PhD candidate Life Cycle Assessment for a safe and sustainable chemical industry

PhD candidate Life Cycle Assessment for a safe and sustainable chemical industry

Published Deadline Location
16 May 30 May Maastricht

Job description

Are you passionate about creating breakthroughs for a sustainable and safe chemical industry and do you want to obtain your PhD in a multidisciplinary and challenging environment?

Job Description

Project information
The transition to a sustainable society poses major challenges for the Dutch chemical industry. Currently, safety considerations and economies of scale dictate a landscape of large plants clustered at industrial sites. Products include fertilizers, plastics and vaccine carrier proteins and are mostly of fossil origin. A roadmap to guide the industry through the sustainability transition while maintaining economic viability and at least existing safety levels does not yet exist due to the lack of suitable technology. This work explores a possible solution for the common building block acrylonitrile.

Presently, acrylonitrile production is large scale and involves storage and transportation of large quantities of toxic and/or flammable substances. It is an intermediate for a range of materials. The alternative plasma approach offers, from a process safety viewpoint, an inherent safer alternative by reducing process quantities and perhaps even allows local production at the site of the end users. Central question of the project is how safe-by-design opportunities for sustainable production can objectively be evaluated in terms of the complex optimization of safety,sustainability, cost-effectiveness, robustness, flexibility, regulatory compliance, and stakeholder interaction and acceptance.

The Integral Safe and Sustainable-by-Design Plasma Process for Acrylonitrile Production (ISPA) project is supported by the NWA program "Towards a practical Safe-by-Design approach for chemical products and processes" of the Dutch Research Council NWO. The project is coordinated by Prof. Gerard van Rooij, head of the Circular Chemical Engineering Department of Maastricht University. The Consortium is a multidisciplinary team with partners from Maastricht University (Faculty of Science and Engineering, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences), Radboud University, TNO, ANQORE, Sitech, and Safety Delta Nederland.

Life Cycle Assessment
Life Cycle Assessment studies will be performed in collaboration with the project partners to investigate the environmental footprint of the novel plasma chemistry route to produce acrylonitrile compared with the current chemical production route of acrylonitrile.

The research will be performed at the Sustainability of Chemicals and Materials Group of the Aachen-Maastricht Institute for Biobased Materials and the Circular Chemical Engineering group at Maastricht University; both departments are located at the Brightlands Chemelot Campus.

As a Ph.D. candidate, you will:
  • Develop, perform, and validate environmental LCA studies for project-specific targets
  • Develop the Life Cycle Inventory for the LCA studies through data collection within the consortium, collection of information in literature resources and databases, extracting data from other sources, such as process modeling in ASPEN;
  • Work with a multi-stakeholder project team to develop and discuss research problems;
  • Communicate the results of the research to project partners and stakeholders;
  • Present your work at international conferences;
  • Write scientific papers for international peer-reviewed conferences and journals, and write your Ph.D. thesis.
  • Provide teaching assistance and/or supervision within undergraduate and master’s projects and programs.

The Ph.D. research will be performed under the co-supervision of Prof. van Rooij (CCE) and Prof. van der Meer (AMIBM).

Job Requirements
  • A Master's degree in a pertinent field such as industrial ecology, sustainable chemistry, chemical engineering, energy science or materials science;
  • Acquired training and/or practical experience in Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) or similar environmental modelling techniques;
  • An understanding of medical practices is considered advantageous;
  • Demonstrated keen interest in the subject matter;
  • Proven capability to function effectively both independently and within a collaborative team setting;
  • Proficiency in both written and spoken English, accompanied by good communication skills;

Proficiency in Dutch would be a valuable supplementary skill, in particular for communication with Dutch stakeholders.

What we offer

As PhD-candidate at Faculty of Science & Engineering, you will be employed by the most international university in the Netherlands, located in the beautiful city of Maastricht. In addition, we offer you:
  • Good employment conditions. The position is graded in scale P according to UFO profile PhD-candidate, with corresponding salary based on experience ranging from €2770,00 and €3539,00 gross per month (based on a full-time employment of 38 hours per week). In addition to the monthly salary, an 8.0% holiday allowance and an 8.3% year-end bonus apply.
  • An employment contract for a period of 12 months with a scope of 1,0 FTE. Upon a positive evaluation, an extension of 3 years will follow.
  • At Maastricht University, the well-being of our employees is of utmost importance, we offer flexible working hours and the possibility to work partly from home if the nature of your position allows it. You will receive a monthly commuting and internet allowance for this. If you work full-time, you will be entitled to 29 vacation days and 4 additional public holidays per year, namely carnival Monday, carnival Tuesday, Good Friday, and Liberation Day. If you choose to accumulate compensation hours, an additional 12 days will be added. Furthermore, you can personalize your employment conditions through a collective labor agreement (CAO) choice model.
  • As Maastricht University, we offer various other excellent secondary employment conditions. These include a good pension scheme with the ABP and the opportunity for UM employees to participate in company fitness and make use of the extensive sports facilities that we also offer to our students.
  • Last but certainly not least, we provide the space and facilities for your personal and professional development. We facilitate this by offering a wide range of training programs and supporting various well-established initiatives such as 'acknowledge and appreciate'.
    The terms of employment at Maastricht University are largely set out in the collective labor agreement of Dutch Universities. In addition, local provisions specific to UM apply. For more information, click here.

