PhD candidate Sustainability assessment of regional biobased value chains with a focus on circularity and digitalization

Updated: 5 months ago
Deadline: 21 May 2023

PhD candidate Sustainability assessment of regional biobased value chains with a focus on circularity and digitalization
PhD candidate Sustainability assessment of regional biobased value chains with a focus on circularity and digitalization
Published Deadline Location
11 May 21 May Geleen

Sustainability of Chemicals and Materials Research Group at the Aachen-Maastricht Institute for Biobased Materials invites applications for a Ph.D. position in the sustainability assessment of regional biobased value chains with a focus on circular cultivation, circular chemistry, and digitalization. The PhD activities will be performed within the framework of the Interreg Netherlands-Flanders project “Circular Cultivation and Chemistry: Biobased Molecules from Local Crop Residual Flows for Functional Materials and Nutraceuticals”.
Job description

Project information

Modern society is still heavily relying on the petrochemical industry which causes serious environmental problems, including climate change. The use of biobased materials to replace fossil resources could help to tackle these issues. However, most of the existing commercial biobased technologies deal with food crops, thus boosting land-use change. The use of residual biobased resources for the production of essential small molecular building blocks, indispensable for fine chemicals, medicine, and high-performance material manufacturing, can help to overcome the mentioned issues, making agricultural and production sectors more sustainable.

The Interreg Netherlands-Flanders project “Circular Cultivation and Chemistry” focuses on strengthening the sustainability of existing agricultural value chains, such as nettle, grapes, blueberries, strawberries, and asparagus, and new ones through the entire value chain optimization, from crop cultivation to the manufacturing of biobased products, including functional materials and nutraceuticals. The project's primary focus is on the valorization of residual flows from crop cultivation and processing, to create additional revenue flow, enhance the circularity and resource efficiency of those chains, and reduce related environmental impacts. To achieve this, project partners from academia, research, and industry will bring together their expertise in sustainable cultivation techniques, biorefining, advanced chemical synthesis, circular material design, and sustainability assessment.

The scope of the project includes (i) establishing and developing optimal cultivation and growing conditions aimed at obtaining high-quality small biomolecules from local crops; (ii) improving green extraction/biorefining via the implementation of cascading principles and sustainable conversion technologies; (iii) developing advanced chemical synthesis methods capable to produce functional intrinsically recyclable material with a high added value; (iv) testing methods and technologies, such as pyrolysis, aimed to upgrade unused cultivation and process residues to biochar, where the latter is used for nutrient recovery during crop cultivation, closing in this way another resource loop.

Sustainability assessment within the project framework pursues a dual purpose. First of all, it aims to reduce the carbon footprint and environmental burdens and ensure a positive economic and social impact of individual biobased value chains. The other purpose is to disseminate the knowledge acquired through the project via developing an integrated tool aimed at sustainability and circularity assessment for a wide range of circular biobased projects in the Southern Netherlands and Flanders, as well as beyond.


  • Develop and perform environmental and social LCA for project-specific value chains;
  • Develop the database of biomass residual streams available in the Southern Netherlands and Flanders;
  • Elaborate the sustainability framework, including environmental and social indicators;
  • Build a computer-based tool capable of assessing added value and sustainability performance of biobased value chains, as well as the circularity of the latter;
  • Validate the mentioned tool via analyzing specific value chains considered by the project;
  • Work with a multi-stakeholder project team to discuss research problems;
  • Communicate the results of the research to project partners and stakeholders;
  • Write scientific papers for international peer-reviewed conferences and journals;
  • Present the work at international conferences;
  • Provide teaching assistance within undergraduate and master’s courses;
  • Participate in international project meetings;
  • Finalize the work in the Ph.D. thesis.

The Ph.D. research will be performed under the co-supervision of a postdoctoral researcher of this project.  

  • 30.4—38 hours per week
  • €2541—€3247 per month
  • Geleen View on Google Maps

Maastricht University (UM)

  • Master's degree in a relevant discipline (chemical engineering, sustainability science, programming, etc.)
  • Training and/or experience in LCA, social impact assessment and/or biobased products
  • Knowledge of programming languages such as Python is an asset;
  • Demonstrable affinity with the topic;
  • Demonstrated ability to work independently as well as in a team;
  • Proficiency in spoken and written English and good communication skills;
  • As the main language of the portal is Dutch, Dutch language proficiency will be an advantage.

