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PhD position in biofilm engineering

Updated: May 23, 2021


Your profile: We are looking for independent and motivated candidates with a strong interest in process engineering applied to water and wastewater treatment/reuse evidenced through extramural research experience. Qualified candidates should hold an M.Sc. in Biological, Chemical and/or Environmental Process engineering and will have an aptitude for reactor operation and systems analysis. Other relevant disciplines are welcome to apply. Flexibility and willingness to work within an international and multidisciplinary team is essential. Advanced verbal and written proficiency in the English language is mandatory.


Project description: Counter diffusional biofilms utilized in membrane aerated bioreactors (MABR) hold promise for sustainable wastewater treatment and reuse due to their high bioconversion rate, low energy demand and excellent biofilm retention on the membrane surface. However, little is known about the interplay between real wastewater influent composition, biofilm physical structure and local redox conditions, and cumulative effects on MABR performance.


The offered PhD project will focus on understanding how structural parameters of counter diffusional biofilms and related local redox conditions can be engineered for improvements in substrate bioconversion, biofilm retention and MABR reactor performance. This project will bring together knowledge of basic biofilm physiology and bioprocess engineering at bench and pilot scale, and will combine novel in-situ analytical biofilm monitoring techniques to provide the fundamental understanding necessary for application of counter diffusional biofilms in full-scale MABR wastewater treatment/reuse systems.


The PhD project will involve:

  • Design, operation and numerical analysis of bench and pilot scale MABRs using real and synthetic wastewater under defined independent variable matrixes


  • Application of advanced in-situ monitoring tools for biofilm structural and compositional analysis (e.g., Optical Coherence Tomography, Raman Spectroscopy)


  • Academic research stay (6 months max.) at a research institute abroad


  • Development of a strong “T-shape” research profile and publication record in biofilm engineering and wastewater treatment/reuse with excellent academic and/or industrial career positioning



What we offer: The successful candidate will be enrolled as a full-time PhD student at the Institute of Environmental Engineering (ISA), RWTH-Aachen under the supervision of Dr. Peter Desmond (Supervisor, project-PI) and Univ.-Prof. Dr.-Ing. habil. Thomas Wintgens (Ph.D Advisor). Extensive collaboration within RWTH thematic areas.



The candidate will work from laboratories at RWTH-Aachen Main Campus and the newly built ISA laboratory and pilot hall located on the site of a working wastewater treatment plant (ARA Soers). The candidate will be hired as Research Scientist/Wissenschaftler Mitarbeiter (100%). Renumeration will be in line with the German Public Service Salary Grade (TV-L 13). The position is fully funded for a duration of 3 years with an optional 4th year.




Start date: Autumn/Winter 2021/2022. Position will remain open until filled by a qualified candidate.


For further information on the project, please contact:


Dr. Peter Desmond (Supervisor, PI):

E-Mail: Desmond@isa.rwth-aachen.de

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