PhD candidate in Water and Environmental Technology

Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)
Ålesund, Norway
Position Type: 
Organization Type: 
University/Academia/Research/Think tank
Experience Level: 
Not Specified
Degree Required: 
Advanced Degree (Master's or JD)


Please note: this job post has expired! To the best of our knowledge, this job is no longer available and this page remains here for archival purposes only.

About the position

We have a vacancy for a PhD Fellow in Water and Environmental Technology, to conduct research in the topic: Microplastics as carriers of pathogens coming from wastewater treatment plants and entering the food chain.

Microplastics (MP) are small plastic particles in the environment that have a size of 5 mm or less. They come from different sources such as microfibers from synthetic clothing, cosmetics, packing material and from degradation of larger plastic products such as plastic bags, car tires, and bottles. MPs are abundant in wastewater and are carried to wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). WWTPs are not effective in removing MPs due to the particles’ small size and buoyancy. Consequently, WWTPs effluents serve as point sources for MPs in rivers. Additionally, in many countries, including Norway, sewage sludge is used as a fertilizer for soil and MPs from soil drain into rivers and lakes. Such environmental runoffs are predicted to increase due to more heavy rainfalls and extreme weather conditions as result of climate change. These ubiquitous environmental contaminants may harm ecosystems and their presence is expected to increase dramatically over the next decade. A recent report from Norwegian Institute for Water Research lists major findings of MP in sediments from Lake Femunden, Lake Mjøsa, in duck mussels (Anodonta anatina) and plankton samples from Lake Mjøsa in Norway. The complexity of challenges related to pollution from MPs is much larger than previously thought, and concerns are now expressed about MPs acting as vectors for introduction of pathogens into the food and drinking water supplies. MPs can be colonized by microorganisms, building up microbial biofilms (plastispheres) that have different taxonomic compositions than biofilms associated with natural particles. Due to their low biodegradability and extreme persistence in the environment, it is believed that MPs can serve as vectors for long distance transfer of bacteria and viruses that are pathogenic to humans and animals. Furthermore, these pathogenic microorganisms protected in the biofilms formed around microplastics can subsequently been transferred into the vegetable food value chain when present in soil and through irrigation. Occurrence of MPs in foods and drinking water has raised concerns about the risks associated with ingestion and long-term exposure to multiple MP sources, and it has been suggested that quantification of MPs should be included in food safety management systems. However, none of the studies on MPs in food considers the additional risks posed by the plastisphere, and there are so far no available studies on the pathogenicity/infectivity of the microbial assemblages when these are ingested as part of the plastisphere.

The present research project, financed by the research council of Norway, will contribute to the society by addressing the food-related hazard to human health represented by microbial communities associated with microplastics coming from WWTPs. This is an interdisciplinary project combining technological and biological sciences to strengthen the relevance and quality of results. Altogether, the project will contribute to goals embedded in the UN Sustainable Development Goal no. 2; Zero hunger, no. 6: Clean water and sanitation, and no. 12: Responsible production and consumption.

The objectives of the project which involves an interdisciplinary research team are:

1. Characterize MP associated microbial communities in Norwegian sewage and sludge from WWTPs and freshwater environments

2. Use a newly developed microfluidic platform in addition to standard cultivation methods to study establishment of plastispheres in controlled environments

3. Study the survival, adhesion and potential uptake of the plastisphere through the digestive system in in vitro and ex vivo models

4. Study the survival, adhesion and potential uptake of plastispheres through the digestive system in an in vivo model (the Medaka fish)

You will report to the Head of department.

Duties of the position

The main goal of this PhD work is together with the project team (total 2 PhD students, 3 professors, 1 assoc. professor and 1 researcher):

  • Characterize MP associated microbial communities in Norwegian sewage and sludge from WWTPs and freshwater environments.
  • Use a newly developed microfluidic platform in addition to standard cultivation methods to study establishment of plastispheres in controlled environments
  • Characterize the flow conditions applied by the microfluidic platform through CFD analysis

The PhD will focus on the following areas:

Microbiology, fluid dynamics and microfluidic technologies.

Required selection criteria

PhD candidate:

The PhD-position's main objective is to qualify for work in research positions. The qualification requirement is that you have completed a master’s degree or second degree (equivalent to 120 credits) with a strong academic background in water and environmental engineering, or any other study program which includes microbiology and fluid dynamics or hydraulics with a grade of B or better in terms of NTNU’s grading scale. If you do not have letter grades from previous studies, you must have an equally good academic foundation. If you are unable to meet these criteria you may be considered only if you can document that you are particularly suitable for education leading to a PhD degree.

