Postdoctoral position Enzymatic Depolymerization and characterization of synthetic Polymers

Postdoctoral position Enzymatic Depolymerization and characterization of synthetic Polymers

Published Deadline Location
13 Apr 15 May Amsterdam

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Job description

The Van ‘t Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences has a postdoctoral position available for 12 months to explore research at the forefront of biocatalysis and analytical chemistry in the area of enzymatic depolymerization and analytical characterization of synthetic polymers. The project was funded by Holland Chemistry and is a public-private partnership with companies DSM and Innosyn. The high multidisciplinary and the feasibility of the project will be assured by the close collaboration between the Biocatalysis group (which is part of Synthesis & Catalysis theme) and the Analytical Chemistry group of our institute.

What are you going to do?

You will work on the important problem on the accumulation of plastic materials in the environment and the necessity to: (i) analytically characterize the process of plastic degradation and (ii) to develop efficient depolymerization and recycling strategies. Although academia and industry have invested significant efforts in the development of new plastic materials that are inherently degradable in the environment, the replacement of traditional plastic materials with new generation biodegradable alternatives is not always possible for technical reasons. However, it appears that the degradability of the traditional polymers can also be tuned because it is linked to their particular physicochemical and structural properties. Notably, these polymers’ properties of performance vs. degradability have not been fully elucidated until to date. Therefore, this project aims at: (i) discovering, characterizing and engineering biocatalysts for the selective degradation of synthetic polymeric materials; (ii) developing advanced analytical techniques to elucidate the process of depolymerization and determine the key factors that influence the polymer degradability.

The project has already started, and significant advancements have been achieved. In the area of biocatalysis, depolymerizing enzymes have been identified and new variants have been preliminary obtained by introducing mutations through structural, in silico studies. In the area of analytical chemistry, analytical methods have been developed for the mass characterization of partially digested polymers and oligomers.

The continuation of the research project will be focused on two complementary work-packages:

  1. development of enzymatic and analytical tools for the characterization of the microstructure of synthetic polymer nanoparticles;
  2. the engineering of enzymes to enable the chemo selective degradation of polymer nanoparticles to oligomers as well as degradation of selected polymers back to monomers.


University of Amsterdam (UvA)


What do we require?

A PhD degree in chemistry is required. Due to the high multidisciplinary nature of the project, applicants with a focus and/or previous research experience in the following sub-disciplines will have a clear advantage: knowledge in biocatalysis (including in silico analysis of enzymes’ structures, enzyme engineering) and analytical chemistry (i.e., characterization of (bio)molecules through HPLC chromatography and mass spectrometric approaches).

The ability to collaborate and adapt in an international team is required and candidates must possess good communication skills in oral and written English.

Due to limitations in recruitment budget we will preferably consider candidates that are currently in Europe.

Conditions of employment

Our offer

We offer a temporary contract for 38 hours a week, preferably starting on 1 June 2021 for the duration of 12 months.

The salary, depending on relevant experience before the beginning of the employment contract, will be €2,790 to €4,402 (scale 10) 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.


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, flavor & food, medical and high-tech industries. Research is organized into four themes: Synthesis & Catalysis, Analytical Chemistry, Computational Chemistry and Molecular Photonics.

The Biocatalysis group is headed by Dr Francesco Mutti. In general, the Biocatalysis group carries out cutting-edge research at the interface between chemical and biological sciences. The research mainly focuses on the development of novel biocatalysts for the sustainable synthesis of high-value chemical products as well as for the degradation and recycling of waste materials. Complementary research lines are either the identification and characterization, or the engineering of novel enzymes, application of enzymes in cascades reactions in vitro (in batch or in flow) and in vivo.

Dr Andrea Gargano’s team is part of the Analytical Chemistry group. His research focuses on the development and implementation of analytical approaches to characterize the molecular complexity of bio- and synthetic polymers. This is pursued by exploring new sample preparation, liquid separation and mass spectrometric analysis of macromolecules such as biotechnological products and synthetic polymers.


  • Postdoc
  • Natural sciences
  • max. 38 hours per week
  • €2790—€4402 per month
  • Doctorate
  • 21-233


University of Amsterdam (UvA)

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