PhD position Chemical Origin of Primordial Cells in the First Ocean

rug university groningen
  • Groningen
  • University of Groningen
Posted on

Job description

We invite applications from outstanding candidates, for a PhD position aimed at advancing research on the chemical origins of life on Earth, with a specific focus on our recently funded Protocell Project.

The origin of life on Earth stands as one of the great mysteries of science. Researchers have long concluded that the chemical reactions that allowed life to emerge took place in microscopic compartments, called protocells. However, it is still not known how these protocells were formed. In the context of an NWO-Vici research program, we will explore the possibility that protocells were made of lipids, formed by solar irradiation of a primordial oil layer that covered the ocean. This explorative work will include studies of chemical reactivity, molecular self-assembly and the physico-chemical behavior of plausible lipids (primarily fatty acids).

The results of this research will also apply to an important contemporary issue: the mitigation of environmental damage by treatment and removal of the oil layers that pollute the ocean.

The position we are offering will be within the Active Molecular Systems, supervised by Prof. Nathalie Katsonis, and will be embedded in the Stratingh Institute for Chemistry.

The Stratingh Institute home to talented molecular chemists, including an active Nobel laureate in chemistry. Its mission is to perform excellent research and provide excellent education in chemistry. By placing emphasis on obtaining fundamental insights into molecular and supramolecular processes, the institute strives to (1) develop synthetic methods toward functional molecules and versatile building blocks, (2) realize new materials to meet the sustainability challenge, and (3) pursue innovative approaches to study, control, and mimic the processes that govern life. The impact analysis shows that the institute operates within the top-30 of chemistry institutes worldwide.

The University of Groningen is a research university with a global outlook, deeply rooted in Groningen, City of Talent. Groningen is the lively capital of The Northern Netherlands with a high quality of life and affordable living conditions. The university has 34,000 students in BSc and MSc programs, 4,400 PhD students, and 4,600 staff members. Our students and staff come from all around the world. Quality has been our top priority for over four hundred years, and with success: The University is currently in or around the top 100 on several influential ranking lists.



We are looking for candidates who meet the following requirements:

  • a MSc degree in chemistry or a related field
  • the ability to work independently
  • excellent grades
  • creativity, determination and motivation.

Experience in photochemistry, physical chemistry and/or organic chemistry is a plus.

Applicants whose first language is not English must submit evidence of competency in English, please see University of Groningen’s English Language Requirements for details

Conditions of employment

We offer you in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities:

  • a salary of € 2,770 gross per month in the first year, up to a maximum of € 3,539 gross per month in the fourth and final year, based on a full-time position (1.0 FTE)
  • a holiday allowance of 8% gross annual income
  • an 8.3% year-end bonus
  • a position for four years; you will get a temporary position of one year with the option of renewal for another three years; prolongation of the contract is contingent on sufficient progress in the first year to indicate that a successful completion of the PhD thesis within the next three years is to be expected
  • a university PhD training program is part of the agreement and the successful candidates will be enrolled in the Graduate School of Science and Engineering. This training program will be completed with training on artificial intelligence and automatization in chemistry, under the umbrella of the “Big Chemistry” Foundation.

The starting date is flexible, but must be before March 2025.



Do you meet our qualification criteria? If yes, you are requested to upload the following documents:

  • a motivation letter stating your motivation to apply for the position and your key qualities relevant for this position
  • an up-to-date curriculum vitae
  • diplomas (BSc and Msc) and transcript of records
  • contact information of two academic references.

You may apply for this position until 1 September 11:59pm / before 2 September 2024 Dutch local time (CEST) by means of the application form (click on "Apply" below on the advertisement on the university website).

Unsolicited marketing is not appreciated.



For information you can contact:

Please do not use the e-mail address(es) above for applications.

Ole Gmelin

"Speaking Dutch in the Netherlands will always open certain doors for you when it comes to finding a job. But, it isn’t always a must."

Will you become our new PhD position Chemical Origin of Primordial Cells in the First Ocean? Apply at University of Groningen