PhD scholars (Psychoactive Substances in Wastewater) via EURAXESS

University of Antwerp

Antwerp, , BE

The Faculty of Pharmaceutical, Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences and the Faculty of Science at the University of Antwerp have 2 full-time (100%) vacancies for talented

PhD scholars in the area of Psychoactive Substances in Wastewater

funded by the FWO lead agency project with Slovenia

“Novel approaches for the estimation of the use of psychoactive pharmaceuticals and illicit drugs by wastewater analysis”

The analysis of wastewater for human excretion products of illicit drugs and psychoactive pharmaceuticals gives a measure of the extent to which such substances are (ab)used by the general population. The project will develop analytical assays to measure biomarkers of psychoactive pharmaceuticals and drugs in wastewater. Subsequently, innovative active-passive sampling (APS) and detection strategies will be developed for the target biomarkers for use in long-term monitoring of substance use in communities. Sampling campaigns will be undertaken in 3 Belgian and 5 Slovene cities to estimate community-wide psychoactive substance use, evaluate chemical removal efficiencies of the wastewater treatment plants, and assess the utility of APS – compared to conventional 24 h composite sampling – for improved identification of new psychoactive substances.

The project is a collaboration between the Toxicological Center and the SPHERE group at the University of Antwerp and the Jozef Stefan Institute in Slovenia, and will involve four PhD researchers: 2 hosted at UAntwerp and 2 hosted in Slovenia. Within the overall scope of the research, the specific goals of the two PhD projects based at UAntwerp are:

PhD1: to develop sensitive and selective analytical assays to measure concentrations of biomarkers (metabolites or excretion products) of psychoactive pharmaceuticals and drugs in wastewater. The work includes optimization of sample preparation protocols involving solid-phase microextraction and detection methodologies based on hyphenated chromatographic techniques and mass spectrometry.

PhD2: to develop active-passive sampling (APS) strategies for the target biomarkers in influent and effluent wastewater and to investigate the advantages/limitations of APS in practical settings. The work includes characterizing the sorption dynamics of the target biomarkers on the APS sorbent, and how this is influenced by interactions with wastewater particles.

Job description

Within the project, you will:

  • function within an international team of researchers and build a professional network
  • perform research activities with the aim of writing a PhD thesis in English
  • publish your research in scientific journals and present your results at the national and international level
  • contribute to teaching and research, including supervision of practical courses, and MSc and Erasmus student projects.

Profile and qualifications

  • Strong interest in environmental and analytical research and eager to acquire new competences and knowledge.
  • Master degree in Chemistry, Biochemistry, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Biomedical Sciences (PhD1).
  • Master degree in Chemistry, Biology, Earth Sciences, Bioscience Engineering (PhD2).
  • Outstanding academic results.
  • Fluent in spoken English, and highly competent in scientific writing in English.
  • A creative and analytical mind.
  • Strong interpersonal and communication skills.
  • Your academic qualities comply with the university’s requirements:
  • Experience with analytical chemical techniques is essential.
  • MSc Students in the final year of their degree can apply.

We offer:

  • A fully funded doctoral scholarship for a period of 4 years (with an evaluation after one year and continuation after positive evaluation);
  • The preferred start date of the scholarship is 1 September 2020;
  • A gross monthly grant of ca. € 2.400.


  • Submit your application by email to both Adrian Covaci ([email protected]) and Ronny Blust ([email protected]) before the deadline of 24:00 h, 31 May 2020. Your application must include a copy of your CV, your academic transcripts, the name and contact details for two referees, and a separate motivation letter (max. 1 page) describing your research interests, skills and motivation to apply for the position. Specify which of the 2 PhD projects is of most interest to you. Incomplete applications will not be considered.
  • The selection committee will make a shortlist selection of candidates from the submitted applications. Subsequently candidates will be invited for an interview. The interviews of the candidates from the shortlist will take place in June, prior to the summer recess.
  • For more information contact: [email protected]

The University of Antwerp is a family friendly organization, with a focus on equal opportunities and diversity. Our HR-policy for researchers was awarded by the European Commission with the quality label HR Excellence in research.

We support the Science4Refugees initiative and encourage asylum-seeking, refugee scientists and researchers to apply for a job at the University of Antwerp.