sustainable Chemistry group and the analytical-chemistry group collaborate intensively with colleagues at the adjacent Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics at UvA and with colleagues the Vrije Universiteit.


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

  • Alina Astefanei, Assistant Professor

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 17 May 2021. You may apply online by using the link below.

Applications should include:

  • a motivation letter and CV, including a list of publications;
  • 2 letters of recommendations.

We will invite potential candidates for interviews shortly after the vacancy is closed. The date and time will be indicated to the selected candidates via e-mail.

We will recruit until a suitable candidate is found.