PhD in Forensic Data Science - Illicit Drug Analysis

PhD in Forensic Data Science - Illicit Drug Analysis

Published Deadline Location
29 Jan 29 Feb Amsterdam

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Job description

Organized drug crime is of increasing concern in Dutch society, and large volumes of chemical data are produced in combating it: roughly 25.000 samples are analysed annually by the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI), Dutch Police and Dutch Customs. In the FIDBID project, which stands for ‘Forensic Illicit Drug intelligence through Big and Intelligent Data analysis’, we aim to generate valuable intelligence with respect to the production, transport, and trade of illicit drugs in the Netherlands.

We aim to do this by using data science and machine learning techniques to perform 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). The resulting forensic chemical intelligence can be used by law enforcement and governmental bodies to effectively fight drug-related subversive crime in our country.

The FIDBID project proposition was granted 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. In the project, the research will be performed by 3 PhD students in 3 interconnected work packages: drug chemistry and chemical analysis (WP1), data science (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:
  • Studying contemporary scientific literature on chemometrics and data science methods for forensic illicit drug analysis and forensic intelligence;
  • Applying clustering and dimensionality reduction techniques to find hereto unknown connections/similarities between drugs samples;
  • Applying supervised machine learning techniques to allow analysis of the entire dataset based on chemical knowledge and small labelled datasets provided by experts;
  • Designing algorithms 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;
  • 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).

Preparing manuscripts and publishing scientific papers describing the experimental results of the FIDBID project.


University of Amsterdam (UvA)


Your experience and profile:
  • A recent MSc degree in data science, artificial intelligence or similar;
  • You are pro-active and applied, you enjoy tweaking and building algorithms that work on real-life datasets to help make society safer;
  • You are a real team player, enjoy interdisciplinary work and are able to work with colleagues with different backgrounds;
  • You have solid programming skills in Python, knowledge of relevant machine/deep learning libraries (e.g. TensorFlow, PyTorch) and experience working with large datasets;
  • You possess good communication skills in oral and written English, both to peers, non-experts, and BSc and MSc students under your supervision;
  • You take initiative and have good time management skills;
  • You feel responsible for the research and take the lead in planning meetings and discussions with the team;
  • You are curious and have 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:
  • A background in chemistry and/or forensics;
  • Experience with data science in an applied setting;
  • Being proficient in the Dutch language.

Conditions of employment

PhD position
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 ASAP. 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 € 2,770 in the first year to € 3,539 in the last year (scale P). UvA additionally offers an extensive package of secondary benefits, including 8% holiday allowance and a year-end bonus of 8.3%. The UFO profile PhD candidate is applicable. For this position we can not sponsor a visa. The Collective Labour Agreement of Universities of the Netherlands 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 leadership for academic staff;
  • 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;
  • Help with housing for a studio or small apartment when you’re moving from abroad.

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 (UvA) is the Netherlands' largest university, offering the widest range of academic programmes. At the UvA, 42,000 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 (FNWI) 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 mission of the Informatics Institute (IvI) is to perform curiosity-driven and use-inspired fundamental research in Computer Science. The main research themes are Artificial Intelligence, Computational Science and Systems and Network Engineering. Our research involves complex information systems at large, with a focus on collaborative, data driven, computational and intelligent systems, all with a strong interactive component.

Computational Science Lab
We live in a highly connected and strongly coupled world, and are surrounded by a large diversity of complex systems. All these systems have one thing in common: they process information. We aim to understand this information processing in such dynamic multi-level complex systems.

AI4Forensic lab
The AI4Forensics Lab is a collaborative initiative of the Netherlands Forensic Institute and the University of Amsterdam. Our focus is on the study and development of artificial intelligence for forensic purposes.

Want to know more about our organisation? Read more about working at the University of Amsterdam.


  • PhD
  • Natural sciences
  • max. 38 hours per week
  • max. €2770 per month
  • University graduate
  • 12568


University of Amsterdam (UvA)

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Science Park 904, 1098XH, Amsterdam

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