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

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

Published Deadline Location
7 May 23 May Utrecht

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Would you like to contribute to developing sustainable solutions for removing and destroying PFAS substances? Join our ‘living lab’ on campus as a PhD student!

Job description

PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances)* 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.

Your job
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?

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.

*) 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.


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.

Conditions of employment

We offer:
  • a position for one 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 gross monthly salary between €2,770 and €3,539 in the case of full-time employment (salary scale P under the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities (CAO NU);
  • 8% holiday pay and 8.3% year-end bonus;
  • a pension scheme, partially paid parental leave and flexible terms of employment based on the CAO NU.

In addition to the terms of employment laid down in the CAO NU, Utrecht University has a number of schemes and facilities of its own for employees. This includes schemes facilitating professional development, leave schemes and schemes for sports and cultural activities, as well as discounts on software and other IT products. We also offer access to additional employee benefits through our Terms of Employment Options Model. In this way, we encourage our employees to continue to invest in their growth. For more information, please visit Working at Utrecht University.


Universiteit Utrecht

A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching. At Utrecht University, the various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major strategic themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Pathways to Sustainability. Sharing science, shaping tomorrow.

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 3,400 students (BSc and MSc) and 720 staff, the faculty is a strong and challenging organisation. The Faculty of Geosciences is organised in four Departments: Earth Sciences, Human Geography & Spatial Planning, Physical Geography, and Sustainable Development.

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, of which various are situated in ‘the Geolab’.

About Utrecht
The department and its facilities are located at Utrecht Science Park. 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 the 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.


  • PhD; Research, development, innovation; Education
  • Natural sciences
  • 36—40 hours per week
  • €2770—€3539 per month
  • University graduate
  • 3891



Princetonlaan 8a, 3584CB, Utrecht

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