Netherlands:PhD Researcher in Environmental Epidemiology or Molecular Biology or Geographic Sciences at Utrecht University

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Job description

An extensive research program has been initiated as a response to awareness about environmental exposures originating from livestock production to microbial agents. Little is known about the health risks which results from intensive livestock production in some densely populated areas in the Netherlands, but the need to know has grown as a result of awareness and worries among the general population.

This project aims for optimal microbial/livestock farming associated exposure assessment at the individual level within an existing study focused on livestock farming and health of nearby residents. The project aims to develop a novel approach to the assessment of environmental microbial exposure, through high resolution environmental exposure assessment of livestock farming associated biological agents. It will fill the leap for studying the effects of exposures from microbial origin in relation to human disease by optimizing exposure assessment for land use regression modeling.

The study will determine PM10 levels and microbial content of PM10 in association with livestock farming in order to develop a model by which exposures can be estimated for individuals living in the proximity of livestock farms. Livestock farming associated exposure levels will be determined through molecular techniques and biological assays, both at IRAS and in collaboration with the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment. By combining microbial exposure measurements and information on external exposure determinants, derived by geographic information systems (like number and type of livestock farms in the surroundings of measurement locations) and global profiles of the areas (as measured by so called “land use” characteristics (green space, urbanization, traffic, water, etc.), exposure models will be developed. Exposure estimates will be used in environmental epidemiological analyses on respiratory diseases, microbial resistance and zoonotic disease outcomes.

The PhD-candidate is responsible for designing and employing the PM10 measurement network. The PhD-candidate will develop and apply the so-called “land use regression” models to estimate exposures for humans living in the vicinity of livestock production. These refined exposure estimates will be used for risk assessment and burden of disease evaluations from livestock farming.


Candidates with a Master’s degree in life sciences (including epidemiology, environmental sciences, molecular biology) or geographic information sciences and an interest in crossing disciplinary boundaries are encouraged to apply. Knowledge of laboratory and statistical analyzing techniques like PCR, quantitative modeling, epidemiology and environmental health are an advantage. The candidate should be able to work independently and have good verbal and written communication skills in English. Good verbal skills in Dutch is an advantage because of fieldwork.

Conditions of employment

We offer a temporary full-time appointment for one year. After a positive evaluation, the appointment will be prolonged for another three years. The gross salary starts at € 2,083 in the first year and increases to € 2,664 per month in the fourth year of employment. The salary is supplemented with an annual holiday allowance of 8% and an end-of-year bonus of 8,3% per year. Other secondary conditions include e.g. a pension scheme, partially paid parental leave, and flexible employment conditions. Conditions are based on the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities.

More information: terms of employment.



Utrecht University has great ambitions for its teaching quality and study success rates. This also applies to its clear research profiles which are centred around four themes: Sustainability, Life Sciences, Youth & Identity, and Institutions. Utrecht University plays a prominent role in our society and contributes to finding the answers to topical and future societal issues.

The project will be performed within the environmental epidemiology division of the Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences (IRAS). IRAS is an interfacultary research institute within the faculties Veterinary Medicine, and Medicine, of Utrecht University. Its mission is to provide education and research on the human and environmental health risks of exposure to potentially harmful agents in the environment. The research takes places within three domains: Toxicology, Environmental Epidemiology and Veterinary Public Health.

Additional information

Additional information about the vacancy can be obtained from Inge Wouters ( Please do not send your application to this address.
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