PhD Position in Assessing the Impacts of Marine Plastic Pollution in Norway with LCA

Updated: 2 months ago
Job Type: FullTime
Deadline: 07 Jan 2022

Research Collaboration in Sustainability

In 2015, the 2030 agenda with the 17 sustainability goals was adopted by all UN member states. The sustainability goals see the environment, economy and social development in context. The time horizon for necessary changes is short, and it is challenging to combine different considerations without conflicts of objectives and unintended consequences of measures.

NTNU is now announcing 43 individual PhD positions that will contribute to a greater understanding of system effects, societal changes and conflicts of interest related to the sustainability challenges. These positions are divided into 9 interdisciplinary projects with mainly 4-7 PhD positions in each project. Read more about the Research Collaboration and the projects here .

In this position, the candidate is expected to cooperate with the other PhD students in the MAPLE-project (Marine Plastic Pollution: Environmental Impact and life cycle scenarios) . 

About the position

We have a vacancy for a PhD candidate in the Industrial Ecology Programme at the Department of Energy and Process Engineering.

The appointment has a duration of three to four years. The appointment is financed by NTNU through its call for interdisciplinary research collaboration in sustainability.

The position is part of the MAPLE project (Marine Plastic Pollution: Environmental impact and life cycle scenarios) . MAPLE is an interdisciplinary research project between researchers from the departments of Energy and Process Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Geography, and Biology, and includes four PhD positions.

An increasingly urgent issue for marine ecosystems is plastic pollution. Plastic is a diverse material that has been observed floating on the ocean surface, suspended in the water column, and sitting on or buried beneath the seafloor. As such, macro- and microplastics have the potential to affect the biological communities that occupy all of these marine biogeographic realms.

If we want to solve the plastic crisis in the oceans, we need to understand how and where plastic is emanating from and accumulating, what impact microbial communities have on the degree of degradation and sedimentation of plastic particles, and what the options are to minimize the use and mismanagement of plastic in the first place.

MAPLE focuses on marine plastic pollution and its environmental impacts in Trondheimsfjord and the outer central coast of Norway. We combine field studies, laboratory studies and computer modelling in an interdisciplinary approach to understand this complex problem.

The topic of this specific PhD project is the development of life cycle assessment (LCA) models for tracing plastic products through the Norwegian economy to see where they originate from, and which ones get mismanaged most. The PhD student will adopt, apply, and further develop life cycle impact assessment models for quantifying impacts from plastic entanglement and ingestion to the plastic amounts found in Norway to estimate the impacts of macro- and microplastics on the marine ecosystem. The PhD student will therefore also contribute to and profit from work in the ongoing ATLANTIS project ( The idea of tis PhD project is to derive species-sensitivity distributions and derive characterization factors for use in LCA that are specific to Norway and its ecosystem. The results of the LCA studies will show where and what the largest impacts are. Life cycle scenarios of possible interventions, such as replacing plastic with alternative materials, increased re-use and chemical conversion capacity, will help to identify the largest potentials for counteracting and mitigating plastic pollution in Norway.

Interdisciplinary collaboration within the MAPLE project and the Industrial Ecology group are envisaged.

The Industrial Ecology Programme (IndEcol) is a well-established interdisciplinary group in the field of environmental sustainability analysis. Researchers at IndEcol participate in international expert groups, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the International Resource Panel (IRP), the Life Cycle Imitative hosted by UN Environment, as well as international collaborative projects.

The Head of Department is Professor Terese Løvås . The position’s supervisor is Professor Francesca Verones , the co-supervisor is Professor Hans Bihs from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Duties of the position

  • Designing an LCA model for plastic flows in Norway
  • Designing and setting up models for quantifying the fate and effect of impacts on Norwegian marine ecosystems within an LCA framework (focusing on macro- and microplastics)
  • Deriving characterization factors for use in life cycle assessment
  • Application of the model in case studies and scenarios
  • Dissemination of results in scholarly journals and at international conferences

Required selection criteria

  • Professionally relevant background in industrial ecology, environmental science/engineering or similar. Bachelor’s and master’s degrees in other disciplines will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
  • Your education must correspond to a five-year Norwegian degree programme, where 120 credits are obtained at master's level
  • Strong academic background from your previous studies and an average grade from the master's degree program, or equivalent education, which is equal to B or better compared with NTNU's grading scale
  • Proven analytical and computational capabilities, in courses and or/thesis deliverables
  • Proven written and oral English communication skills
  • Experience in geographical information systems (e.g., ArcGIS, QGIS)
  • Experience in use of programming for environmental data (Python)