Maastricht University
Why work at Maastricht University?

At Maastricht University (UM), everything revolves around the future. The future of our students, as we work to equip them with a solid, broad-based foundation for the rest of their lives. And the future of society, as we seek solutions through our research to issues from all around the world. Our six faculties combined provide a comprehensive package of study programmes and research.

In our teaching, we use the Problem-Based Learning (PBL) method. Students work in small groups, looking for solutions to problems themselves. By discussing issues and working together to draw conclusions, formulate answers and present them to their peers, students develop essential skills for their future careers.

With over 22,300 students and more than 5,000 employees from all over the world, UM is home to a vibrant and inspiring international community.

Are you drawn to an international setting focused on education, science and scholarship? Are you keen to contribute however your skills and qualities allow? Our door is open to you! As a young European university, we value your talent and look forward to creating the future together.

Click here for more information about UM.

Faculty of Science and Engineering
At the Faculty of Science and Engineering (FSE), we focus on themes such as circularity and sustainability, future farming, digitisation and (scientific) instrument development. FSE's leading projects, like the Einstein Telescope Pathfinder, are sure to grab anyone's attention. The faculty is a vibrant hub of education and research in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) and Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS). At FSE, over 450 staff members and 3700 students gather to explore e exciting interdisciplinary research and educational programmes. Feel welcome, be part of our team and put your brilliant mind to work!

FSE at the Brightlands Campuses
Maastricht, Sittard-Geleen, Heerlen, and Venlo, home to four creative Brightlands campuses, are vibrant locations where 30,000 entrepreneurs, researchers, and students enthusiastically collaborate on solutions for global challenges. The Faculty of Science and Engineering is active on all four Brightlands campuses, and it is where we have the most impact. To give you an idea of what is happening at each campus: Sittard-Geleen hosts one of Europe's largest chemistry and materials sites, while Venlo is a major hub for agro-food innovation. Maastricht is the location of the Health Campus, and Heerlen is the place to be for smart services.

Circular Chemical Engineering (CCE)
In its transition to a circular economy, society seeks new solutions to reduce its consumption of primary (fossil) feedstock. These are limited, their products damage the environment when being disposed of as waste, and their utilization for energy production causes global warming. CCE’s main research lines address such feedstock reduction: circular plastics by mechanical recycling and plasma chemistry for electrification of industrial processes. CCE provides education on these themes via the bachelor's programme Circular Engineering, which aims to educate new generations of engineers that can provide such solutions.

Aachen-Maastricht Institute for Biobased Materials (AMIBM)
AMIBM is a department of the Faculty of Science and Engineering (FSE) at Maastricht University, located on the Brightlands Chemelot Campus in Geleen. AMIBM is a European cross-border research institute established by Maastricht University and RWTH Aachen University (Germany), focusing on developing advanced biobased materials.

The mission of AMIBM is “ground-breaking conversion of biomass to biobased materials and into product applications”. AMIBM promotes excellent multidisciplinary research in the field of biobased materials for advanced materials applications. The multidisciplinary team draws together scientists with expertise in molecular and applied biotechnology, organic chemistry, polymer chemistry, polymer physics, polymer engineering, biomedical materials, and sustainability assessment.

Click here for more information about AMIBM.

one of the largest chemical and materials communities in Europe.

Research group Sustainability of Chemicals and Materials.

The mission of the research team is to provide suitable instruments and sustainability impact assessments to guide the transition from a fossil-based and linear economy to a biobased and circular economy.

We are a young and growing international team of sustainability experts focusing on environmental impact assessment in connection with economic and social impacts.

Click here for more information about the research group Sustainability of Chemicals and Materials.

Are you interested in this exciting position but still have questions? Feel free to contact Yvonne van der Meer, Chair of the research group Sustainability of Chemicals and Materials at for more information.

Or are you already convinced and ready to become our new PhD-candidate? Apply now, no later than May 30, 2024 for this position. In case no suitable candidates are found, Maastricht University reserves the right to re-open the vacancy. Send in:
  • A cover letter explaining your motivation and suitability for the position. For the suitability part, please refer to the requirements for this position and add a table with an explanation of to what extent you meet each requirement;
  • A detailed Curriculum Vitae, including a list of publications and key achievements in research projects;
  • Contact information of two references.

The vacancy is open for internal and external candidates. In case of equal qualifications, internal candidates will be prioritized.

Maastricht University is committed to promoting and nurturing a diverse and inclusive community. We believe that diversity in our staff and student population contributes to the quality of research and education at UM, and strive to enable this through inclusive policies and innovative projects led by teams of staff and students. We encourage you to apply for this position.


Maastricht University (UM)


  • PhD
  • Engineering
  • max. 38 hours per week
  • €2770—€3539 per month
  • University graduate
  • 557


Maastricht University (UM)

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Paul-Henri Spaaklaan 1, 6229EN, Maastricht

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Application procedure

Application procedure

Make sure to apply no later than 30 May 2024 23:59 (Europe/Amsterdam).