PhD Candidate Related to Plastics in Coastal Sediments

Trondheim, Norway
25 Nov 2021
End of advertisement period
07 Jan 2022
Contract Type
Full Time

Research Collaboration in Sustainability

In 2015, the 2030 agenda with the 17 sustainability goals was adopted by all UN member states. The sustainability goals see the environment, economy and social development in context. The time horizon for necessary changes is short, and it is challenging to combine different considerations without conflicts of objectives and unintended consequences of measures.

NTNU is now announcing 43 individual PhD positions that will contribute to a greater understanding of system effects, societal changes and conflicts of interest related to the sustainability challenges. These positions are divided into 9 interdisciplinary projects with mainly 4-7 PhD positions in each project

In this position, the candidate is expected to cooperate with the other PhD students in the project  

About the position

We have a vacancy for a PhD candidate related to plastics in coastal sediments at the Department of Geography. The appointment has a duration of three years, with the possibility of 1 year duty work upon agreement, and is financed by NTNU through its call for interdisciplinary research collaboration in sustainability.

The position is part of the MAPLE project (Marine Plastic Pollution: Environmental impact and life cycle scenarios). MAPLE is an interdisciplinary research project between researchers from the departments of Energy and Process Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Geography, and Biology, and includes four PhD positions.

An increasingly urgent issue for marine ecosystems is plastic pollution. Plastic is a diverse material that has been observed floating on the ocean surface, suspended in the water column, and sitting on or buried beneath the seafloor. As such, macro- and microplastics have the potential to affect the biological communities that occupy all of these marine biogeographic realms.

If we want to solve the plastic crisis in the oceans, we need to understand how and where plastic is emanating from and accumulating, what impact microbial communities have on the degree of degradation and sedimentation of plastic particles, and what the options are to minimize the use and mismanagement of plastic in the first place.

MAPLE focuses on marine plastic pollution and its environmental impacts in Trondheimsfjord and the outer central coast of Norway. We combine field studies, laboratory studies and computer modelling in an interdisciplinary approach to understand this complex problem.

The topic of the PhD position in the Department of Geography is centred on mapping and sampling marine plastic debris in Trondheimsfjord and the outer, central coast of Norway. The candidate will work closely with other PhD candidates and their supervisors within this research group to:

  1. ground-truth modelled predictions of transport pathways of plastic debris
  2. assess the role of microbial communities in facilitating the degradation and sedimentation of plastic
  3. determine the sources and types of plastic debris found in the study area, which will contribute to the development of life cycle assessment scenarios

For a position as a PhD Candidate, the goal is a completed doctoral education up to an obtained doctoral degree.  

You will report to the Head of Department of Geography, NTNU. Associate Professor Chantel Nixon is planned to be the PhD Candidate’s supervisor. 

Duties of the position

  • Fieldwork: conduct ship- and ground-based fieldwork in Trondheimsfjord and the outer coast of Trøndelag, Norway, to collect sediment and water samples for microplastic analysis based on a strategic sampling plan.
  • Lab work: analyse basic sedimentary characteristics as well as macro- and microplastic concentrations in sediment samples.
  • Create maps of plastic pollution in the study area that document sources, transport pathways, and sinks.
  • Work with MAPLE co-collaborators to provide data, ground-truth model predictions, and design and conduct fieldwork and lab experiments in order to meet the larger project goals.
  • Disseminate results in scholarly journals and at international conferences.

Required selection criteria

  • You must have a professionally relevant background in physical geography or environmental science. Bachelor’s and master’s degrees in other disciplines will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
  • Your education must correspond to a five-year Norwegian degree programme, where 120 credits are obtained at master's level
  • You must have a strong academic background from your previous studies and an average grade from the master's degree program, or equivalent education, which is equal to B or better compared with NTNU's grading scale. If you do not have letter grades from previous studies, you must have an equally good academic basis. If you have a weaker grade background, you may be assessed if you can document that you are particularly suitable for a PhD education.
  • You must meet the requirements for admission to the Faculty of Social and Educational Sciences’ PhD programme
  • Proven written and oral English communication skills

Preferred selection criteria

  • Documented experience working in marine and/or coastal sedimentary environments (through courses, master’s thesis, work experience, etc.)
  • Documented experience with microplastics (through courses, master’s thesis, work experience, etc.)
  • Experience with geographic information systems (e.g., ArcGIS, QGIS)
  • Study background or courses in sediments and sedimentology, marine geology, oceanography, marine ecosystems, pollution, biogeochemistry
  • Fieldwork experience
  • Knowledge of Norwegian or another Scandinavian language

Personal characteristics

  • Self-motivated, willing to take initiative, problem solver
  • Meticulous, organized, and safety-conscious in the lab and in the field
  • Positive and professional
  • Motivated to solve environmental problems and advance sustainability
  • Enthusiasm for both field and lab work
  • Strong communication skills for working in a multidisciplinary project in a multidisciplinary department

In the evaluation of which candidate is best qualified, emphasis will be placed on education, experience and personal suitability, in terms of the qualification requirements specified in the advertisement.

