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Interdisciplinary PhD Project in the Development of Selective Sorbents for Phosphate Recovery from Polluted Water

A three-year PhD position within environmental science is available at the Department of Physics, Chemistry and Pharmacy under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action (MSCA) European Innovative Training Network (ITN) RecaP (Capture, Recycling and Societal Management of Phosphorus in the Environment) within the Horizon 2020 Programme of the European Commission (Agreement No 956454). 

Starting date: 1 September 2021. Application deadline: 31 May 2021

Project background
Recovery of phosphate, a limited resource and pollutant, from a complex water matrix is challenging. Phosphate selective sorbents is an emerging technology, where phosphate is captured by high-affinity filter materials, which are subsequently regenerated, and the phosphate recovered for further processing resulting in chemically well-defined fertilizer. The objective of this PhD project is to test and improve the performance of sorbents based on layered double hydroxides (LDH) in a range of phosphate polluted waters and asses their performance both on the laboratory and pilot scale. This will be achieved by combining analytical chemistry with advanced characterization techniques including NMR spectroscopy, EXAFS, and powder X-ray diffraction.

The PhD project is hosted at the Department of Physics, Chemistry and Pharmacy at the University of Southern Denmark. The RecaP training programme involves extensive internationalization including participation in biannual workshops and a total of eight to ten months of planned secondments with the academic and industrial partners at Queens University (Northern Ireland), The Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (Germany), SmallMatek (Portugal), and SEGES, (Denmark). The selected candidate will be supervised by an interdisciplinary team and have access to state-of-the-art research facilities. Moreover, the selected candidate will work in close collaboration with other PhD students in the RecaP MCSA-ITN and ongoing research projects at the University of Southern Denmark related to phosphate recovery.

We are looking for a candidate with a strong interest in the application of advanced analytical chemistry to address environmental challenges. The candidate will hold a master in, e.g., chemistry, materials science, environmental science, chemical engineering or geochemistry. The candidate is expected to have documented experience with analytical chemistry, materials characterization and/or materials synthesis. Previous experience with acquisition, interpretation, and modelling of X-ray diffraction, NMR, EXAFS, Mössbauer and/or synchrotron data is considered an asset.

The candidate must be independent and fluent in English, both oral and written, as well as be able to work in an interdisciplinary, international environment. Documented experience with internationalization from e.g. international exchange studies is considered an asset.

In addition, the successful candidate must meet the two MSCA criteria below, which must be documented in the application:

  • Be an early-stage researcher with less than four years of experience (full-time equivalent) since achieving a Master’s degree. This four-year period is measured from the date of obtaining the degree, which would formally entitle them to embark on a doctorate and excludes military, parental, and sick leave etc.. Moreover, the candidate must not have been awarded a doctorate (PhD degree).
  • Mobility Rule: The applicants must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the country of the hosting institution (Denmark) for more than 12 months in the last three years immediately before the recruitment date. Compulsory national service, short stays such as holidays, and time spent as part of a procedure for obtaining refugee status under the Geneva Convention are exempt/excluded.

For further information about the position please contact Professor Ulla Gro Nielsen,

The RecaP MSCA-ITN Training Network: 
RecaP will train a cohort of 15 PhD students (Early-Stage Researchers) to become Phosphorus specialist within the Global Phosphorus Challenge in a way that is socially, economically, and environmentally acceptable. This application is for the project: ESR2: Selective P binding by layered double hydroxides.

For further details visit the RecaP website or contact Project Manager Jake Reardon at

Application, salary etc.
Appointment as a PhD Research Fellow is for three years. Employment stops automatically at the end of the period. The holder of the scholarship is not allowed to have other paid employment during the three-year period.

The successful applicant will be employed in accordance with the agreement on salaried PhD scholars between the Ministry of Finance and AC (the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations). Please check links for more information on salary and taxation.

The successful candidate will be enrolled at this university in accordance with faculty regulations and the Danish Ministerial Order on the PhD Programme at the Universities (PhD order).

The University wishes our staff to reflect the diversity of society and thus welcomes applications from all qualified candidates regardless of personal background.

Application must be made in the form of a Declaration of Interest including the following:
• A research proposal/description of your approach to the above project (max one page excluding references)
• A letter stating your specific interest, motivation and qualifications for the project in question (max. two pages) (please attach this under box "Application form")
• Detailed CV, including personal contact information
• Copies of diplomas, Bachelor as well as Master’s degree, including transcript of notes/grades
• At least two signed reference letters. Should your referees wish to send their letters directly to us, please have them use e-mail: mentioning your name and the title of the position in the subject line. And please note that these also need to reach us before deadline.

Please specifically address these questions at the end of your motivation letter:

  1. I agree that I have not resided in Denmark for more than 12 months in the last three years: Yes/No
  2. I confirm I am an early-stage researcher (i.e. in the first four years of research career and do not have a doctoral degree): Yes/No
  3. I hold a Master’s degree in a relevant discipline or will receive this before appointment date: Yes/No.

Data collected from candidates will be used for recruitment purposes only and will not be shared outside of the RecaP consortium unless authorized by the applicant. The RecaP website includes more detailed information about recruitment and selection.

Shortlisting may be used in the assessment process.

Further information about the PhD-study can be found at the homepage of the University.

Applications must be submitted electronically using the link "Apply online". Attached files must be in Adobe PDF or Word format. Each box can only contain a single file of max. 10 Mb. We strongly recommend that you read How to apply before you apply.

Incomplete applications and applications received after the deadline will neither be considered nor evaluated. This also applies to reference letters.

Further information for international applicants about entering and working in Denmark.

Send application
Deadline 2021-May-31

You can apply for the job at Faculty of Science by completing the application form