PhD in Forensic Illicit Drug Analysis

PhD in Forensic Illicit Drug Analysis

Published Deadline Location
25 Jan 24 Feb Amsterdam

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Job description

Recently, the FIDBID project proposition in NWO’s Subversive Crime call from a consortium consisting of the University of Amsterdam, VU University Amsterdam, the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI), the Dutch Police, the Dutch Customs Laboratory and Capgemini was granted ( FIDBID is the project acronym for ‘Forensic Illicit Drug intelligence through Big and Intelligent Data analysis’ and the proposal involves the automated extraction of chemical information from the standard GC-MS (gas chromatography with mass spectrometry) screening of case samples that potentially contain illicit drugs (list I hard drugs and/or list II soft drugs). Roughly, 25.000 samples are analysed annually by the NFI, Dutch Police, and Dutch Customs.

With the use of big data analysis techniques, chemical information will be automatically extracted and used to generate valuable insights (intelligence) with respect to the production, transport, and trade of illicit drugs in the Netherlands. FIDBID aims to do this without affecting the primary drug screening process. The resulting forensic chemical intelligence can be used by law enforcement and governmental bodies to effectively fight drug-related subversive crime in our country.

In the project, the research will be performed by 3 PhD students in 3 inter-connected work packages: drug chemistry and chemical analysis (WP1), big data analysis (WP2), and criminology (WP3). The combination of these expertise areas is required to realize the overall FIDBID goal of providing Dutch authorities with a valuable and new source of information to effectively fight subversive crime. Private partner Capgemini will develop the professional interface that will allow non-experts to explore and use the generated intelligence.

Tasks and responsibilities
As a PhD student you will be performing the research in the chemistry work package (WP1). You will closely collaborate with forensic illicit drug analysis experts of the Netherlands Forensic Institute and the Dutch Police, and you will perform much of the research at the laboratory of the Illicit Drug team of the NFI (Ypenburg, The Hague). Through (synthesis) experiments and chemical analyses you will search for new, promising chemical markers that provide insights into illicit drug production and trafficking processes. You will work closely with the data science and criminology PhD students to develop automated marker extraction methods and understand the drug production and trafficking context.

What are you going to do?
  • Studying contemporary scientific literature on forensic illicit drug analysis and forensic intelligence;
  • Designing and conducting small-scale drug production experiments;
  • Performing chemical analyses (including GC-MS, GC-IR, LC-MS, IR, and NMR) and subsequent data interpretation for the discovery and chemical identification of potential drug production markers;
  • Utilizing and optimizing GC-MS based screening methods for monitoring novel drug production markers in large volume case work;
  • Supervising BSc and MSc students that are conducting literature reviews and research projects as part of the FIDBID project;
  • Presenting the scientific findings at consortium partner meetings and scientific conferences;
  • Preparing manuscripts and publishing scientific papers in forensic and analytical chemistry journals describing the experimental results of the FIDBID project;
  • Preparing and coordinating regular FIDBID consortium meetings and FIDBID related activities (including the organization of a national and international symposium).


University of Amsterdam (UvA)


A recent MSc degree in forensic science (in combination with a Chemistry BSc), organic chemistry, and/or analytical chemistry (if you do not have a MSc degree yet but expect to finish your MSc in a few months you are also invited to apply, we expect the PhD student to start in March/April 2024).

Your profile
  • Hands-on, laboratory experience with experimental organic and analytical chemistry;
  • Being a real team player, being able to work with colleagues with different backgrounds;
  • Good communication skills in oral and written English, both to peers, non-experts, and BSc and MSc students under your supervision;
  • Taking initiative and having good time management skills;
  • Being responsible for the research and taking the lead in planning meetings and discussions with the team;
  • Being curious and having a genuine interest in collaborating with students and colleagues within and outside academia.

The following knowledge, skills and experiences are considered a plus (pre) for the position:
  • Experience with the chemical analysis of organic compounds (GC-MS, LC-MS, IR, NMR);
  • Experience with organic chemical synthesis;
  • Experience with writing and publishing scientific papers;
  • Experience with presenting findings at scientific conferences;
  • Being a Dutch native speaker or proficient in the Dutch language;
  • Having a double MSc ( any combination of Forensic Science, Organic Chemistry, and Analytical Chemistry)

Conditions of employment

We offer a temporary contract for 38 hours per week for the duration of 4 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 4 years). The preferred starting date is a soon as possible. 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 gross monthly salary, based on 38 hours per week and dependent on relevant experience, ranges between E 2,770.- - E 3,539.- (scale P). This does not include 8% holiday allowance and 8,3% year-end allowance. The Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities is applicable.

Besides the salary and a vibrant and challenging environment at Science Park, we offer you multiple fringe benefits:
  • 232 holiday hours per year (based on fulltime) and extra holidays between Christmas and 1 January;
  • Multiple courses to follow from our Teaching and Learning Centre;
  • A complete educational program for PhD students;
  • Multiple courses on topics such as time management, handling stress and an online learning platform with 100+ different courses;
  • 7 weeks birth leave (partner leave) with 100% salary;
  • Partly paid parental leave;
  • The possibility to set up a workplace at home;
  • A pension at ABP for which UvA pays two third part of the contribution;
  • The possibility to follow courses to learn Dutch;

Are you curious to read more about our extensive package of secondary employment benefits, take a look here.


Faculty of Science

The University of Amsterdam is the Netherlands' largest university, offering the widest range of academic programmes. At the UvA, 30,000 students, 6,000 staff members and 3,000 PhD candidates study and work in a diverse range of fields, connected by a culture of curiosity.

The Faculty of Science has a student body of around 8,000, as well as 1,800 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: Analytical Chemistry, Computational Chemistry, Synthesis & Catalysis and Molecular Photonics.

The Analytical Chemistry Group focuses on the development of new or greatly improved techniques or methods for the analysis of complex mixtures. The technical focus is on one- and two-dimensional separation methods, on hyphenation with detection and sample-preparation systems and on chemometric techniques for data handling and optimization. The application focus is on macromolecules, forensic science and a variety of other fields.

To work at the University of Amsterdam is to work in a discerning, independent, creative, innovative and international climate characterized by an open atmosphere and a genuine engagement with the city of Amsterdam and society. Here you can read more about working at the University of Amsterdam.


  • PhD
  • Natural sciences
  • max. 38 hours per week
  • University graduate
  • 12554


University of Amsterdam (UvA)

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Science Park 904, 1098XH, Amsterdam

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