The appointment is to be made in accordance with the regulations in force concerning State Employees and Civil Servants  and Regulations concerning the degrees of Philosophiae Doctor (PhD) and Philosodophiae Doctor (PhD) in artistic research national guidelines for appointment as PhD, post doctor and research assistant  

Preferred selection criteria

  • Completed courses in life cycle assessments
  • Study background or courses in marine ecology/biology/ecosystem services
  • Experience in use of another programming for environmental data (e.g. R, Matlab)
  • Experience in performing LCA with Brightway
  • Knowledge of Norwegian

Personal characteristics

  • Self-motivated, enthusiastic and dedicated
  • Ambitious and goal-oriented
  • Excellent collaboration and communication skills
  • Motivated to solve environmental problems and advance sustainability

We offer

Salary and conditions

PhD candidates are remunerated in code 1017, and are normally remunerated at gross from NOK 491 200 per annum before tax, depending on qualifications and seniority. From the salary, 2% is deducted as a contribution to the Norwegian Public Service Pension Fund.

The period of employment is 3 to 4 years (with possibility for 1 year pliktarbeid ).

Appointment to a PhD position requires that you are admitted to the PhD programme in Industrial Ecology within three months of employment, and that you participate in an organized PhD programme during the employment period.

The engagement is to be made in accordance with the regulations in force concerning State Employees and Civil Servants, and the acts relating to Control of the Export of Strategic Goods, Services and Technology. Candidates who by assessment of the application and attachment are seen to conflict with the criteria in the latter law will be prohibited from recruitment to NTNU. After the appointment you must assume that there may be changes in the area of work.

It is a prerequisite you can be present at and accessible to the institution daily.

About the application

The application and supporting documentation to be used as the basis for the assessment must be in English.

Publications and other scientific work must follow the application. Please note that applications are only evaluated based on the information available on the application deadline. You should ensure that your application shows clearly how your skills and experience meet the criteria which are set out above. 

The application must include: 

  • CV, certificates and diplomas 
  • Motivation letter
  • transcripts and diplomas for bachelor's and master's degrees. If you have not completed the master's degree, you must submit a confirmation that the master's thesis has been submitted. 
  • Name and address of three referees 
  • If you have publications or other relevant research work 

If all, or parts, of your education has been taken abroad, we also ask you to attach documentation of the scope and quality of your entire education, both bachelor's and master's education, in addition to other higher education. Description of the documentation required can be found here . If you already have a statement from NOKUT, please attach this as well.

Joint works will be considered. If it is difficult to identify your contribution to joint works, you must attach a brief description of your participation.

In the evaluation of which candidate is best qualified, emphasis will be placed on education, experience and personal and interpersonal qualities. Motivation, ambitions, and potential will also count in the assessment of the candidates. 

NTNU is committed to following evaluation criteria for research quality according to The San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment - DORA.

General information

Working at NTNU

A good work environment is characterized by diversity. We encourage qualified candidates to apply, regardless of their gender, functional capacity or cultural background. 

The city of Trondheim is a modern European city with a rich cultural scene. Trondheim is the innovation capital of Norway with a population of 200,000. The Norwegian welfare state, including healthcare, schools, kindergartens and overall equality, is probably the best of its kind in the world. Professional subsidized day-care for children is easily available. Furthermore, Trondheim offers great opportunities for education (including international schools) and possibilities to enjoy nature, culture and family life and has low crime rates and clean air quality.

As an employee at NTNU, you must at all times adhere to the changes that the development in the subject entails and the organizational changes that are adopted.

In accordance with The Public Information Act (Offentleglova), your name, age, position and municipality may be made public even if you have requested not to have your name entered on the list of applicants.

If you have any questions about the position, please contact Professor Francesca Verones, e-mail: . If you have any questions about the recruitment process, please contact HR-consultant Renate Fjellheim, e-mail: .

Please submit your application electronically via with your CV, diplomas and certificates. Applications submitted elsewhere will not be considered. Diploma Supplement is required to attach for European Master Diplomas outside Norway. If you have education from China, you are required to provide confirmation of Master Diploma from China Credentials Verification (CHSI) .

If you are invited for interview you must include certified copies of transcripts and reference letters. Please refer to the application number IV-242/21 when applying.

Application deadline: 07.01.2022

NTNU - knowledge for a better world

The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) creates knowledge for a better world and solutions that can change everyday life.

Department of Energy and Process Engineering

We conduct research and teaching covering the entire energy chain, from resources to the end-user. We look at how energy is produced and used by humans and machines in a sustainable way with regard to health, climate change and the resource base. The Department of Energy and Process Engineering  is one of eight departments in the Faculty of Engineering.

Deadline 7th January 2022
Employer NTNU - Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Municipality Trondheim
Scope Fulltime
Duration Permanent
Place of service Gløshaugen

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