PhD Positions in Sustainable Phosphorus Chemistry

University of Amsterdam Faculty of Science

Two PhD Positions in Sustainable Phosphorus Chemistry

Publication date 22 June 2021

Closing date 31 August 2021

Level of education Master's degree

Hours 38 hours per week

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

Vacancy number 21-523

Phosphorus is essential for life on Earth and plays a prominent role in modern science and technology, where organophosphorus compounds are of immense importance for their wide-ranging applications in material science, nanotechnology and life sciences. At present, however, the overall industrial processes to produce these phosphorus compounds are unsustainable, energy intensive, and inefficient.

To meet the growing demand for phosphorus derivatives, whilst complying with increasingly stringent environmental regulations and sustainability issues, this NWO VICI research programme will advance P(III)/P(V) redox cycling and modernise the use of phosphorus by developing novel one-electron processes that minimise unnecessary redox reactions.

This interdisciplinary approach in organophosphorus chemistry exploits all facets of physical (in)organic chemistry, with a key focus on synthesis, molecular and mechanistic design, and sustainability.

In this project, we will develop: (i) the controlled generation of P-radicals and their reactivity to establish novel open-shell (radical) pathways, thereby advancing P-sustainability and the eco-friendly production of benign phosphorus compounds; and (ii) novel redox reactions of phosphines, spent phosphine oxides, phosphoric acid and waste phosphates to enable their use as renewable feedstocks for chemicals traditionally synthesised from elemental white phosphorus (P4), which will prevent their constant spillage in the environment. We will implement these innovations into a broader context and develop scalable protocols, which are needed to realize sustainable phosphorus chemistry on a large scale, introducing recycling, clean, and ‘cradle-to-cradle’ technologies as ground-breaking changes in the field to ensure the continued beneficial use of phosphorus.

The project has significant relevance for the Dutch National Research Agenda on Circular economy and resource efficiency: it will enforce a paradigm shift by developing efficient redox cycling methods to convert waste phosphates directly into high-value products using novel synthetic methodologies, and hence, contribute to modernising phosphorus chemistry by setting new frontiers.

What are you going to do?

You are expected:

  • to be active in the fundamental research of our sustainable main-group chemistry group, publishing in high level international journals, presenting at leading conferences and supervising BSc and MSc students;
  • to study P(III) to P(V) oxidation processes to enable the design of novel, highly efficient methodologies for the production of value-added P-chemicals from alternative resources;
  • to design radically new methodologies for P(V) to P(III) reduction to enable recycling and reuse of phosphorus oxides, hence, advancing P-sustainability and the eco-friendly production of key phosphorus compounds;
  • to develop novel, scalable protocols for the direct, redox neutral conversion of renewable inorganic phosphates into essential and benign organophosphate products, thereby eliminating unnecessary waste at the outset.

What do we require?

  • a MSc in Molecular Chemistry;
  • a strong scientific expertise in physical organic chemistry;demonstrated experience in synthesis (ideally using Schlenk-line and glovebox techniques), spectroscopy, electrochemistry and computational chemistry;
  • the ability and willingness to acquire all skills needed for molecular phosphorus chemistry;
  • you are able to show enthusiasm and scientific rigor that meets the requirements of the project.

Our offer

A temporary contract for 38 hours per week for the duration of four years (the initial contract will be for a period of 18 months and after satisfactory evaluation it will be extended for a total duration of four years). This 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 fulltime contract (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? Take a look here.

About us

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 organised into four themes: Synthesis & Catalysis, Analytical Chemistry, Computational Chemistry and Molecular Photonics.

The Synthetic Organic Chemistry (SOC) group is part of the Sustainable Chemistry research theme. As part of SOC and sustainable chemistry, the Slootweg group focuses on developing sustainable main-group chemistry, ideally suited to realize a circular economy. The mission of Slootweg group is to educate students at the intersection of fundamental physical organic chemistry, main-group chemistry, and circular chemistry.

Our research in this VICI project is dedicated to the development of novel and sustainable synthetic methodologies for advancing the sustainable use of phosphorus. Phosphorus compounds are essential for life on earth and play a prominent role in modern science and technology, yet their current production routes are not sustainable. This project will use P-based waste as a resource to contribute to decreasing environmental pollution and create high-value products using novel, eco-friendly methods. Therefore, we are recruiting PhD students to strengthen our research project “Enabling the Sustainable Use of Phosphorus through Novel Redox Cycling Processes”.


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

  • Chris Slootweg, Associate Professor in Chemistry
  • T. + 31 (0)20 525 8367

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 31 August 2021. You can apply online by using the link below. 

Applications in .pdf should include a motivation letter and CV, including a list of publications.
Please mention the months (not just years) in your CV when referring to your education and work experience.

We will recruit until the position is filled. The selection process commences immediately, but will close when a suitable candidate has been found, even if this prior to the final date of the application window.