Postdoctoral, PhD and MSc Positions: Microplastics fingerprinting at the watershed scale, from sources to receivers

University of Waterloo

Waterloo, ON, CA

Position Descriptions

We invite applications for one postdoctoral fellow (PDF), three PhD and five MSc positions to participate in a collaborative research project to advance the detection, quantification, characterization and modeling of microplastics at the watershed scale. The research project will combine field sampling, (geo)chemical and spectroscopic methods, economic analyses and fate and transport modeling. 

The postdoc and students will work closely together within a highly interdisciplinary team of researchers from University of Waterloo. The universitybased research team will regularly interact with scientists at stakeholder organizations, including Environment and Climate Change Canada, Ontario Clean Water Agency, Region of Waterloo, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, City of Brantford, Hoola One Technologies, EPCOR Water Canada, and Environmental Defence.

Postdoctoral Fellow: Focus on (1) data-driven statistical analyses to relate microplastics loads and concentrations to watershed attributes (population density, land-use, water treatment, hydrology), and (2) the development of a watershed-scale dynamic mass balance model to simulate the fate and transport of microplastics. Supervised by Dr. Philippe Van Cappellen

PhD-1: Focus on the characterization of the size, structure and composition of microplastics from a variety of environmental media using advanced imaging and spectroscopic techniques. The PhD student will establish a comprehensive library for plastics identification that accounts for plastic additives and degraded products. Supervised by Dr. Rodney Smith

PhD-2: Focus on cost-benefit analyses of microplastics pollution to support decision-making for economically efficient microplastics risk mitigation strategies. The PhD student will delineate various options related to the waste hierarchy (prevent, reduce, reuse, recycle, dispose) in the context of a circular economy to eliminate plastic waste and promote resource recovery.  Supervised by Dr. Roy Brouwer

PhD-3: Focus on developing standardized workflows for sample preparation, screening, analysis, and data processing and management for microplastics isolated from different environmental matrices. The PhD student will apply these methods to microplastics removal in wastewater treatment and urban stormwater runoff. The student will use analytical and imaging methods to generate the data needed to identify the design and operating conditions that minimize microplastics in treated effluents.  Supervised by Dr. Wayne Parker

MSc-1: Focus on the spatial distribution of microplastics in the Grand River watershed (GRW) within the Lake Erie drainage basin. The MSc student will collect and analyze samples of precipitation, surface water and sediment along the Grand River and its major tributaries. Microplastics in the samples will be characterized for abundance, size, morphology and composition. Supervised by Dr. Fereidoun Rezanezhad

MSc-2: Focus on advancing the fundamental knowledge of plastics biodegradation and optimize strategies to accelerate end-of-use plastics biodegradation. The MSc student will conduct a series of bio-inspired and bio-mimetic degradation experiments to detect in situ biodegradation signatures of microplastics, identify reaction mechanisms and product characteristics. Supervised by Dr. John Honek

MSc-3: Focus on the response of riverine microplastics loadings and export fluxes to the intensity, duration and antecedent conditions of heavy rainfall and flooding events. The MSc student will test the hypothesis that these events cause peak loadings and transport rates of microplastics along the river system. Supervised by Dr. Fereidoun Rezanezhad

MSc-4: Focus on temporal changes in the abundance and composition of microplastics in the GRW as records of evolving plastic usage and entry pathways. The MSc student will collect, date and analyze sediment archives in GRW reservoirs, floodplains and nearshore plume. Supervised by Dr. Roland Hall

MSc-5: Focus on developing a a classification of raw drinking water sources based on their microplastics loading. The MSc student will analyze microplastics in water samples collected from surface and groundwater drinking water sources and compare these to those in finished drinking water from several treatment plants that use different treatment processes. Supervised by Dr. Peter Huck

MSc-6 : Focus on microplastics sensing using microwave sensor integrated in a microfluidic platform. The MSc student will use microwave designs as a multifunctional system for automatic monitoring and control of samples in microfluidics whether they are pico- to nanoliter. Additionally, the opportunity to translate the developed sensory device toward a wide range of applications will be explored. Supervised by Dr. Carolyn Ren

Eligibility: Applicants must have (or expect to soon complete) a degree relevant to the position applied for. Preference will be given to candidates with strong quantitative skills and demonstrated experience in one or more of the following areas: aquatic biogeochemistry, analytical chemistry, environmental engineering, reactive transport modeling, environmental risk assessment, environmental economics and climate change impact analysis.

Application Process: Please submit your application package electronically as a single pdf file to Mickey Nielsen ( In your email, include Microplastics_yourname” in the subject line. Your applications should contain:

  •     Your motivation for applying to the position
  •     Which position(s) PDF, PhD-# or MSc-# you would like to be considered for
  •     Curriculum vitae
  •     Copy of transcripts (unofficial transcripts will be accepted at the application stage)

Closing date: Applications will be reviewed as they are received. The positions will remain open until filled.

We thank all applicants for their interest, however, only those individuals selected for an interview will be contacted.

If you have any questions regarding the application process, eligibility, or a request for accommodation during the selection process, please contact




IHE Delft Institute for Water Education - MSc in Water and Sustainable Development