Science for Sustainability

Science for Sustainability (S4S) forms an inclusive and inspiring platform for interaction between researchers, lecturers, and students interested in solutions for sustainability issues. The Science for Sustainability community strengthens the enormous potential of Utrecht University’s natural sciences to address societal challenges in the field of sustainability.

Graduate Programme

The Science for Sustainability Graduate Programme (GPS4S) boosts the sustainability research at Utrecht University by funding PhD positions in the period 2022-2027. The GPS4S will train eight excellent PhD-students who have written their own research proposal. The research projects will address challenges in the field of sustainability from an interdisciplinary perspective. All projects supported by supervisors from two different departments and in some cases even two different faculties.

The second call for proposals for the S4S Graduate Programme has been published. In this second round, the program allows four excellent Master’s students to pursue a PhD at the Faculty of Science, starting in September 2023. To apply, students need to write a proposal focused on a sustainability topic and involve two supervisors from different departments within the faculty. The proposal may be fundamental or applied; however, its relation to sustainability must be explicitly stated.

The deadline for submission of proposals is 14 April 2023, 17:00:00 hours CET. Applications (in pdf format) can be submitted by email to Anne Nelissen,

Download the Call for Proposals of the S4S Graduate Programme 2023 here!

The four PhD-students in the first round of the S4S Graduate Programme have started their project in the autumn of 2022. The research projects, which were designed by the four excellent students themselves, will address societal challenges in the field of sustainability from an interdisciplinary perspective. 

Read more about their research

Fundamental research

Science for Sustainability is a community within Pathways to Sustainability, one of the four strategic themes of Utrecht University. Almost all novel sustainability insights and solutions are deeply rooted in fundamental research in the natural sciences. The transition to a sustainable society is a challenge that requires both immediate and sustained research into new technologies, materials, processes, and methods.

The natural science community of the Faculties of Science and Geosciences is concerned with research, education, and public engagement on a wide range of sustainability-related topics including energy, materials, climate, environment, and civil safety. Science for Sustainability not only encompasses fundamental, curiosity-driven research aiming at groundbreaking insights into natural systems and materials, but also research directly focused on solutions for societal challenges in the area of sustainability.

An approach to a broad range of sustainability issues rooted in fundamental research in the natural sciences is inevitable, fruitful and relevant.

Our research themes

Although the Science for Sustainability community is highly diverse, the core of its activities can be formulated in the following three research and education themes:


Science for Sustainability wants to aggregate and showcase fundamental sustainability-related research initiatives and connect these to the strategic theme Pathways to Sustainability, other communities and societal partners. 

Science for Sustainability will not only initiate an inspiring network for researchers, lecturers, and students but will also serve as a platform for interaction with external parties. Engaging and co-creating with stakeholders and specific sections of society is required to design desirable, feasible and viable solutions.

S4S Board

  • Professor
    Science - Physics - Theoretical Physics (ITF) - Cond-Matter Theory, Stat & Comp Phys
  • Assistant Professor
    Geosciences - Earth Sciences - Experimental rock deformation
  • Associate Professor
    Science - Information and computing sciences - Intelligent Software Systems - Intelligent Systems

Advisory board