Postdoc position: “Identity and concentration of nanoplastic and microbial nanoplastic degradation in the ocean“

This vacancy is the result of the collaboration between Utrecht University and NIOZ. A joint team of research at Utrecht University (UU) and the Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ) is looking for a highly motivated postdoctoral researcher with a background in mass spectrometry (PTR-MS) and stable isotope biogeochemcistry / microbial/molecular ecology to unravel identity and concentration of nanoplastic as well as the potential for microbial nanoplastic degradation in the ocean.

2020-12-16 17:00:01

VACANCY NR.:              2020 – 79
CLOSING DATE:            January 20th, 2021.


The postdoc will work in a project that is a close collaboration between the department of Marine Microbiology and Biogeochemistry (MMB) and the Atmospheric Physics and Chemistry Group (APCG) of the Institute of Marine and Atmospheric research Utrecht (IMAU). The position is primarily based at NIOZ (Texel) where the candidate will be hired. The MMB department is equipped with state-of-the-art microbiology and molecular ecology laboratories, analytical equipment, and bioinformatics resources and has an excellent level of technical support.  IMAU operates mass spectrometry labs including stable isotope mass spectrometers, aerosol chemical speciation monitors, and several proton-transfer-reaction mass-spectrometers (PTR-MS).


Ocean plastic pollution is a global problem and the ever-increasing demand for plastics will most likely increase this problem. Floating and sedimented micro and macro plastic in the ocean only make up for one percent of all the plastic that has ever entered the ocean. Where is all the rest? One possibility is that the plastic has fragmented into sub-µm sized nanoplastics (NPs). Previously, this was difficult to detect but we can now measure NPs using mass spectrometry (Thermal Desorption coupled to Proton Transfer Reaction – Mass Spectrometry - TD-PTR-MS). Furthermore, our pilot experiments with isotopically labelled plastics have shown that NPs are accessible to microbial degradation.

The central goal of this postdoc project is to optimise mass spectrometry assays for identifying and quantifying nanoplastics, to take samples across the Atlantic Ocean basin, to analyse these, to assess the distribution and degradation of nanoplastics and associated microbial key players in the ocean.


Are you a highly motivated researcher with a PhD degree in physics, biogeochemistry, microbial/molecular ecology, or another related field? Do you have a keen interest in frontier-based transdisciplinary research? Do you have experience with experimental work related to PTR-MS and stable isotope biogeochemistry / molecular ecology/microbiology? Do you have programming skills and experience with complex data analysis? Are you interested in ocean going field work?

In this postdoc project you will apply and learn state-of-the-art analytical techniques and research concepts to cross scientific boundaries. You will work in an international and interdisciplinary research environment at NIOZ and UU. Your oral and written English skills are good and you can work (and publish!) independently. 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 Prof. dr. Helge Niemann (Research leader at NIOZ) or dr. Rupert Holzinger (Research leader at UU). For additional information about the procedure, please contact Valentijn Tiemensma (senior HR advisor).

For more information about the Institute for Marine and Atmospheric research Utrecht (IMAU) see here. For more information about the Department of Marine Microbiology and Biogeochemistry (MMB) at NIOZ, see here.  

Find more information about the UU-NIOZ projects here.

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


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