Are you passionate about soil chemistry in relation to sustainable food production systems? Do you have an MSc degree in soil chemistry, environmental chemistry, (bio)geochemistry, environmental science, or a related discipline? Then this PhD position may be the perfect opportunity for you!

The chair group of Soil Chemistry and Chemical Soil Quality at Wageningen University offers a PhD position in the SoilProS project (Soil Biodiversity analyses for Sustainable Production Systems) financed by NWO-TTW (Perspectief program).
Project description:
Current agricultural practices largely bypass the role of biota and biodiversity in soils. The result is that food production systems do not sufficiently value the importance of soil biodiversity, increasingly emit greenhouse gases and nutrients, while being poorly buffered against drought and rainfall events, and soil-borne diseases.

Restoring these important functions of soils is currently less limited by what we can measure than by how to interpret the data. The restoration of these soil functions requires interventions e.g. through addition of soil amendments (organic substrates, lime), inoculation with microorganisms, application of plant mixtures, etc.
In the SoilProS project, 7 PhD candidates, one Postdoc and three technicians at 6 institutes (WUR, UvA, NIOO, UT, UU and HAS) will closely work together within the fields of soil biodiversity, soil chemistry, microbial ecology and artificial intelligence (AI) supported by a broad range of stakeholders from governmental bodies to various companies in the agricultural sector.

The Soil Chemistry group at WUR will hire one out of the 7 PhD students (PhD 6), who will examine the impact of interventions (see above) on soil functions such as soil carbon storage, soil structure, nutrient supply, filter function and soil resilience.

PhD 6 will  focus on physical and chemical soil properties and will closely collaborate with fellow PhD 7 at the University of Amsterdam who will focus on biological soil properties. The mechanistic insights regarding the interventions obtained in laboratory and greenhouse studies will provide input for the AI approach of the overall project geared towards a soil specific enhancement of soil sustainability.

The PhD candidate will be based at Wageningen University, at the chair group of Soil Chemistry and Chemical Soil Quality. The candidate will closely collaborate with the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW), University of Amsterdam, Utrecht University, Technical University of Twente, the Centre for Soil Ecology, SoilProS stakeholders, and other national and international initiatives.
PhD 6: Soil chemical mechanisms involved in improving soil functions  
You will perform experiments (among other in mesocosms, in collaboration with PhD 7) to elucidate the mechanisms by which interventions (see above) improve soil functions. You will examine the impact of interventions on:

 1) carbon storage in terms of soil carbon pools of different stability, 2) the formation and stability of soil aggregates, 3) the speciation and bioavailability of nutrients in soils, 4) the leaching fluxes of nutrients and contaminants from the rootzone, and 5) the resilience of soils in preserving their functions against drought, heat and intense rainfall.
For examining these effects, a variety of experimental and modelling strategies will be employed including batch and column experiments, mesocosm experiments as well as chemical speciation and reactive transport modelling.

Your qualities

The successful candidate must have:

  • an MSc degree in soil chemistry, environmental chemistry, (bio)geochemistry, environmental science or a related discipline.
  • a good understanding of soil processes, particularly of the chemistry involved.
  • affinity with performing experimental research at various scales (laboratory, greenhouse, and field); hands on experience with a variety of analytical techniques for environmental samples and chemical speciation modelling are a plus.
  • the willingness to learn advanced analytical techniques (e.g. Field-Flow Fractionation, the Donnan Membrane technique, metabolomics, etc) and modelling approaches (including multi-surface geochemical modelling).
  • good communication, writing and presentation skills and fluency in English.
  • the ability to function well in a multidisciplinary research team and communicate about results and research questions with a wide variety of academic and non-academic stakeholders.

We offer you

Wageningen University & Research offers excellent terms of employment. A few highlights from our Collective Labour Agreement include:

  • study leave, and partially paid parental leave;
  • working hours that can be discussed and arranged so that they allow for the best possible work-life balance;
  • the option to accrue additional compensation / holiday hours by working more, up to 40 hours per week;
  • there is a strong focus on vitality and you can make use of the sports facilities available on campus for a small fee;
  • a fixed December bonus of 8.3%;
  • excellent pension scheme.

In addition to these first-rate employee benefits, you will receive a fully funded PhD position and you will be offered a course program tailored to your needs and the research team.

The gross salary for the first year is € 2.541,- per month rising to € 3.247,- in the fourth year in according to the Collective Labour Agreements for Dutch Universities (CAO-NU) (scale P). This is based on a full-time working week of 38 hours. This is a temporary appointment, initially for 1 year and upon satisfaction to be prolonged for a maximum of 4 years (1.0 fte). The preferred starting date is 1 July 2023.

There are plenty of options for personal initiative in a learning environment, and we provide excellent training opportunities. We are offering a unique position in an international environment with a pleasant and open working atmosphere.

You are going to work at the greenest and most innovative campus in Holland, and at a university that has been chosen as the “ Best University ” in the Netherlands for the 18th consecutive time.

Coming from abroad
Wageningen University & Research is the university and research centre for life sciences. The themes we deal with are relevant to everyone around the world and Wageningen, therefore, has a large international community and a lot to offer to international employees. Our team of advisors on Dutch immigration procedures will help you with the visa application procedures for yourself and, if applicable, for your family.

Feeling welcome also has everything to do with being well informed. Wageningen University & Research’s International Community page contains practical information about what we can do to support international employees and students coming to Wageningen. Furthermore, we can assist you with any additional advice and information about helping your partner to find a job, housing, schooling. For instance under the “30% rule”, certain categories of international staff can receive tax exemption on approximately 30% of their gross salary.

Do you want more information?

For more information about this position, please contact dr. Walter Schenkeveld by email For more information about the procedure , please contact Noorien Abbas, Corporate Recruiter, by email

Do you want to apply?
You can apply directly by uploading your CV and motivation letter, using the apply button on the vacancy page on our website which will allow us to process your personal information with your approval.
This vacancy will be listed up to and including 29th May 2023. We aim to schedule the first job interviews in the second week of June 2023.

Equal opportunities
Wageningen University & Research (WUR) employs a large number of people with very different backgrounds and qualities, who inspire and motivate each other. We want every talent to feel at home in our organisation and be offered the same career opportunities. We therefore especially welcome applications from people who are underrepresented at WUR.

Wageningen University & Research
The mission of Wageningen University & Research is “To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life”. Under the banner Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen University and the specialised research institutes of the Wageningen Research Foundation have joined forces in contributing to finding solutions to important questions in the domain of healthy food and living environment.

With its roughly 30 branches, 7,200 employees (6,400 fte) and 13,200 students and over 150.000 participants to WUR’s Life Long Learning, Wageningen University & Research is one of the leading organisations in its domain. The unique Wageningen approach lies in its integrated approach to issues and the collaboration between different disciplines.

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