PhD position in Respirable Crystalline Silica Exposure and Health Research (1.0 FTE)

Hours per week: 
36 to 40
Faculty of Veterinary Medicine
Department Population Health Sciences
Application deadline: 

Job description

Analysis of prospectively collected respirable crystalline silica measurements in the European Industrial Minerals Sector, elaboration of an updated job-exposure matrix for epidemiological research and application in an epidemiological cohort study on respiratory health. We are looking for a motivated exposure Scientist/Epidemiologist with an interest in occupational health, to participate in a European-wide respirable dust and crystalline silica monitoring programme and to complement the IMA-DMP IRAS-NKAL team. 

Respiratory health effects from exposure to respirable crystalline silica (RCS), including COPD, silicosis and lung cancer, have been with us for a very long time. The European Industrial Minerals – Dust Monitoring Program (IMA-DMP) has been initiated at the start of the new century with the aim to lower the exposure to RCS in this industry. Since then it has resulted in more than 40,000 respirable dust and 35,000 RCS measurements collected in 39 companies in 23 countries among workers employed at 177 sites. This rich data source warrants in-depth analyses of long term temporal trends in RCS exposure, differences between countries, sites, jobs and minerals produced. Analyses of the database will also allow for optimizing measurement strategies for compliance and further control of hazardous exposures.

A decade ago a quantitative job-exposure matrix (JEM) was developed for five lung carcinogens, among them RCS, for an international pooled analyses of lung cancer case-control studies (Synergy). This matrix has to be updated with new recent exposure data for RCS, among which data from the industrial minerals industry. It  will also be extended with new standardized job-axes to increase its usage in several general population cohort studies interested in health effects from RCS like COPD, lung cancer, interstitial lung disease (ILD) and autoimmune diseases like sarcoidosis. The new JEM will consequently be applied within the European Community Respiratory Health Survey  and made available to other groups with prospective cohort studies like DOC*X and in general population case-control studies.

Your PhD research will be embedded predominantly in IMA-DMP, but also in the ECRHS project. You will work with exposure data generated within IMA-DMP and from other industries and with epidemiological data from ECRHS. You will apply state-of-the-art methods for exposure science and perform etiological research.


We are looking for an ambitious PhD candidate with the following characteristics: 

  • MSc in occupational hygiene, epidemiology, exposure science, or a related discipline;
  • affinity with occupational health;
  • strong programming and analytical skills;
  • experience in exposure and epidemiological data analysis;
  • excellent collaboration and communication skills (written and spoken English);
  • willingness to work in an international research setting.


A full-time position for four years in an international and interdisciplinary working environment. You will be provided with funding for research and training costs. This will provide you with an excellent basis and a strong network for a future career in the field of occupational exposure science and epidemiology. The gross salary ranges between €2,395 in the first year and €3,061 in the fourth year (scale P according to the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities) per month for a full-time employment. Salaries are supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8% and a year-end bonus of 8.3% per year. In addition, Utrecht University offers excellent secondary conditions, including an attractive retirement scheme, (partly paid) parental leave and flexible employment conditions (multiple choice model). More information about working at Utrecht University can be found here.

About the organisation

A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching. At Utrecht University, the various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major societal themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Sustainability.

The Faculty of Veterinary Medicine has a unique position in the Netherlands. Not only is this the only institution where veterinarians are trained, but it is also where Researchers are working together on innovative scientific research. In addition, the faculty provides specialist clinical care in the largest academic veterinary hospital in Europe. Thanks to this position, the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine is a point of contact for all veterinary matters, both nationally and increasingly internationally. The faculty employs approximately 900 Veterinarians, Scientists and support staff and counts 1.500 students.

IRAS is an inter-faculty research institute within the Faculties of Veterinary Medicine and Medicine. Our mission is to provide education and research on the human and environmental health risks of exposure to potentially harmful agents in the environment where research takes places within the domains of Toxicology, Environmental Epidemiology and Veterinary Public Health.

Additional information

For more information about this position, please contact:
Prof Hans Kromhout, via


Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives. To apply, please send your curriculum vitae, including a letter of motivation via the ‘apply’ button below.

Due to the coronavirus, interviews will be conducted by video calling and not in person.

The application deadline is 5 December 2020.