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Job advertisement PhD position on column testing and numerical modeling of PFAS flushing from soils

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European Geosciences Union

PhD position on column testing and numerical modeling of PFAS flushing from soils

PhD position on column testing and numerical modeling of PFAS flushing from soils


Utrecht University, Faculty of Geosciences, Department of Earth Sciences

Utrecht University has great ambitions for its teaching quality and study success rates. This also applies to its clear research profiles which are centred around four themes: Dynamics of Youth, Institutions, Life Sciences and Sustainability. Utrecht University plays a prominent role in our society and contributes to finding the answers to topical and future societal issues. UU wishes to be a home for everyone. We value staff with diverse backgrounds, perspectives and identities, including cultural, religious or ethnic background, gender, sexual orientation, disability or age. We strive to create a safe and inclusive environment in which everyone can flourish and contribute.

Utrecht University’s Faculty of Geosciences studies the Earth: from the Earth’s core to its surface, including man’s spatial and material utilisation of the Earth – always with a focus on sustainability and innovation. With a population of 3,400 students (BSc and MSc) and 720 staff, the Faculty is a strong and challenging organisation. The Faculty is organised in four Departments: Earth Sciences, Physical Geography, Sustainable Development, and Human Geography & Spatial Planning.

The Department of Earth Sciences conducts teaching and research across the full range of the solid Earth and environmental Earth sciences, with activities in almost all areas of geology, geochemistry, geophysics, biogeology and hydrogeology. The department hosts a highly international tenured staff of over 50 scientists and more than 110 PhD students and postdoctoral researchers. Our research programme spans four intertwined themes: Climate & Life, Earth interior, Earth materials, and Environmental Earth Sciences. We house or have access to a wide variety of world-class laboratories, including our Porous Media laboratory.

About Utrecht
Utrecht is the fourth largest city in the Netherlands with a population of nearly 360,000 and forms a hub in the middle of the country. Its historical city centre and its modern central station can easily be reached from our campus in Utrecht Science Park by public transport or by a 15-minute bicycle ride. Utrecht boasts beautiful canals with extraordinary wharf cellars housing cafés and terraces by the water, as well as a broad variety of shops and boutiques.


Utrecht, Netherlands


Relevant divisions
Energy, Resources and the Environment (ERE)
Hydrological Sciences (HS)
Soil System Sciences (SSS)

Full time

Entry level

See 'Terms of employment'

Required education

Application deadline
29 May 2024

8 May 2024

Job description

PFAS * are everywhere: in our soil, water, food and body. Worldwide, all countries are affected with soils being contaminated with PFAS. Yet, there are no sustainable methods for remediation. Utrecht University adopted its own safety training facility, a PFAS contaminated site at the Utrecht Science Park, as a subject to research: the PFAS Remediation Living Lab.

The PFAS Remediation Living Lab is created for sustainable development of PFAS soil and groundwater remediation with a particular application to the PFAS contaminated field at Utrecht University. It brings together researchers and students from the faculties of Geosciences and Sciences, the UU Facility Service Centre and Utrecht Municipality. The living lab is created in cooperation with Utrecht University Living Labs (UULabs) and is supported by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management.

This research will run for four years and includes three PhD positions of which this is one position. Each PhD researcher will work on its own line of research but will collaborate with the other PhD researchers and stakeholders in the living lab. Would you like to contribute to developing sustainable solutions for removing and destroying PFAS substances, remediating this field?

*) PFAS, also referred to as “forever chemicals”, are man-made substances that are very difficult to break down. They are used in many products as they contain water, grease, and dirt repellent properties. PFAS are a health risk for animals, humankind and the environment.

Project / position 1
In the department of Earth Sciences we’re seeking a motivated PhD candidate to work on column experiments and numerical modeling of PFAS transport and desorption behaviour in soil. The goal is to understand and quantify the role of drainage systems by combining transport modeling of PFAS in unsaturated soils in the presence of a drainage system with column flushing experiments using field samples. Finally, results and procedures will be adapted for field scale application.

Your activities are built up around:

  • Experimental work: you will perform column scale experiments for analysis of flushing behaviour of PFAS in Dutch soils; contributing to PFAS flushing remediation strategy and test in column setting; providing support in the PFAS field remediation pilot
  • Numerical Modeling: numerical modeling of PFAS transport and leaching in Dutch (unsaturated) soil using experimental results; model (analytically/numerically) development on multiple PFAS compounds mixture at low concentrations

You are expected to publish the results in peer-reviewed papers. A personalised training programme will be set up, reflecting your training needs and career objectives. About 20% of your time will be dedicated to this training component, which includes training on the job in assisting in the Bachelor’s and Master’s programmes of the department at Utrecht University.

We look forward to your application if you have multiple of the following qualifications:

  • You hold a Master’s degree in a relevant field of earth science, environmental science, natural sciences or engineering by the time the position starts (September 2024).
  • You have experience in hydro(geo)logy, preferably with knowledge of analytical and numerical flow and transport models.
  • You have experience with programming languages such as Python, R or Matlab.
  • You have basic experience of laboratory experimental work.
  • You are a curious and enthusiastic researcher ready to learn about the physical behaviour of PFAS and strategies of PFAS removal from the porous subsurface environment.
  • You have good English oral and writing skills (C1 level).
  • You have a creative mindset, excellent analytical and communication skills with a good team spirit to work in an interdisciplinary and internationally oriented environment.

Terms of employment
We offer:

  • a position (1.0 FTE) for 1 year, with an extension to a total of four years upon a successful assessment in the first year, and with the specific intent that it results in a doctorate within this period;
  • a full-time gross salary between €2,770 in the first year and €3,539 in the fourth year of employment in scale P of the Collective Labour Agreement (CAO) Dutch Universities;
  • 8% holiday bonus and 8.3% end-of-year bonus;
  • a pension scheme, partially paid parental leave, and flexible employment conditions based on the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities.

In addition to the employment conditions in the CAO for Dutch Universities, Utrecht University has a number of its own arrangements. These include agreements on professional development, leave arrangements, sports and cultural schemes and you get discounts on software and other IT products. We also give you the opportunity to expand your terms of employment through the Employment Conditions Selection Model. This is how we encourage you to grow. For more information, please visit working at Utrecht University.

How to apply

For informal information about this position, please contact Dr Alraune Zech at

To apply, please go to the corresponding advertisement on UU’s own website and follow the guidelines mentioned there. We aim for a quick selection procedure after the application deadline of May 29. The position should start on September 1, 2024.

Note that international candidates that need a visa/work permit for the Netherlands require at least four months processing time after selection and acceptance. This will be arranged with help of the International Service Desk of our university. Finding appropriate housing in or near Utrecht is your own responsibility, but the ISD may be able to advise you therewith. In case of general questions about working and living in The Netherlands, please consult the Dutch Mobility Portal.

Online screening may be part of the selection. Commercial response to this ad is not appreciated.