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PhD position in epidemiology microplastics & health

maandag, augustus 23, 2021 - 16:51

We are offering a 4-year full-time PhD position in the field of environmental epidemiology. You will focus on characterizing microplastic exposures and assessing their health effects during pregnancy and in early life, and on advancing risk assessment of microplastics.

This PhD position is embedded within the European Commission funded Horizon 2020 project entitled AURORA: "Actionable eUropean ROadmap for early-life health Risk Assessment of micro- and nanoplastics".

We are exposed to large quantities of microplastics (small plastic particles <5 mm, including nanosized plastics) via the air we breathe and food we ingest; however, we lack crucial data on exposure levels, uptake, and potential risks to health. The AURORA project will advance exposure assessment capabilities for measuring microplastics and associated chemicals (e.g. additives) in tissues relevant for early-life development. We will combine in-depth characterization methods (microscopy and spectroscopy) and scalable methods (mass-spectrometry) to develop methods for both detailed and large-scale toxicological, exposure assessment, and epidemiological studies. This will be combined with a novel tiered-testing approach and epidemiological investigations to provide the first extensive evaluation of maternal and fetal MNP exposures and health perturbations, including placental function, immune-inflammatory responses, oxidative stress, accelerated aging, endocrine disruption, and child development. We will create a risk assessment framework specific to MNPs and identify the remaining knowledge gaps and priorities needed for comprehensively evaluating the impact of MNPs on early-life health.

Your role will be to contribute to the epidemiological and risk assessment work packages. You will write a PhD thesis (based on scientific publications) and follow courses at the Graduate School of Life Sciences.

The Netherlands has been at the forefront of supporting microplastics research. Utrecht is fast becoming a top location to research microplastics. This position will benefit from a larger network of researchers studying microplastics at Utrecht University and UMC Utrecht (e.g., H2020 POLYRISK project, ZonMW MOMENTUM consortium, UPlasticS3 network), and also exposome research projects which focus on advancing exposure science and internal exposome approaches (e.g., H2020 EXPANSE, the Dutch Exposome-NL Gravitation program, and Utrecht Exposome Hub).

This PhD position will be hosted at the Julius Center for Health Sciences and Primary Care, which is part of the University Medical Center Utrecht. You will be appointed at the Public Health group. The UMC Utrecht is a leading international academic medical center where knowledge on health, illness and care is generated, evaluated, shared and applied for the benefit of patients and society. The Julius Center is a leading and multidisciplinary research center with four primary research programs: cardiovascular epidemiology, cancer, infectious diseases and methodology of clinical research.

You will also collaborate closely with the Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences (IRAS) at Utrecht University. Utrecht University is highly ranked and one of the largest universities in the Netherlands, with over 7,000 staff and 31,000 students. IRAS is an interfaculty research institute within the Faculties of Veterinary Medicine and Medicine. Its mission is to provide education and research on the human and environmental health risks of exposure to potentially harmful agents in the environment. Research takes places within the domains Toxicology, Environmental Epidemiology, and Veterinary Public Health.

Both the Julius Center and IRAS are located at the Utrecht Science Park, which the highest concentration of knowledge institutions in the Netherlands.

You will be supervised by Professor R.C.H. (Roel) Vermeulen and Dr. V.C. (Virissa) Lenters.

We are looking for a candidate with:

  • An MSc in epidemiology, biomedical sciences, (medical) statistics, or a related discipline
  • An interest in environmental epidemiology theory, metabolomics, environmental health, risk assessment and reproductive and child health; experience with epidemiological analyses and analysis of -omics datasets is an advantage
  • The ability to work in a multidisciplinary team but also able to work independently, and someone who is highly self-motivated with strong problem-solving skills
  • Proficiency in written and spoken English


The initial contract will be for a period of one year, which will be extended to a total of four years upon successful assessment.

The minimum salary for this position is €2,495.00 gross per month and the maximum salary is €3.196.00 gross per month based on full-time employment (36 hours).


Please provide your curriculum vitae, a motivation letter, and the contact details of two referees via the dedicated online form.

The starting date is somewhat flexible.

Please contact Virissa Lenters, Assistant Professor, or Prof. Roel Vermeulen if you have any questions about this vacancy (v.c.lenters@umcutrecht.nl; r.c.h.vermeulen@uu.nl).

Due to the coronavirus interviews will be conducted by video calling.

Wij geloven in de kracht van een divers team waarin ruimte is voor verschillende vaardigheden, expertises, sociale en culturele achtergronden. Wij zijn benieuwd naar jou.

Het salaris voor deze (29 - 36 uur) functie bedraagt maximaal € 3.196,00 bruto per maand op basis van een fulltime dienstverband.

Onze arbeidsvoorwaarden zijn conform de Cao Universitair Medische Centra (UMC). Wij bieden onder andere een eindejaarsuitkering van 8,3%, vakantietoeslag, een reiskostenvergoeding woon-werkverkeer en diverse opleidingsmogelijkheden. Bekijk onze arbeidsvoorwaarden en diverse extra's.

Meer informatie
Gebruik voor solliciteren de knop ‘solliciteer’. Heb je vragen over deze vacature? Dan kun je contact opnemen met de contactpersoon: Virissa Lenters, Assistant Professor, telefoonnummer: +31 6 16841392, e-mail: V.C.Lenters@umcutrecht.nl

Acquisitie n.a.v. deze vacature wordt niet op prijs gesteld.


Gepubliceerd op: 
23 augustus 2021
Vacature status: 
Opleidingsniveau: WO
Reageren voor: 
25 september 2021
UMC Utrecht
3584 CX