PhD scholarship in Identifying dissolved organic matter characteristics driving contaminant fate and biodegradation in aquatic systems

DTU Miljø
torsdag 06 dec 18

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Frist 20. december 2018
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The Department of Environmental Engineering at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU Environment) advertises a fully funded 3-year PhD position.
The position is co-funded by the Sino-Danish University Center (SDC) and includes a compulsory research stay of at least 9 months with the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). 

Responsibility and tasks
This project aims to link dissolved organic matter (DOM) characteristics to the fate and biodegradability of legacy and emerging pollutants found in water streams that may find their way into surface waters. Specifically, the influence of assimilable organic carbon (AOC), serving as a carbon substrate for microbial communities, will be investigated with respect to its role on the biotransformation pathways of specific micropollutants found in aquatic environments. To this end existing approaches for characterizing DOM, such as FT-ICR-MS, as well as absorbance and fluorescence spectroscopy, will be applied and compared to diverse water samples (wastewater effluents, surface waters, groundwater). The effect of these same water samples on microbial biotransformation will be examined at cellular and molecular levels. The project will examine the effect of different types of DOM with respect to the mobility, partitioning and mineralization potential of targeted organic micropollutants with the aim of inferring relationships between DOM characteristics and the fate of the selected chemicals.


  • Candidates should have an MSc degree in environmental engineering or a similar degree with an academic level equivalent to the MSc degree in environmental engineering.
  • The successful candidate will have a strong background in environmental engineering or science; previous research experience collecting and analysing water samples is a prerequisite.
  • Demonstrable experience with at least one of the existing approaches for characterizing DOM from water samples (i.e. FT-ICR-MS and/or absorbance/fluorescence spectroscopy) is required.
  • Demonstratable experience in modelling tools used for characterizing DOM, e.g. PARAFAC modelling using the drEEM toolbox in Matlab, is also preferred.
  • Some experience in microbial or molecular techniques, biodegradation assays, and/or biokinetic modelling is also a plus.
  • The candidate should have a strong interest in engineering applications, which may include the integration of field/lab data within models.
  • Desirable qualifications include a high degree of motivation and the ability to work independently in an interdisciplinary field.
  • Excellent skills in English (oral, written).
  • Willingness to travel and work in an international environment and team is essential for the position.

Approval and Enrolment

The scholarship for the PhD degree is subject to academic approval, and the candidate will be enrolled in one of the general degree programmes at DTU. For information about our enrolment requirements and the general planning of the PhD study programme, please see the DTU PhD Guide.

The assessment of the applicants will be made by Professor Barth F. Smets and Associate Professor Ursula S. McKnight.

We offer
DTU is a leading technical university globally recognized for the excellence of its research, education, innovation and scientific advice. We offer a rewarding and challenging job in an international environment. We strive for academic excellence in an environment characterized by collegial respect and academic freedom tempered by responsibility.

Salary and appointment terms

The appointment will be based on the collective agreement with the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations. The allowance will be agreed upon with the relevant union. The period of employment is 3 years.

You can read more about career paths at DTU here.

The PhD candidate should be able to start at the latest by February 1st, 2019.

Further information 
Further information may be obtained from Professor Barth F. Smets, email:

You can read more about the department on

Please do not send applications to this e-mail address, instead apply online as described below.

Please submit your online application no later than 20 December 2018 (local time).

To apply, please open the link "Apply online", fill out the online application form. The following must be attached in English:

  • A letter motivating the application (cover letter)
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Grade transcripts and BSc/MSc diploma
  • Excel sheet with translation of grades to the Danish grading system (see guidelines and Excel spreadsheet here)

Candidates may apply prior to obtaining their Master's degree, but cannot begin before having received it. 

All interested candidates irrespective of age, gender, race, disability, religion or ethnic background are encouraged to apply.

DTU Environment, with a staff of 180 from more than 30 nationalities, is one of the largest university departments specializing in environmental engineering in Europe. DTU Environment conducts research and development, and provides educational programs and service to society in the area of engineering of water in natural, urban and industrial contexts, processing and recovery of residual resources, and environmental risk assessment and chemical risk reduction. The PhD student will be a member of the Water Technology Section. 

DTU is a technical university providing internationally leading research, education, innovation and scientific advice. Our staff of 6,000 advance science and technology to create innovative solutions that meet the demands of society, and our 11,200 students are being educated to address the technological challenges of the future. DTU is an independent academic university collaborating globally with business, industry, government and public agencies.