PhD position: ‘Identity and functioning of microbes involved in plastic degradation in contrasting marine environments’.

The department of Marine Microbiology and Biogeochemistry (MMB; principal investigator dr. Helge Niemann) at the Royal Netherlands Institute of Sea Research (NIOZ) is looking for a highly motivated PhD student with a background in microbial and molecular ecology to investigate microbial plastic degradation in the ocean. Your research will be part of the ERC Project VORTEX.

2018-12-19 14:39:30
VACANCY ID:          2018-101
CLOSING DATE:     February 28, 2019



The present era of massive anthropogenic environmental change has put the ocean under pressure. Of particular concern for the marine realm is the ongoing pollution with synthetic plastic debris, most importantly comprised of items that are small in size (so called microplastic). Plastic debris impacts marine organisms and ecosystems in multifaceted ways and is generally considered as inert in the environment. Plastic particles in marine sediments were even suggested to become a new marker horizon for the Anthropocene epoch. Recent research suggests that specialised microbes are involved in degrading plastics and utilise at least some types of plastics as a carbon source. This project aims to identify microorganisms involved in plastic degradation in marine environment and to gain knowledge on the degradation pathways involved.


The successful candidate will investigate microbial biofilms on different types of plastics, identify the microbes involved in plastic degradation and unravel the degradation pathways. The candidate will track the incorporation of plastic-derived carbon into microbial biomass and degradation products across a broad range of relevant environmental conditions. For this, the candidate will conduct incubation experiments in combination with meta-genomics and-transcriptomics, isotope probing/tracing assays and DNA/RNA SIP and will aim to enrich/isolate plastic degrading microbes. Field work and sojourns at partner institutions are anticipated.



Are you a highly motivated young researcher with an MSc degree in microbial/molecular ecology and/or microbiology? Do you have a keen interest in frontier-based research in an interdisciplinary scientific environment? Do you have experience with experimental work? Are you interested in applying molecular and biogeochemical tools in the laboratory and in the field?

In your PhD project you will learn and apply state-of-the-art analytical techniques and research concepts to cross scientific boundaries. You will work in an international and interdisciplinary research environment, and a very good command of spoken and written English is essential.



Employment of this position at Royal NIOZ is by NWO (The Netherlands Organization of Scientific Research). We offer a position for 4 (fulltime) years with an excellent salary, a pension scheme, a holiday allowance of 8% of the gross annual salary, a year-end bonus, and flexible work arrangements. You may expect attractive secondary employment conditions. We offer generous relocation expenses for employees coming from abroad and support with finding accommodation. Our labour policies are based on the Dutch Collective Labour Agreement of Research Centers. The position will be located on Texel, field work and sojourns at the laboratories of scientific partners are planned. The starting date of the project is May/June 2019.



Additional information on job details: dr. Helge Niemann (sr. scientist)

For additional information on the procedure, please contact Valentijn Tiemensma (sr. HR Advisor)

For more information about the MMB department click here.


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