PhD position on dynamic LCA of bio-based products and circularity (1.0 FTE)

Hours per week: 
36 to 40
Faculty of Geosciences
GEO / Dept SD
Application deadline: 

Job description

The urgent need to mitigate climate change, to stop biodiversity loss and to move from fossil to renewable resources motivates the increased use of bio-based resources, but can thereby create multiple, sometimes conflicting sustainability impacts. There is a need for assessment methods that enable a robust and forward-looking impact assessment of existing and new bio-based solutions to determine their sustainability.

The life cycle assessment of bio-based systems faces several methodological challenges. Assessing the spatiotemporal-explicit and non-linear impacts of bio-based systems requires developing a new type of life cycle inventory, that is dynamic in nature. In addition, the existing life cycle metrics and life cycle thinking in general do not align in a direct way with the circularity of bio-based products, as the focus of life cycle frameworks is to quantify the potential impacts of product systems over their entire life cycles and not necessarily to account for product reuse, sharing strategies or material upcycling. Therefore, new methods are needed for capturing the potential added value created by cascading use of bio-based resources while taking the dynamic nature of bio-based systems into account.

The Copernicus Institute of Utrecht University is looking for a PhD candidate that will be working as part of the Horizon Europe project “ESCIB” (Environmental Sustainability and Circularity criteria for Industrial Bio-based systems), funded by the European Commission. Amongst others, the ESCIB project aims to develop a new dynamic method for assessing the environmental sustainability of bio-based systems, particularly addressing impacts related to land use and including circularity of bio-based systems.

In this PhD position you will be working on a new dynamic LCA inventory model for bio-based systems with high spatial-temporal resolutions for established bio-based systems, particularly addressing impacts related to land use. In additionyou will contribute to the development of a circularity assessment methodology with life cycle thinking-based indicators for the application to high and low TRL bio-based systems.

In this position, you will:

  • develop high-resolution dynamic LCI models to include the spatial- and temporal-explicit land use impacts for bio-based products using a dynamic tool such as Brightway2;
  • contribute to the methodology development of circularity assessment for bio-based products;
  • contribute to the methodology development and assessment of both high and low-TRL technologies related to bio-based innovation, including perspective LCAs.

In this position you  will work in close collaboration with a second PhD position within the project (which focuses on land use and environmental impacts), and you will also be collaborating with a range of European universities and bio-based companies. 


We are looking for a PhD candidate who:

  • holds a Master degree in LCA-related environmental sciences, energy science, industrial ecology or environmental engineering;
  • has experience conducting LCA (e.g. in a course or via a thesis/internship) and is interested in its development;
  • has a good understanding of the challenges of environmental and circularity assessments, especially for bio-based systems;
  • preferably has programming skills in Python;
  • has an open, enthusiastic attitude and is able to work in inter- and transdisciplinary settings;
  • has good oral and written communication skills in English.


      You will be offered a temporary position (1.0 FTE), initially for one year with an extension to a total of four years upon a successful assessment in the first year, and with the specific intent that it results in a doctorate within this period.
      For this position we expect a contribution to teaching of about 10% of your time, mainly by contributing to Bachelor and Master courses.
      The gross salary ranges between €2,770 in the first year and €3,539 in the fourth year of employment (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, professional development, (partly paid) parental leave, sports and flexible employment conditions (multiple choice model). For more information, please visit working at Utrecht University.

      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 strategic themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Pathways to Sustainability. Sharing science, shaping tomorrow.

      Utrecht University's Faculty of Geosciences studies the Earth: from the Earth's core to its surface, including man's spatial and material utilisation of the Earth - always with a focus on sustainability and innovation. With 3,400 students (BSc and MSc) and 720 staff, the Faculty is a strong and challenging organisation. The Faculty of Geosciences is organised in four Departments: Earth Sciences, Human Geography & Spatial Planning, Physical Geography, and Sustainable Development.

      At the Copernicus Institute, our goal is to have a positive impact on the transition towards a sustainable future. The Copernicus Institute has had an excellent research evaluation in 2021 and the Institute takes pride in maintaining its leading position in national and international sustainability research, and by developing new, internationally oriented teaching programmes.

      Additional information

      For more information about the position, please contact Professor Martin Junginger at


      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, transcripts of Bachelor and Master courses, and your Master thesis via the 'apply' button. Please include at least two references in your CV. 

      The application deadline is Monday 9th of October. We aim to inform all candidates whether they will be invited for an interview by Monday 16th of October. First interview rounds are planned to take place on the 25th and 26th of October.

      The application deadline is 9 October 2023.