PhD position - Behaviour and environmental fate of ionizable pollutants

July 1, 2024
Location Wageningen
End date Mon 12 August 2024
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Your job

Are you a talented environmental scientist, soil scientist, biologist, ecologist or an ecotoxicologist with demonstrated experience in conducting experimental research? Do you like to collaborate with colleagues who have varying areas of expertise, including analytical chemistry, environmental fate of chemicals, ecology, ecotoxicology, statistics and computer science? Then, this vacancy might be of interest to you.

As a PhD candidate, you will be working within the recently granted four-year horizon Europe project SOILPROM. This project aims to advance pollutant transport and fate models that assess the impact of soil pollution on soil ecosystem services and to support stakeholders to move towards more sustainable land management strategies and policies. Wageningen Environmental Research is one of the partners in this project, which is led by Wageningen University.

You will be working both conceptually and experimentally. The research will focus on the environmental fate of PFAS and other ionizable substances of concern. Adsorption to soil constituents is one of the key aspects affecting the behaviour and transport of such substances. The research will aim to improve current adsorption models by including pH and ionic strength dependent adsorption. Plant uptake of these type of chemicals has been recognized as an important pathway for human dietary exposure. Therefore, a mechanistic model of plant uptake and further translocation and dissipation within plants will be developed. Specific attention will be paid to the impact of root distributions in the soil on the uptake of ionizable substances.  Models will be validated against data from use cases in the SOILPROM project.

You will work here
You will be employed by the Environmental Risk Assessment (ERA) team at Wageningen Environmental Research and supervised by Prof Jan Vanderborght at KU Leuven. You will be supervised by Dr. Steven Droge and Dr. Louise Wipfler from ERA team and  Prof. Jan Vanderborght of the KU Leuven will be your promotor.  Your  project will be embedded in a European project on soil pollution modelling. This will offer you the unique opportunity to profit from an extensive collaborative network and expertise from two key research groups in the field. As a PhD student you will become part of the Arenberg Doctoral School for Science, Engineering & Technology at KU Leuven that will support you with additional skills and opportunities to develop your academic and professional network.

The Environmental Risk Assessment (ERA) team is an interdisciplinary team of ecologists, chemists, modelers and ecotoxicologists and consists of a mixed group of juniors and seniors. The ERA team develops models and conducts experimental research to predict the behavior of organic contaminants in the environment, and to determine their effects on ecosystems. 

Your qualities

You are/ You have:

  • MSc degree in a relevant discipline in environmental sciences, soil sciences, ecology, biology or other relevant field, from an internationally recognized two year master program;
  • Affinity with the field of soil chemistry and pollutant transport;
  • Affinity with the field of plant physiology;
  • Demonstratable experience in translating observations in mathematical models;
  • Demonstratable experience in conducting experimental research;
  • Basic interest in programming (e.g. R, Python, MATLAB);
  • Good interpersonal skills & being a pleasant team player;
  • Good writing skills;
  • At least C1 level of communication skills (writing and speaking) in English.

We offer you

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

  • working hours that can be discussed and arranged so that they allow for the best possible work-life balance;
  • the option to accrue additional compensation hours by working more;
  • sabbatical leave, study leave, and partially paid parental leave;
  • 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 € 2629,- per month rising to € 3360,- in the fourth year in accordance with the CLA Wageningen Research (scale P). This is based on a full-time working week of 36 hours. We offer a temporary contract for 18 months which will be extended for the duration of the project if you perform well.

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 19th 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, therefore, has a large international community and a lot to offer to international employees.

Because we expect you to work and live in the Netherlands 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 for example helping your partner to find a job, housing, or schooling. Finally, certain categories of international staff may be eligible for a tax exemption on a part of their salary during the first five years in the Netherlands.

Do you want more information?

For more information about this position, please contact Louise Wipfler (after 1 August 2024) +31 6 12343231,

For more information about the procedure, please contact Noorien Abbas, Corporate Recruiter, 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 12  August 2024. We will schedule the first job interviews soon afterwards. The PhD candidate is expected to start on 1 October 2024.

As part of our selection process, an assessment may be incorporated within the procedure

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. A good example of how WUR deals with inclusiveness can be read on the page working at WUR with a functional impairment.

We are

The mission of Wageningen University & 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, 7,600 employees (6,700 fte) and 13,100 students and over 150,000 participants to WUR’s Life Long Learning, Wageningen University & Research is one of the leading organisations in its domain. The unique Wageningen approach lies in its integrated approach to issues and the collaboration between different disciplines.

Read the 5 reasons why your future colleagues enjoy working at WUR and watch the video below to get an idea of our green campus!

We will recruit for the vacancy ourselves, so no employment agencies please. However, sharing in your network is appreciated.