Postdoc position: “Determining the impact of hydrothermal vent nanomaterials on ocean (bio)geochemistry”

This vacancy is the result of the collaboration between Utrecht University and NIOZ. A joint team of research at Utrecht University and the Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ) is looking for a highly motivated postdoctoral researcher with a background in mineralogy, geochemistry, nanogeosciences and/or material science and a keen interested in multi-disciplinary research including advanced electron microscopy.

2020-12-16 13:58:12

VACANCY NR.:              2020 – 77
CLOSING DATE:            February 15th, 2021.


The postdoc will work in a project that is a close collaboration between the Department of Ocean Systems at NIOZ and the Department of Earth Sciences at Utrecht University (UU). The candidate will be hired at NIOZ, their basis for the sea-going field work to the mid-Atlantic Ridge (Azores) and chemical experimentation. The OCS department hosts all the required facilities, including access to the versatile research vessel Pelagia and state-of-the art trace metal labs. Working at OCS offers the exciting prospect of field research on the high seas, studying open-ocean processes and aquatic ecosystems from a variety of disciplines including physical and chemical oceanography and biogeochemistry.

During the second part of the project, innovative electron microscopy experiments will be conducted at UU. The Department of Earth Sciences conducts teaching and research across the full range of the solid 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 students and postdoctoral researchers and houses a wide variety of world-class laboratories.

The postdoc will be co-supervised by Dr. Oliver Plümper (UU) and Dr. Peter Kraal (NIOZ). Oliver Plümper’s group is at the leading-edge of nanogeosciences and fluid-rock interaction investigating a broad range of geological processes using a multi-disciplinary approach combining natural observations, experiments, numerical modelling and state-of-the-art micro- and nano-analytical tools, such as electron and X-ray microscopy. Oliver Plümper is a young frontier researcher leading several innovative research projects funded by ERC, NWO and Horizon 2020. Peter Kraal is a marine biogeochemist whose research aims to elucidate the cycling of bio-essential elements such as iron in the marine realm, using a range of (advanced) chemical and spectroscopic tools.

When many of us hear the word ‘nanomaterials’ they think of high-tech industry. However, nanomaterials are critical components in the Earth system’s past, present and future characteristics and behavior. Nanomaterials have been present since the origin of our planet. One of the major contributors of nanomaterials to our oceans are hydrothermal vents systems at mid-ocean spreading centres. Most of these hydrothermal nanomaterials are dominated by the element iron accompanied by many transition metals and potentially rare-earth elements. However, it is unknown how the supply of these key trace metals impact ocean (bio)geochemistry. This project unites sea-going and analytical facilities at UU and NIOZ to provide a quantitative understanding of the environmental fate and reactivity of vent nanomaterials. Unique electron microscope experiments will be performed to investigate interaction of natural nanomaterials and the capacity of these materials to catalyse carbon (CO2, CH4) conversions. The project will elucidate the reactivity, persistence and long-range transport of hydrothermal vent nanomaterials and constrain their role in open-ocean biogeochemical cycling. Moreover, we will explore whether or not these natural nanomaterials have new functional capabilities that can inspire applied nanomaterials research.  


We are looking for a highly motivated postdoctoral researcher with a PhD and background in mineralogy, geochemistry, nanogeosciences and/or material sciences focusing on nanomaterials. The researcher should be keen to work with cross-disciplinary approaches and in a highly collaborative environment. The candidate is expected to participate in sea-going field work, e.g. to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge near the Azores (planned for 2022) and cruises of opportunity. Experience in the use of one or several of the following is highly desired; experimental geochemistry, fluid geochemistry, nanomaterial characterisation and/or (in situ) transmission electron microscopy. Furthermore, experience in big data analysis and programming using languages or packages such as Python or MATLAB is preferable. The candidate should have a keen interest in hydrothermal processes at mid-ocean ridges and influences on ocean geochemistry. Due to the international character of our research, good command of English, spoken as well as written, is a prerequisite. We highly encourage applicants from all members of our community and of diverse background to join us.


Employment of this position at Royal NIOZ is by NWO (The Netherlands Organization of Scientific Research). We offer a position for a period of 3 years (fulltime). The salary is compliant to the CAO-OI (Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Research Institutes) scale 10 or 11 depending on your education and experience, a pension scheme, a holiday allowance of 8% of the gross annual salary, a year-end bonus of 8,3% of the gross annual salary, flexible work arrangements and 42 days of holiday leave (fulltime position).

You may expect attractive secondary employment conditions. We offer generous relocation expenses for employees coming from abroad and support with finding accommodation.


For additional information about this vacancy, please contact dr. Peter Kraal (Tenure track Scientist at NIOZ) or dr. Oliver Plümper (Assistant Professor at UU). For additional information about the procedure, please contact Valentijn Tiemensma (senior HR advisor).

For more information about the Department of Earth Sciences at Utrecht University see here; for more information about the Department of Ocean Systems at NIOZ, see here.

Find more information about the UU-NIOZ projects here.

Interviews will be held online (Microsoft Teams) from end February 2021 until position is filled.



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