phd project

Developing a (bio)analytical platform to assess hazards of transformation products formed during water treatment

Water quality is increasingly under pressure due to anthropogenic activities and the emissions of micropollutants, requiring the use of advanced treatment technologies to efficiently remove them. Among these, advanced oxidation processes (AOPs) play an important role and Wetsus has been working on the further development of these approaches, in particular UV-based chemical-free AOP technologies. However, during treatment, so called transformation products (TPs) might be formed as micropollutants are not completely mineralised. These TPs can have significantly different characteristics compared to their parent compound and, in some cases, might still be biologically active. Hence, a comprehensive assessment of (waste)water treatment technologies, including AOPs, entails that, in addition to monitoring the removal rate of parent compounds, the identity and potential toxicity of TPs are addressed.

Research challenges
Depending on the micropollutant(s), matrix composition and treatment conditions, a broad range of TPs can be formed. However, many of these chemicals are unknown (e.g., not present in chemical libraries) and are hence not included in conventional analytical techniques used to monitor removal rates and water quality in general. Consequently, a combination of advanced analytical and computational methods is necessary to detect and identify them. Furthermore, not all TPs formed will necessarily elicit negative effects, meaning that additional information is necessary to target those which can pose a particular threat to humans and the environment. Consequently, a holistic, yet efficient, framework to evaluate the effectiveness of treatment technologies to remove micropollutants from (waste)water, including AOPs, will have to cover both the chemical (i.e., identity and characteristics) and hazard (i.e., toxicity) space of TPs potentially formed. 

Your assignment
You will develop and implement a (bio)analytical platform capable of detecting and characterizing TPs and assessing their potential toxicity, and to link their formation to AOP conditions and water characteristics. To accomplish this goal, you will combine advanced (bio)analytical techniques such as high-resolution mass spectrometry (HRMS) and effect-directed analysis (EDA) with computational methods such as in-silico prediction and machine learning models to create a comprehensive platform. You will use bioassays covering a broad range of micropollutants and TPs in EDA-mode along with various separation strategies (e.g., reversed-phase and HILIC). Computational approaches will help you prioritize and identify relevant (i.e., potentially toxic) TPs. The platform will be implemented to assess TPs formation during AOP experiments and to establish operational risk zones based on treatment conditions, matrix, and micropollutant characteristics.

At the start of the project, you will be located at the university in Amsterdam where instruments and methods are readily available (indication: for the first half of the project). During the project, you will contribute to the Wetsus laboratories by assisting in setting up the needed infrastructure there for your research project, and for follow-up research.

Your profile
We are looking for a student having a background in analytical chemistry or a related discipline. Ideally, you have experience with liquid chromatography and (high-resolution) mass spectrometry. You haveaffinity for data analysis and statistical programming (e.g., R, Matlab, python), in vitro toxicology or you are motivated to learn.

Keywords: advanced oxidation, transformation products, mass spectrometry, effect-directed analysis, data science

Supervisory team: Prof. Dr. Marja Lamoree (A-LIFE, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam), Dr. Frederic Béen (A-LIFE, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam), Dr. Timo Hamers (A-LIFE, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam), Dr. ir. Jan Post (Wetsus)

Project partners: Priority Compounds & Virus Control theme

Only applications that are complete, in English, and submitted via the application webpage before the deadline will be considered eligible.

Guidelines for applicants:

The call is closed. Please be informed that we no longer accept applications for the current call. We thank you for your interest.

20-11-2017 Leeuwarden Wetsus Interieur Wetsus. Proefhal en laboratorium. ©Foto: Hoge Noorden/Jaap Schaaf