The appointment is to be made in accordance with the regulations in force concerning State Employees and Civil Servants and Regulations concerning the degrees of Philosophiae Doctor (PhD) and Philosodophiae Doctor (PhD) in artistic research national guidelines for appointment as PhD, post doctor and research assistant  

We offer

Salary and conditions

PhD candidates are remunerated in code 1017, and are normally remunerated at gross from NOK 491 200 per annum before tax, depending on qualifications and seniority. From the salary, 2% is deducted as a contribution to the Norwegian Public Service Pension Fund.

The period of employment is 3 years  with the possibility of 1 year duty work upon agreement.

Appointment to a PhD position requires that you are admitted to the PhD programme in the Department of Geography, Faculty of Social and Educational Sciences within three months of employment, and that you participate in an organized PhD programme during the employment period.

The engagement is to be made in accordance with the regulations in force concerning State Employees and Civil Servants, and the acts relating to Control of the Export of Strategic Goods, Services and Technology. Candidates who by assessment of the application and attachment are seen to conflict with the criteria in the latter law will be prohibited from recruitment to NTNU. After the appointment you must assume that there may be changes in the area of work.

It is a prerequisite you can be present at and accessible to the institution daily.

About the application

The application and supporting documentation to be used as the basis for the assessment must be in English.

Publications and other scientific work must follow the application. Please note that applications are only evaluated based on the information available on the application deadline. You should ensure that your application shows clearly how your skills and experience meet the criteria which are set out above. 

The application must include:

  • A cover letter describing your motivation for applying for the position of PhD candidate in the Department of Geography at NTNU, as well as why you feel you are professionally and personally suitable for this particular project.
  • CV
  • Proposal (maximum 5 pages or 1000-1500 words) describing how you would meet the main objectives of this PhD project (described above). The project proposal should include relevance of the project, a proposed sampling strategy, methods (including field and lab analyses), a timeline with important project milestones, and a reference list.
  • Transcripts and diplomas for bachelor's and master's degrees. If you have not completed the master's degree, you must include confirmation that the master's thesis has been submitted and documentation of a completed master's degree must be presented before taking up the position.
  • Name and contact information for three referees.
  • List of publications or other relevant research work.

If all, or parts, of your education has been taken abroad, we also ask you to attach documentation of the scope and quality of your entire education, both bachelor's and master's education, in addition to other higher education. Description of the documentation required can be found here. If you already have a statement from NOKUT, please attach this as well.

Joint works will be considered. If it is difficult to identify your contribution to joint works, you must attach a brief description of your participation.

In the evaluation of which candidate is best qualified, emphasis will be placed on education, experience and personal and interpersonal qualities. Motivation, ambitions, and potential will also count in the assessment of the candidates. 

NTNU is committed to following evaluation criteria for research quality according to The San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment - DORA.

General information

Working at NTNU

A good work environment is characterized by diversity. We encourage qualified candidates to apply, regardless of their gender, functional capacity or cultural background. 

The city of Trondheim is a modern European city with a rich cultural scene. Trondheim is the innovation capital of Norway with a population of 200,000. The Norwegian welfare state, including healthcare, schools, kindergartens and overall equality, is probably the best of its kind in the world. Professional subsidized day-care for children is easily available. Furthermore, Trondheim offers great opportunities for education (including international schools) and possibilities to enjoy nature, culture and family life and has low crime rates and clean air quality.

As an employee at NTNU, you must at all times adhere to the changes that the development in the subject entails and the organizational changes that are adopted.

In accordance with The Public Information Act (Offentleglova), your name, age, position and municipality may be made public even if you have requested not to have your name entered on the list of applicants.

If you have any questions about the position, please contact Chantel Nixon, telephone +47 458 39 803, email If you have any questions about the recruitment process, please contact Renate Lillian Johansen, e-mail:

Please submit your application electronically via with your CV, diplomas and certificates. Applications submitted elsewhere will not be considered. Diploma Supplement is required to attach for European Master Diplomas outside Norway. Chinese applicants are required to provide confirmation of Master Diploma from China Credentials Verification (CHSI).

If you are invited for interview you must include certified copies of transcripts and reference letters. Please refer to the application number SU-662 when applying.

Application deadline: 07.01.2022

NTNU - knowledge for a better world

The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) creates knowledge for a better world and solutions that can change everyday life.

Department of Geography

We conduct research and teach in subject areas related to the major societal challenges of our time: climate change, migration, urbanization, economic transition and environmental threats. We have a robust fieldwork tradition, and our teaching activities are closely linked to our research. The Department of Geography is one of seven departments at the Faculty of Social and Educational Sciences.

Deadline 7th January 2022
Employer NTNU - Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Municipality Trondheim
Scope Fulltime
Duration Project
Place of service Dragvoll

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