PhD position in Environmental Chemistry

100%, Zurich, temporary

The Environmental Chemistry group is headed by Prof. Kristopher McNeill and conducts research on the fate of organic compounds, both anthropogenic and naturally occurring, in the environment. The group is composed of researchers from around the world, working on topics including photochemistry in surface waters, redox properties of natural organic matter, fate of biomacromolecules in aquatic systems, global-scale modelling of anthropogenic pollutants, groundwater biogeochemistry, and other topics. 

Project background

Photochemistry is a central process in aquatic systems, important for natural element cycling processes and for degrading anthropogenic contaminants. This project is focused on the study of photoexcited natural organic matter, also called triplet state chromophoric dissolved organic matter that is formed in essentially all waters exposed to light. Photoexcited natural organic matter is an important oxidant, responsible for oxidizing anilines and phenols and other electron-rich functional groups that are commonly found in natural compounds and anthropogenic contaminants. This project will look at anilines that are used as antioxidants in plastics and rubbers, which are also suspected to be toxic to wildlife.

Job description

Applications are invited for one PhD position in the Environmental Chemistry Group of Prof. Kristopher McNeill at ETH Zurich. This project is a laboratory research-based project, focused on the role of photochemistry in the environmental fate of anthropogenic pollutants, particularly polymer additives (e.g., tire rubber compounds). The ultimate goal of the research is to determine the detailed photochemical mechanisms involved. This project will bring together photochemistry, spectroscopy, and novel analytical techniques. The doctoral student will develop skills in photochemistry, chemical kinetics, chemical analysis, and spectroscopy. In addition, the student will have opportunities for developing their skills in scientific communication through presentations at conferences and writing scientific papers. This project will be supervised by Prof. Kristopher McNeill and is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. The projected start date is March 2020, but can be earlier or later upon mutual agreement.

Your profile

The ideal candidate will have experience in environmental organic chemistry, organic chemistry, analytical chemistry, and/or physical chemistry. Good knowledge of English (spoken and written) is essential. Applicants should hold a MSc degree (or equivalent) in chemistry, environmental science or a related discipline. Employment will be according to standard regulations at ETH (funding secured for 4 years).

ETH Zurich

ETH Zurich is one of the world’s leading universities specialising in science and technology. We are renowned for our excellent education, cutting-edge fundamental research and direct transfer of new knowledge into society. Over 30,000 people from more than 120 countries find our university to be a place that promotes independent thinking and an environment that inspires excellence. Located in the heart of Europe, yet forging connections all over the world, we work together to develop solutions for the global challenges of today and tomorrow.
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We look forward to receiving your online application with the following documents: CV, statement of research interests, copy of certificates, contact information for 2-3 potential references, a summary of the applicant's master thesis (if already completed). Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal. Applications via email or postal services will not be considered.

For further general information about the research, please visit the group’s webpages ( and For further information, please contact Prof. Kris McNeill by e-mail (no applications).

Evaluation of applicants will start 15 December, 2019 and will continue until the position is filled.

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