Saturday, July 3, 2021

PhD position in Inorganic Chemistry and Catalysis


Decades of polymer engineering have led to various plastic materials with a variety of tuneable properties and applications. Considerably less effort has gone into strategies on how to deal with the waste created. The majority of plastic waste is landfilled, burned, or leaks to the environment. Unfortunately only 12 % (by weight) is recycled globally, mainly because the predominantly applied recycling technique of melting and re-extrusion produces a lower quality plastic. In this project you will develop chemical pathways to recycle polyolefin waste. There are three projects available:

  1. thermo-oxidative degradation of polyethylene to valuable carboxylic acids;
  2. developing a supported catalyst for the supercritical solvolysis of polyethylene; 
  3. and rational design of an impurity-resistant catalyst for solvent-assisted polyolefin cracking to aromatics.


We are looking for a candidate with a Master's degree in chemistry or chemical engineering, with a focus on catalysis. Our perfect candidate:

  • has a strong interest in the fields of heterogeneous catalysis, spectroscopy, and/or analytical chemistry;
  • is proficient in spoken and written English;
  • is creative and a team player with good communicative skills;
  • has hands-on experience in using or building chemical set-ups in the lab environment;
  • is able to work independently in a multidisciplinary environment.

You should be able to perform complex and thorough investigations into catalyst materials and performances, and therefore you should have the ability to quickly learn new techniques and develop the technical expertise to work with catalytic testing set-ups.


  • a full-time position for 1.5 years, which can be extended to 4 years upon good performance;
  • a full-time gross salary starting at €2,395 in the first year and increasing to €3,061 in the fourth year (scale P Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities (cao));
  • benefits including 8% holiday bonus and 8.3% end-of-year bonus;
  • a pension scheme, partially paid parental leave, and flexible employment conditions external linkbased on the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities.

The research group will provide the candidate with the necessary support in all aspects of the project.

In addition to the employment conditions laid down in the cao for Dutch Universities, Utrecht University has a number of its own arrangements. For example, there are agreements on professional development, leave arrangements, and sports. We also give you the opportunity to expand your terms of employment yourself via the Employment Conditions Selection Model. This is how we like to encourage you to continue to grow.

More information about working at the Faculty of Science can be found here external link.

About the organisation

The Inorganic Chemistry and Catalysis group external linkis part of the Department of Chemistry and the Debye Institute for Nanomaterials Science. The group includes two full Professors, one Associate Professor, five Assistant Professors, tenTechnicians and about sixty PhD candidates and/or postdoctoral fellows. The current positions are within the group of professor Weckhuysen and focus on materials analysis in the chemical recycling of plastics, and the synthesis and (operando) characterization of heterogeneous catalysts.

The Department of Chemistry external linkaddresses teaching and research about chemistry. Starting already at the first year of the Bachelor's Chemistry programme, students are trained to become well-rounded scientists with many practical courses and multiple internships within research groups. Three different Master's programmes are available after the general Bachelor's programme. One Master's programme focusses on biochemistry, one focusses on the entrepreneurial side of research and the final Master's  programme focusses on physical chemistry. PhD candidates are expected to be involved as supervisors in these practical courses and also for the supervision of students during their internships in the Bachelor's or Master's phase.

At the Faculty of Science, external linkthere are 6 departments to make a fundamental connection with: Biology, Chemistry, Information and Computing Sciences, Mathematics, Pharmaceutical Sciences and Physics. Each of these is made up of distinct institutes that work together to focus on answering some of humanity’s most pressing problems. More fundamental still are the individual research groups – the building blocks of our ambitious scientific projects.

Utrecht University external linkis a friendly and ambitious university at the heart of an ancient city. We love to welcome new scientists to our city – a thriving cultural hub that is consistently rated as one of the world’s happiest cities. We are renowned for our innovative interdisciplinary research and our emphasis on inspirational research and excellent education. We are equally well-known for our familiar atmosphere and the can-do attitude of our people. This fundamental connection attracts Researchers, Professors and PhD candidates from all over the globe, making both the university and the Faculty of Science a vibrant international and wonderfully diverse community.

Additional information

Additional information about the vacancy can be obtained from Dr. W. van der Stam external link( external link), Dr. F. Meirer external link( external link), or Professor E.T.C. Vogt external link( external link).

As part of the selection procedure, the candidate may be asked to give an outline of his/her research plans in a written report and oral presentation.

Do you have a question about the application procedure? Please send an email to external link.


Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives. If you have the expertise and the experience to excel in this role, then simply respond via the “Apply now” button!
Please enclose:

  • your letter of motivation;
  • your curriculum vitae;
  • the names, telephone numbers, and email addresses of at least two references.

 If this specific opportunity isn’t for you, but you know someone who may be interested, please forward this vacancy to them.

Please note: Due to the current situation regarding the Coronavirus (COVID-19) the process of selection and interviews is subject to change. Initial interviews will most likely be conducted online.

Some connections are fundamental – Be one of them

The application deadline is 31 July 2021.

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