PhD Position in Design, Chemical Analysis and Testing of (Bio)Degradable Plastics

Catholic University of Leuven


You will be embedded in a young and enthusiastic team,, part of the bigger CSCE lab: in Leuven Chem&Tech, a hotbed of chemical related activity in Leuven The KU Leuven features consistently in Europe's top-15 universities and has been elected by Reuters as most innovative university in Europe for multiple years in a row.


A PhD position is available in the framework of the PlasticDaphnia project. The overall goal of this project is the development of new (micro)plastics (MPs) that are more biodegradable and thus pose lower risks for the environment than conventional plastics. The filter-feeder Daphnia is a crucial species in freshwater ecosystems and is traditionally used as a bioindicator for water quality. Its diverse microbiome is known to have biodegradation abilities, which will be further explored in this project. The PhD position here (1/3), will specifically aim to develop future biodegradable plastics for applications where leakage to the environment is large (e.g. fibers). The envisioned bio-plastics should complement durability and performance with high biodegradability and low risk in freshwater ecosystems as assessed by the Daphnia test system. This project will be carried out by an interdisciplinary consortium consisting of ecologists, systems biologists, environmental microbiologists and bioscience/chemical engineers at KU Leuven.

The PhD student will be responsible for the synthesis of (biobased) ROP-viable monomers and polymers, as well as polycondensation approaches (PET), the labeling of polymers, the shaping in fibers and their material property testing. This student should have a background in chemistry or bioscience/chemical engineering with some knowledge of synthetic polymer chemistry (catalysis) and/or polymer processing. The student will synthesize (and purchase) and characterize all plastics, and produce single filament fibers and thereoff derived MPs. The student will focus both on existing bioplastics, the reference fossil PET and novel degradable plastic formulations. The former and PET will serve as major test cases for the microbiome assay and for a selection of these, 13C- as well as fluorescent labeling will be pursued. The PhD will assist the other researchers in the project with the analyses of MPs from the environment and post-Daphnia digestion chemical polymer analyses. The PhD student should be motivated to work interdisciplinary in this project where 3 pHD students and 7 PI will interact. The PhD student will be hired in the Dusselier lab (, Center for Sustainable Catalysis and Engineering) and co-supervised by Prof. W. Thielemans and Prof. P. Van Puyvelde from the Chemical Engineering department.


We are looking for a highly motivated and ambitious student with an excellent academic record, especially in polymer chemistry or analysis and a strong interest or passion in degradable plastics and environmental impact. European union associated master degree (EER – Switzerland) in chemistry, chemical engineering or bio-engineering with a focus on chemistry is required. A very good command of both spoken and written English is required.


We offer a full-time job initially for a period of one year, but extendable to a total of four years pending good evaluation. Funding is available, but we give support for applying for your own scholarship.


Interested? Please send your CV, a 1-page letter of motivation including relevant experience and publications, a transcript of your bachelor and master study results, and the contact information of two referents as a single PDF to Professor Dusselier ( ‘DB_ Application_NAME’. Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed. The closing date for applications is 15th of October 2020. The intended starting date is 1st of December 2020, but can be negotiated. Interviews will be held in the last two weeks of October.

You can apply for this job no later than October 15, 2020 via the
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  • Employment percentage: Voltijds
  • Location: Leuven
  • Apply before: October 15, 2020
  • Tags: Bio-ingenieurswetenschappen

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