Conditions of employment
  • We offer a 4-year full-time appointment as a Ph.D. candidate. The first year will be a probation period; after a positive assessment, the position will be extended for another 3 years.  Start date of the position is as soon as possible;
  • Remuneration will be according to standard salary levels for PhD students starting with a salary of € 2,541 with a yearly growth to € 3,247 gross a month (based on a full-time appointment). Each year the standard salary is supplemented with a holiday allowance of 8% and an end-of-year bonus of 8.3% of the yearly gross income.
  • We offer an attractive package of fringe benefits such as a reduction on collective health insurance, substantial leave arrangements, an optional model for designing a personalized benefits package, sports facilities that staff may use at a modest charge, and application for attractive fiscal arrangements for employees from abroad;
  • You have to be willing to move to (the vicinity of) Maastricht. If you do not already live in Maastricht (or its direct surroundings), you will be eligible for an allowance for moving costs and relocation reimbursement.
  • The terms of employment of Maastricht University are set out in the Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities (CAO). Furthermore, local UM provisions also apply. For more information look at the website  > About UM > Working at UM .
  • We offer a rewarding career at a young university in the heart of Europe, with a distinctly global perspective and a strong focus on innovative research and education;
  • We provide a stimulating, collaborative and interdisciplinary work environment with excellent opportunities for professional and personal development;
  • Maastricht University has an excellent international reputation, and Maastricht itself is a beautiful, open-minded city located in the center of Western Europe.

Maastricht University

Maastricht University is renowned for its unique, innovative, problem-based learning system, which is characterized by a small-scale and student-oriented approach. Research at UM is characterized by a multidisciplinary and thematic approach, and is concentrated in research institutes and schools. Maastricht University has around 22,000 students and about 5,000 employees. Reflecting the university's strong international profile, a fair amount of both students and staff are from abroad. The university hosts 6 faculties: Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, Faculty of Law, School of Business and Economics, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience.

Faculty of Science and Engineering

The Faculty of Science and Engineering (FSE) is home to several outstanding departments and institutions covering education and research in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) as well as the liberal arts and sciences.

The Aachen-Maastricht Institute for Biobased Materials (AMIBM) is a department of the Faculty of Science and Engineering (FSE) at Maastricht University, located on the Brightlands Chemelot Campus in Geleen. AMIBM is a European cross-border research institute established by Maastricht University and RWTH Aachen University (Germany), focusing on developing advanced biobased materials. The mission of AMIBM is “ground-breaking conversion of biomass to biobased materials and into product applications”. AMIBM promotes excellent multidisciplinary research in the field of biobased materials, by training Ph.D. students with the multiple skills needed to be future leaders in the field, and creating the research breakthroughs that will enable the utilization of sustainable and renewable materials for advanced materials applications. The multidisciplinary team draws together scientists with expertise in molecular and applied biotechnology, organic chemistry, polymer chemistry, polymer physics, polymer engineering, biomedical materials, and sustainability assessment.
AMIBM is embedded in a lively, entrepreneurial, and creative working environment at the Brightlands Chemelot Campus in Geleen (the Netherlands), one of the largest chemical and materials communities in Europe.

More information: .

Research group Sustainability of Chemicals and Materials.
The mission of the research team is to provide suitable instruments and sustainability impact assessments to guide the transition from a fossil-based and linear economy to a biobased and circular economy.

We are a young and growing international team of sustainability experts focusing on environmental impact assessment in connection with economic and social impacts.

Additional information

Informal inquiries concerning this position can be directed to:
Yvonne van der Meer, Chair of the research group Sustainability of Chemicals and Materials: .

If interested, please use the 'apply now' button on this page to see the application procedure.

Working at Maastricht University

Maastricht University distinguishes itself with its innovative education model, international character and multidisciplinary approach to research and education.

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Don't forget to mention AcademicTransfer and the job number: AT2023.174 in your letter.

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Application procedure

You should upload:

  • a cover letter explaining your motivation and suitability for the position. For the suitability part, please refer to the requirements for this position and add a table with an explanation of to what extent you meet each requirement;
  • a detailed Curriculum Vitae, including a list of publications and key achievements in research projects;
  • contact information of two references.

Applicants are asked to apply via Academic Transfer before 22 May 2023. In case no suitable candidates are found, Maastricht University reserves the right to re-open the vacancy.

You can send your application to this e-mail:
Please include the vacancy number AT2023.174 in the subject of your e-mail.  

Maastricht University is committed to promoting and nurturing a diverse and inclusive community. We believe that diversity in our staff and student population contributes to the quality of research and education at UM, and strive to enable this through inclusive policies and innovative projects led by teams of staff and students. We encourage you to apply for this position.

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