PhD position Possibilities to reduce emissions and environmental effects of psychopharmaca

Updated: 4 months ago
Deadline: 16 Mar 2020

Would you like to contribute to a healthier and toxic-free environment?

We are seeking a PhD candidate for the NWO funded project Psychopharmac’eau who is interested in interdisciplinary research into the possibilities to reduce emissions and environmental effects of psychopharmaca.

The Psychopharmac’eau project will be carried out in a project team consisting of 3 PhD students involving researchers from the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) and Wageningen University and Research. You will also work closely with partners in the water sector.

Over a million people in the Netherlands use psychopharmaca, like anti-depressants and anti-psychotics. After use residues enter surface waters, where they may affect aquatic organisms, since psychopharmaca are designed to affect the nervous system. Hence, they can affect aquatic organisms at very low and environmentally relevant concentrations and are expected to mimic so-called info-chemicals, influence natural communication and cause effects on the behaviour of organisms. Yet, there is still very limited information available on the environmental risks of psychopharmaca for non-target organisms.

In this project you will investigate possibilities to improve regulation and policies, better understand trends in use and effects, possibilities to design more friendly alternatives, and assess possible mitigation by water treatment technologies and nature-based solutions.

You will work with state-of-the art technologies. Your training will include a well-structured training program, including technical and professional transferable skills courses, as well as lab visits.

What are you going to do?

You will

  • adapt existing models and combine these with data on prescription of psychopharmaca to assess expected emissions of psychopharmaca to river basins
  • use sewage epidemiology techniques and high-resolution mass spectrometry (HRMS) screening on STP influent and effluent to evaluate current exposure models as used in regulatory risk assessment
  • apply principles of green and circular chemistry and assess if and how the chemical structure of the compounds could be changed
  • study the possibilities to improve policies, e.g. by using information from adjacent regulatory frameworks to assess the environmental risks on the active ingredients of psychopharmaca
  • test, together with the water sector, promising treatment options for sewage and drinking water and evaluate these on their performance and reduction of effects on non-target aquatic organisms.

You will combine laboratory work, modelling work and field experiments and communicate your results via conference presentations and publications in peer-reviewed journals. You will write a high-quality PhD thesis, while closely working with the project team.

Furthermore, we expect you to be an active member of our research group and to take part in teaching efforts, including assisting in practical courses and supervision of bachelor and master students.

What do we require?


  • have a MSc degree or equivalent in the field of environmental science, water science, environmental chemistry, analytical chemistry, risk assessment, or a related field;
  • can show relevant scientific and technical skills, have experience with practical lab work, preferably related to environmental chemistry;
  • have good analytical and statistical skills, including the use of programming languages such as R, Python or Matlab;
  • have excellent English language and communication skills;
  • are motivated to pursue a PhD, are independent and have the ability to collaborate and to engage in a training network.

The consortium aims to offer equal opportunities to all its participants. Applications are welcomed from eligible applicants regardless of gender, nationality, race, or ethnic origin.

Our offer

A temporary contract for 38 hours per week for the duration of 4 years (initial appointment will be for a period of 18 months and after satisfactory evaluation it will be extended for a total duration of 4 years) and should lead to a dissertation (PhD thesis). We will draft an educational plan that includes attendance of courses and (international) meetings. We also expect you to assist in teaching undergraduates and master students.

The salary, depending on relevant experience before the beginning of the employment contract, will be €2,325 to €2,972 (scale P) gross per month, based on full-time employment (38 hours a week). These amounts are exclusive 8 % holiday allowance and 8,3 % end-of-year bonus. A favourable tax agreement, the ‘30% ruling’, may apply to non-Dutch applicants. The  Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities  applies. 

Are you curious about our extensive package of secondary employment benefits such as our excellent opportunities for study and development? Take a look at our website .

Further information

Do you have questions about this vacancy? Or do you want to know more about our organisation? Please contact:

About the faculty

The Faculty of Science has a student body of around 7,000, as well as 1,600 members of staff working in education, research or support services. Researchers and students at the Faculty of Science are fascinated by every aspect of how the world works, be it elementary particles, the birth of the universe or the functioning of the brain.

TheInstitute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED) is one of eight research institutes of the Faculty of Science at the University of Amsterdam. The research at IBED aims to unravel how ecosystems function in all their complexity, and how they change due to natural processes and human activities. At its core lies an integrated systems approach to study biodiversity, ecosystems and the environment. IBED adopts this systems approach to ecosystems, addressing abiotic (soil and water quality) and biotic factors (ecology and evolution of plants, animals, and microorganisms), and the interplay between those. The IBED vision includes research encompassing experimental and theoretical approaches at a wide variety of temporal and spatial scales, i.e. from molecules and microorganisms to patterns and processes occurring at the global scale.

Job application

The UvA is an equal-opportunity employer. We prioritise diversity and are committed to creating an inclusive environment for everyone. We value a spirit of enquiry and perseverance, provide the space to keep asking questions, and promote a culture of curiosity and creativity.

Do you recognize yourself in the job profile? Then we look forward to receiving your CV and cover letter by 16 Marc 2020. You may apply online by using the link below.

Applications should include:

  • a motivation letter and
  • a CV, including suggested referents.


No agencies please

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