PhD scholarship in Biotechnologies for mitigation of agricultural pollution in groundwater (DTU Sustain)

Technical University of Denmark (DTU)

Lyngby, Denmark 🇩🇰


Intense agricultural and farming activities lead to pollution of the environment via run-off of nutrients and other organic pollutants (e.g., pesticides) to different water bodies. High nutrient levels, mostly in the form of nitrates, can lead to eutrophication and may reach levels that prevent water use for drinking purposes. This project seeks for solutions to remediate nitrates from groundwater. Since groundwater lacks electron donors in high concentrations suitable for driving microbiologically mediated denitrification, the project will explore the adaptation and optimization of bio-electrochemical reactors for direct electron or indirect via hydrogen generation, thereby yielding high denitrification rates without using chemicals that could compromise water quality for drinking. The project will also address the removal of pesticides from groundwater, either by hydrogenotrophic denitrification or taking advantage of methane already present in many groundwater streams. The PhD will work with a team of interdisciplinary researchers as part of the project Metagenome-based Metabolic Modeling for Green transition of Water Treatment – application to Methanotrophy, granted by the Danish Research Council.

Responsibilities and qualifications
We seek a PhD candidate who have a strong background on water treatment, environmental microbiology and mathematical modelling. You are highly motivated and self-driven in what you do. You like getting your hands dirty and therefore are capable to understand analytical and experimental techniques with little or no supervision. You like to synthesize empirical knowledge into mathematical models that can describe the behaviour of different biological processes and their impact on water quality. You enjoy working in an interdisciplinary environment and are unafraid to ask questions.

As a PhD student in this project you will engage in:

(a) laboratory work to optimize biological groundwater treatment relying on hydrogenotrophic and methanotrophic bacteria

(b) bio-electrochemistry

(c) environmental microbiology and bioinformatics

(d) process modelling and control

(d) close collaboration with an interdisciplinary team

(e) research and teaching efforts at a section and departmental level as appropriate and relevant.

(f) dissemination of your research through publications and attendance to conferences

(e) teaching and supervision activities within the field of biological water treatment

You must have a two-year master’s degree (120 ECTS points) or a similar degree with an academic level equivalent to a two-year master’s degree.

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 DTU’s rules for the PhD education.

The assessment of the applicants will be made by Associate Professor Borja Valverde Pérez.

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.

The position is 3 years fixed term full time and starts May 1st 2023 (or according to mutual agreement).

You can read more about career paths at DTU here.

Further information
Further information may be obtained from Borja Valverde-Pérez (email:  Please do not send applications to this e-mail address, only online applications as described below will be considered.

You can read more about DTU Sustain at

If you are applying from abroad, you may find useful information on working in Denmark and at DTU at DTU – Moving to Denmark. Furthermore, you have the option of joining our monthly free seminar “PhD relocation to Denmark and startup “Zoom” seminar” for all questions regarding the practical matters of moving to Denmark and working as a PhD at DTU.

Application procedure
Your complete online application must be submitted no later than 16 March 2023 (Danish time).

Applications must be submitted as one PDF file containing all materials to be given consideration. To apply, please open the link “Apply now”, fill out the online application form, and attach all your materials in English in one PDF file. The file must include:

  • A letter motivating the application (cover letter)
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Grade transcripts and BSc/MSc diploma (in English) including official description of grading scale

You may apply prior to ob­tai­ning your master’s degree but cannot begin before having received it.

Applications received after the deadline will not be considered.

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

DTU Sustain – Department of Environmental and Resource Engineering – is one of the largest university departments specializing in environmental and resource engineering in Europe. The department conducts research, development & scientific advice and provides educational programs and service to society.  We are working to develop new environmentally friendly and sustainable technologies, methods and solutions, and to disseminate this knowledge to society and future generations of engineers. The Department has approximately 300 staff from more than 30 nationalities.

Technology for people
DTU develops technology for people. With our international elite research and study programmes, we are helping to create a better world and to solve the global challenges formulated in the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Hans Christian Ørsted founded DTU in 1829 with a clear mission to develop and create value using science and engineering to benefit society. That mission lives on today. DTU has 13,400 students and 5,800 employees. We work in an international atmosphere and have an inclusive, evolving, and informal working environment. DTU has campuses in all parts of Denmark and in Greenland, and we collaborate with the best universities around the world.





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