The appointment is to be made in accordance with the regulations in force concerning State Employees and Civil Servants and national guidelines for appointment as PhD, post doctor and research assistant.

Other requred qualifications

  • Laboratory skills within water and microbiology
  • Have teaching experience, especially at the bachelor level.
  • Good written and oral English language skills (must be documented)

Preferred selection criteria

  • Have knowledge in technical drawing is a plus
  • Good written and oral Norwegian language skills is a plus

Personal characteristics

  • Availability to travel between the research locations: Ålesund and Oslo region. The working place of this PhD is at NTNU Ålesund  campus, however, the PhD research needs the candidate to be also in Oslo region to accomplish some of the experimental work and to cooperate with the project team belonging to NMBU University and Nofima in Ås, Viken.
  •  Good communication skills
  •  Ability to work independently as well as in team
  •  Ability to make research at an international level
  •  Keen interest in the wider context of own research, and an ability to engage in cross-disciplinary teams
  •  In the evaluation of which candidate is best qualified, emphasis will be placed on education, experience and personal suitability, as well as motivation, in terms of the qualification requirements specified in the advertisement

We offer

Salary and conditions

PhD candidates are remunerated in code 1017, and are normally remunerated at gross from NOK 479 600 per annum before tax, depending on qualifications and seniority. From the salary, 2% is deducted as a contribution to the Norwegian Public Service Pension Fund.

The period of employment is either 4 years with reqired duties, or 3 years without requred duties.
Appointment to a PhD position requires that you are admitted to the PhD programme in engineering  ( within three months of employment, and that you participate in an organized PhD programme during the employment period.

The engagement is to be made in accordance with the regulations in force concerning State Employees and Civil Servants, and the acts relating to Control of the Export of Strategic Goods, Services and Technology. Candidates who by assessment of the application and attachment are seen to conflict with the criteria in the latter law will be prohibited from recruitment to NTNU. After the appointment you must assume that there may be changes in the area of work.

It is a prerequisite you can be present at and accessible to the institution daily.

About the application

The application and supporting documentation to be used as the basis for the assessment must be in English.

Publications and other scientific work must follow the application. Please note that applications are only evaluated based on the information available on the application deadline. You should ensure that your application shows clearly how your skills and experience meet the criteria which are set out above. 

The application must include:

  • CV, certificates and diplomas
  • Research plan or project proposal (half page)
  • A list of academic works - published or unpublished - that you would like to be considered in the assessment 
  • Name and address of three referees

Joint works will be considered. If it is difficult to identify your contribution to joint works, you must attach a brief description of your participation.

In the evaluation of which candidate is best qualified, emphasis will be placed on education, experience and personal suitability.

NTNU is committed to following evaluation criteria for research quality according to The San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment - DORA.

General information

Working at NTNU

A good work environment is characterized by diversity. We encourage qualified candidates to apply, regardless of their gender, functional capacity or cultural background. 

The city of Ålesund, with its population of 50 000, will provide you with plenty of opportunities to explore a region of Norway that is famous for its beautiful scenery with high mountains and blue fjords. Ålesund itself, with its Art Nouveau architecture, is by many considered to be the most beautiful city in Norway! The Norwegian welfare state, including healthcare, schools, kindergartens and overall equality, is probably the best of its kind in the world.

As an employee at NTNU, you must at all times adhere to the changes that the development in the subject entails and the organizational changes that are adopted.

Information Act (Offentleglova), your name, age, position and municipality may be made public even if you have requested not to have your name entered on the list of applicants.

If you have any questions about the position, please contact professor Carlos Salas Bringas, e-mail or professor Razak Seidu, e-mail .  If you have any questions about the recruitment process, please contact Siri Schulerud, e-mail: .

Please submit your application electronically via with your CV, diplomas and certificates. Applications submitted elsewhere will not be considered. Diploma Supplement is required to attach for European Master Diplomas outside Norway. Chinese applicants are required to provide confirmation of Master Diploma from China Credentials Verification (CHSI).

If you are invited for interview you must include certified copies of transcripts and reference letters. Please refer to the application number IV-175/20 when applying.

Application deadline: 20.09.2020