Postdoc position in Recycling Plastic Waste via Mechanochemistry

 In this role you will use your background in chemistry, catalysis, polymer science and/or mechanochemistry to discover new recycling technologies for plastics using mechanochemistry. You will enter a relatively unexplored field of chemistry together with an expanding team of 6 PhD students. The focus of the project is to develop new ball-milling- and extrusion-assisted conversion of polyolefins to chemical building blocks, such as monomers, aromatics, and other hydrocarbons. This to understand the fundamental mechanism of chain cleavage of polyolefins due to mechanical force. You will be using EPR, MALDI TOF MS, GPC and TGA as well as a plethora of other spectroscopic techniques available in the Inorganic Chemistry and Catalysis (ICC) section. In addition, catalyst design for the same process will be part of your research task, which allows you to become an expert in mechanocatalysis.

This fundamental research project aims to make a positive impact on the plastic waste problem. To achieve this mechanochemical and mechanistic fundamentals of polyolefin conversion are combined with the possibility to develop a viable recycling technology. You will be applying for patents and closely work with companies. There are also possibilities for outreach, e.g. via webinars or open days of the university.

You will closely work with at least one PhD student and help 5 other PhD students with their related topics, all on chemical conversion of polyolefins to useful chemicals. Within the ICC section there is plenty of opportunity for further collaboration with PIs, Postdocs and PhD students working on various operando spectroscopy techniques to study catalysts. Your main tasks will be:

  • develop a new chemical recycling technology based on mechanochemistry;
  • overcome the challenge of performing reactions inside a shaking ball mill at elevated temperatures and under gas atmosphere;
  • understand the fundamental mechanism of mechanochemical polymer chain cleavage;
  • develop a strong knowledge base for mechanochemistry of polyolefins;
  • advise, supervise and work closely with other team members;
  • excel in a top chemistry group with an extensive variety of state-of-the-art equipment.


For this position we are looking for an inspiring and motivated professional who brings multiple of the following:

  • an intrinsic drive to contribute to a relatively unexplored field of chemistry;
  • motivation to develop new plastic recycling technologies and contribute to solving the plastic waste issue;
  • strong expertise (through studies and PhD/Postdoc research) and experience in one or all of the fields mechanochemistry, polymer science, catalysis and spectroscopy;
  • you like working in a team, while also being fully responsible for your own research project;
  • you have experience in and like overcoming experimental and scientific challenges;
  • you are interested in thinking about possible applications of your research and working with companies.


  • A position for 1 year, which can be prolonged after a positive evaluation;
  • A full-time gross salary ranging from €2,960 to €4,670 in scale 10;
  • 8% holiday bonus and 8.3% end-of-year bonus;
  • A pension scheme, partially paid parental leave, and flexible employment conditions 
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     based on the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities.

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 via the Employment Conditions Selection Model. This is how we like to encourage you to continue to grow.

For more information, please visit working at the Faculty of Science 

About the organisation

Our team, led by Dr. Ina Vollmer 

, is focussed on chemical conversion of polyolefins 
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 to valuable chemical building blocks. Our aim is to develop new technologies for chemical recycling and to contribute to solving an important societal issue of our time, while performing excellent, high impact research. We are part of the Inorganic Chemistry and Catalysis section of the Chemistry department and the newly founded Institute for Circular and Sustainable Chemistry.

The Department of Chemistry 

 is renowned as a world class centre of excellence and innovation in both research and education, fully resourced and equipped with state-of-the-art technological platforms. Research and education form an integrated whole and all our researchers are involved in teaching alongside their research programs and commitments. Vice versa, all our students are involved in cutting-edge research right from the very beginning. Our undergraduate students are enrolled in a general Chemistry BSc program or an interdepartmental program on Molecular and Biophysical Life Sciences, which prepare them for MSc programs like those on Nanomaterials Science or Molecular and Cellular Life Sciences at UU. Research in our department develops around two strategic themes; Life Science is studied in the Bijvoet Centre for Biomolecular Research 
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 and Sustainability in the Debye Institute for Nanomaterials Science 
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At the Faculty of Science 

, there 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. Find out more about us.

Utrecht University 

 is 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 informal atmosphere and the can-do mentality of our people. This lively and inspiring academic environment attracts professors, researchers 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

If you have any questions that you’d like us to answer, please contact: Ina Vollmer 

Do you have a question about the application procedure? Please send an email to 
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Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives. If you have become enthusiastic about this role, the simply respond via the "Apply now" button!
Please enclose:

  • your letter of motivation referring to the appeal of the topic as well as the requirements described above;
  • your curriculum vitae;
  • optional: the names, telephone numbers, and email addresses of at least two references;
  • optional: a copy of your PhD certificate, or a letter from your university stating when your defence will take place.

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

Some connections are fundamental – Be one of them 

The application deadline is 22 August 2022.

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47 Postdoctoral Scholarships at The University of Georgia in United States