Postdoctoral Position in Enzymatic Depolymerization and Characterization of Synthetic Polymers

University of Amsterdam Faculty of Science


Postdoctoral position Enzymatic Depolymerization and characterization of synthetic Polymers

Publication date 13 April 2021

Closing date 15 May 2021

Level of education PhD

Hours 38 hours per week

Salary indication € 2,790 to € 4,402 gross per month

Vacancy number 21-233

The Van ‘t Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences has a postdoctoral position available for 12 months to explore research at the forefront of biocatalysis and analytical chemistry in the area of enzymatic depolymerization and analytical characterization of synthetic polymers. The project was funded by Holland Chemistry and is a public-private partnership with companies DSM and Innosyn. The high multidisciplinary and the feasibility of the project will be assured by the close collaboration between the Biocatalysis group (which is part of Synthesis & Catalysis theme) and the Analytical Chemistry group of our institute.

What are you going to do?

You will work on the important problem on the accumulation of plastic materials in the environment and the necessity to: (i) analytically characterize the process of plastic degradation and (ii) to develop efficient depolymerization and recycling strategies. Although academia and industry have invested significant efforts in the development of new plastic materials that are inherently degradable in the environment, the replacement of traditional plastic materials with new generation biodegradable alternatives is not always possible for technical reasons. However, it appears that the degradability of the traditional polymers can also be tuned because it is linked to their particular physicochemical and structural properties. Notably, these polymers’ properties of performance vs. degradability have not been fully elucidated until to date. Therefore, this project aims at: (i) discovering, characterizing and engineering biocatalysts for the selective degradation of synthetic polymeric materials; (ii) developing advanced analytical techniques to elucidate the process of depolymerization and determine the key factors that influence the polymer degradability.

The project has already started, and significant advancements have been achieved. In the area of biocatalysis, depolymerizing enzymes have been identified and new variants have been preliminary obtained by introducing mutations through structural, in silico studies. In the area of analytical chemistry, analytical methods have been developed for the mass characterization of partially digested polymers and oligomers.

The continuation of the research project will be focused on two complementary work-packages:

  1. development of enzymatic and analytical tools for the characterization of the microstructure of synthetic polymer nanoparticles;
  2. the engineering of enzymes to enable the chemo selective degradation of polymer nanoparticles to oligomers as well as degradation of selected polymers back to monomers.

What do we require?

A PhD degree in chemistry is required. Due to the high multidisciplinary nature of the project, applicants with a focus and/or previous research experience in the following sub-disciplines will have a clear advantage: knowledge in biocatalysis (including in silico analysis of enzymes’ structures, enzyme engineering) and analytical chemistry (i.e., characterization of (bio)molecules through HPLC chromatography and mass spectrometric approaches).

The ability to collaborate and adapt in an international team is required and candidates must possess good communication skills in oral and written English.

Due to limitations in recruitment budget we will preferably consider candidates that are currently in Europe.

Our offer

We offer a temporary contract for 38 hours a week, preferably starting on 1 June 2021 for the duration of 12 months.

The salary, depending on relevant experience before the beginning of the employment contract, will be €2,790 to €4,402 (scale 10) gross per month, based on a fulltime contract (38 hours a week). This is exclusive 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus. A favourable tax agreement, the ‘30% ruling’, may apply to non-Dutch applicants. The Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities is applicable.

Are you curious about our extensive package of secondary employment benefits like our excellent opportunities for study and development? Take a look here.

About the Faculty of Science and the Van't Hoff Institute for Molecular Science

The Faculty of Science has a student body of around 7,000, as well as 1,600 members of staff working in education, research or support services. Researchers and students at the Faculty of Science are fascinated by every aspect of how the world works, be it elementary particles, the birth of the universe or the functioning of the brain.

The Van 't Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences (HIMS) is one of eight institutes of the University of Amsterdam (UvA) Faculty of Science. HIMS performs internationally recognized chemistry and molecular research, curiosity driven as well as application driven. This is done in close cooperation with the chemical, flavor & food, medical and high-tech industries. Research is organized into four themes: Synthesis & Catalysis, Analytical Chemistry, Computational Chemistry and Molecular Photonics.

The Biocatalysis group is headed by Dr Francesco Mutti. In general, the Biocatalysis group carries out cutting-edge research at the interface between chemical and biological sciences. The research mainly focuses on the development of novel biocatalysts for the sustainable synthesis of high-value chemical products as well as for the degradation and recycling of waste materials. Complementary research lines are either the identification and characterization, or the engineering of novel enzymes, application of enzymes in cascades reactions in vitro (in batch or in flow) and in vivo.

Dr Andrea Gargano’s team is part of the Analytical Chemistry group. His research focuses on the development and implementation of analytical approaches to characterize the molecular complexity of bio- and synthetic polymers. This is pursued by exploring new sample preparation, liquid separation and mass spectrometric analysis of macromolecules such as biotechnological products and synthetic polymers.


Do you have questions about this vacancy? Or do you want to know more about our organisation? Please contact:

  • Dr Francesco Mutti,  associate professor
    T:+31 (0)20 525 8264
  • Dr Andrea Gargano,  assistant professor
    T: +31 (0)20 525 5265

Job application

The UvA is an equal-opportunity employer. We prioritize diversity and are committed to creating an inclusive environment for everyone. We value a spirit of enquiry and perseverance, provide the space to keep asking questions, and promote a culture of curiosity and creativity.

Do you recognize yourself in the job profile? Then we look forward to receiving your application by 15 May 2021. You can apply online by using the link below.

Applications in .pdf should include a motivation letter and CV, including a list of publications.

The selection process commences immediately, and it will close when a suitable candidate has been found, even if this is prior to the final date of the application window.

In your application, please refer to


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