PhD position in Nanogeosciences - Utrecht University, Netherlands

Job description
We are looking for a motivated PhD candidate for the project 'Experimental constraints on nanoscale fluid flow in natural systems'.

Fluid-driven mineral reactions chemically modify enormous portions of the Earth’s crystalline lithosphere affecting the stability of mountain belts, forming hydrothermal mineral deposits, sequestering anthropogenic CO2 as well as controlling many other processes. For these reactions to propagate through rocks, fluid transport networks are critical.  The European Research Council (ERC) starting grant led by Dr Oliver Plümper, ‘The nanoscale control of reactive fluids on geological processes within the solid Earth’ (short: nanoEARTH), will focus on the role that these transport networks play in self-promoting fluid-mediated mineral reactions. In particular, Dr Plümper’s group has demonstrated that nanoscale transport processes play a critical role in the effectiveness of the fluid-transport system. Therefore, the aim of this 4-year nanoEARTH PhD project is to experimentally and numerically determine fluid flow mechanisms through natural and synthetic nanoporous mineral systems.

The PhD project involves developing a unique experimental setup that directly probes nanoscale fluid transport phenomena. Experiments will be paired with state-of-the-art imaging technologies encompassing focused ion beam-scanning electron microscopy, transmission electron microscopy and numerical simulations. The results will be directly relevant to the development of a constitutive fluid-rock interaction model that links nanoscale processes with the macroscopic behaviour of fluid and mass transport in the Earth’s crystalline lithosphere.

ERC promotes the highest quality research in Europe and helps to bring about new and unpredictable scientific and technological discoveries. As such, the student will have direct access to the world-class experimental and analytical facilities at Utrecht University, including brand-new electron microscopes. The PhD candidate will engage in a trans-disciplinary research environment including closely collaborating with a second PhD candidate as well as Postdoctoral Researcher who are also part of the nanoEARTH project.

As part of the personal PhD training programme, the candidate is expected to assist in the teaching programmes of the Department of Earth Sciences for a limited amount of time (~10%).

The succesful candidate should be ambitious and have an MSc degree (at the start of the contract) in Physics, Physical Chemistry, Material Sciences, or Earth Sciences, preferably specialised in Experimental (Mineral) Physics or Chemistry. She/he should not have a PhD degree. Candidates must have good quantitative/mathematical and programming skills and ideally should be interested in physical chemistry and/or nanofluidics. Knowledge of high-resolution analytical techniques (e.g., electron microscopy) and/or molecular dynamics simulations is also preferred. Applicants must have excellent written and spoken English skills and be highly motivated to work in an international team.

This is an appointment of 1.0 FTE for the duration of initially one year, with extension to four years in total upon a successful assesment in the first year, and with the specific intent that it results in a doctorate within this period. The gross salary starts with €2,325 per month in the first year and increases to €2,972 per month in the fourth year of employment (scale P according to the Collective Employment Agreement of the Dutch Universities) for a full-time employment. 

Besides that, you will receive a holiday allowance of 8 % and a year-end bonus of 8.3 %. Utrecht University also has an appealing package of terms of employment, including the choice for a good balance between work and private (a good arrangement for leave, among other things), possibilities for development and an excellent pension scheme. More information on working at Utrecht University can be found here.

Facilities for sports and child care are available on our main campus (where the Department of Earth Sciences is situated), which is located only 15 minutes away from the historical city centre of Utrecht.

About the organization
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 societal themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Sustainability.

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 group of more than 100 PhD candidates and Postdoctoral Researchers and houses a wide variety of world-class laboratories, including the new solid Earth cluster Earth Simulation Laboratory. In addition, the Department offers an extensive high-end computing infrastructure. More information about the Department of Earth Sciences can be found here:

Additional information
For more information about this position, please contact Dr. Oliver Plümper via

To apply, please send your curriculum vitae, including a letter of motivation here We aim to fill the position in March or April 2020.

Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives.  

The application deadline is

30 November 2019
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