PhD position in chemistry of oil paintings

 We are looking for a highly motivated PhD candidate to work on the chemistry of oil paintings with the aim of making the transition to more sustainable conservation strategies.


Van ‘t Hoff Institute Molecular Sciences at the University of Amsterdam (HIMS-UvA) has a vacant PhD position as part of the GoGreen project. The PhD position is offered within the EU Horizon-CL2-2021 Heritage project “GoGREEN: green strategies to conserve the past and preserve the future of Cultural Heritage”, a four-year research project with 12 partners (universities, museums and research institutes) from 5 European countries and 2 affiliated countries and led by principal investigator prof. dr. Katrien Keune (HIMS). GoGreen responds to the UN 17 sustainable development goals by providing conservators with solutions to practice conservation with lower energy consumption, less use of toxic materials and fewer plastics. This is done by developing theory, tools, materials, decision making aids and educational material that will support conservators in choosing and applying green strategies, focusing both on preventive and remedial conservation. 


At HIMS, chemical mechanisms, reaction kinetics, molecular transport processes and internal paint conditions are investigated by means of chemical syntheses, spectroscopy and experiments involving well-designed model paint systems. They are specialized in ageing and degradation studies of oil paints at the microscale and down to molecular level, especially related to pigment-binding medium interactions. HIMS is affiliated to the Netherlands Institute for Conservation, Art, Science (NICAS) and has a close collaboration with the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, with the MSc Programme Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage at the UvA. 


What are you going to do

This PhD project will develop a series of damage functions for canvas oil paintings that include chemical processes. These damage functions allow more evidence-based decision making for acceptable museum climates to preserve paintings for future generations. The damage functions will be based on a combination of spectroscopy/microscopy studies of oil paint materials and computational models that combine molecular transport and reactivity. New applications of time- and spatially resolved ATR-FTIR spectroscopy will be developed to study the kinetics of chemical processes inside oil paint films. A versatile computational transport model will be used to calculate how water/solvent concentrations vary throughout the painting stratigraphy when external conditions change. 


In parallel, in the GoGreen project advanced analytical techniques are developed to assess the newly developed conservation methods. The PhD candidate will assist in evaluating low-tech tests currently present in the conservation field with the advanced methodologies used in GoGreen to gain more insight into the benefits/limitations of low-tech methods.


You will/tasks:

  • Complete and submit a PhD thesis within the official appointment duration of four years;
  • Plan and perform experiments in an independent manner;
  • Critically analyze and interpret results; 
  • Take a leading role in writing manuscripts for publications; 
  • Participate in and present your research results in GoGreen meetings, national and international meetings and conferences; 
  • Interact with international and local researchers participating in the project;
  • Participate in the Research School and PhD training programmes; 
  • Assist in teaching undergraduates and MSc students;
  • (Co-)supervise MSc/BSc student projects;
  • Participate in knowledge dissemination activities.


What do we require


  • A MSc degree in chemistry or equivalent field;
  • Experience with, or a strong eagerness to learn, advanced data analysis techniques and mathematical modeling using programming languages (e.g. Matlab, Mathematica, Python);
  • Practical experience with spectroscopy and/or microscopy;
  • The willingness to work in a highly interdisciplinary and international research team;
  • Fluent in oral and written English and good communication skills;
  • Self-motivation, and an eagerness to learn.


Our offer

A temporary contract for 38 hours per week, preferably starting on November 1, 2022, for the duration of four years (the initial contract will be for a period of 18 months and after satisfactory evaluation it will be extended to a total duration of four years), leading 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 MSc students. 


Based on a full-time contract (38 hours per week) the gross monthly salary will range from € 2,541,- in the first year to € 3,247,- (scale P) in the last year. This is exclusive 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus. A favourable tax agreement, the ‘30% ruling’, may apply to non-Dutch applicants. The Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities is applicable. The UvA offers excellent possibilities for further professional development and education.


What else do we offer

  • A position in which initiative is strongly valued;
  • An enthusiastic team that welcomes new members;
  • An inspiring academic and international environment in Amsterdam;
  • Close collaboration with museum and conservation field.

About us

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 ChemistryComputational ChemistrySynthesis & Catalysis and Molecular Photonics.


The Molecular Photonics Group aims to advance the fundamental knowledge of the dynamics of excited states in molecules and nano-sized objects, and to contribute with its expertise to applications of the photosciences.


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.



Do you have any questions or do you require additional information? Please contact:


Job application

Do you recognize yourself in the job profile? Then we look forward to receiving your application by September 15, 2022. You may apply online by using the link below.


Applications in .pdf should include:


  • a curriculum vitae; 
  • a letter of motivation;
  • names and contact details of two references, who may be approached by the selection committee.


We will invite potential candidates for interviews within 2 weeks after the closing date.


The UvA is an equal-opportunity employer. We prioritise diversity and are committed to creating an inclusive environment for everyone. We value a spirit of enquiry and perseverance, provide the space to keep asking questions, and promote a culture of curiosity and creativity.


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