PhD position in characterization and quantitation of nanoplastics in environmental samples

PhD position in characterization and quantitation of nanoplastics in environmental samples

Published Deadline Location
7 Apr 17 May Amsterdam

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In this position, you will develop high-level chemical and analytical methodologies for nanoplastic particles (characterization and quantification) in in complex environmental matrices.

Job description

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.


University of Amsterdam (UvA)


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.

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: 4 years.

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.


University of Amsterdam

With over 5,000 employees, 30,000 students and a budget of more than 600 million euros, the University of Amsterdam (UvA) is an intellectual hub within the Netherlands. Teaching and research at the UvA are conducted within seven faculties: Humanities, Social and Behavioural Sciences, Economics and Business, Law, Science, Medicine and Dentistry. Housed on four city campuses in or near the heart of Amsterdam, where disciplines come together and interact, the faculties have close links with thousands of researchers and hundreds of institutions at home and abroad.  

The UvA’s students and employees are independent thinkers, competent rebels who dare to question dogmas and aren’t satisfied with easy answers and standard solutions. To work at the UvA is to work in an independent, creative, innovative and international climate characterised by an open atmosphere and a genuine engagement with the city of Amsterdam and society.


Faculty of Science - Van't Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences

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.


  • PhD
  • Natural sciences
  • max. 38 hours per week
  • €2395—€3061 per month
  • University graduate
  • 21-222


University of Amsterdam (UvA)

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