PhD Student in Contaminant Hydro(geo)logy (M/F)

Reference : ERIN-2020-069

Type: PhD Student
Contract type: Fixed term contract
Duration: 14 + 22 + 12 months extension
Place: Belvaux



Your work environment

The Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) is a Research and Technology Organization (RTO) active in the fields of materials, environment and IT. By transforming scientific knowledge into technologies, smart data and tools, LIST empowers citizens in their choices, public authorities in their decisions and businesses in their strategies.

You will be part of the LIST Environmental Research and Innovation department

As part of a Research and Technology Organization (RTO), the Environmental Research and Innovation (ERIN) Department tackles some of the major environmental challenges our society is facing today, such as climate change, ecosystem resilience, sustainable energy systems, the efficient use of renewable resources, and environmental pollution prevention and control. To this end, the mission of the ERIN department is:

1) To conduct impact-driven scientific research and development, as well as technological innovation;

2) To support companies in the implementation of new environmental regulations and advise governments on determining sustainable policies for the future, with the objectives of :

  • Analyzing, managing and exploiting sustainable resources (water, air, soil, renewable energy, bioresources)
  • Reducing the environmental impact of human consumption and production activities

Within the ERIN department, the ‘Environmental Sensing and Modelling’ (ENVISION) unit contributes to this mission by carrying out impact-driven research, geared towards monitoring, forecasting and predicting environmental systems in a changing world. An interdisciplinary team of around 50 scientists, engineers, post-docs and PhD candidates is developing new environmental process understanding, alongside new tools and technologies – operating at unprecedented spatial and temporal scales.

For the collaborative project “Luxembourg Time Machine” (LuxTIME), jointly carried out by the University of Luxembourg, and LIST, the ERIN department is opening a position for a PhD candidate in contaminant hydro(geo)logy. The LuxTIME project explores the potential for building a digital platform that allows to “dive” into the industrial past of the Minette region. Genuinely interdisciplinary, the project will leverage digital tools and data from different fields such as history, biomedicine, chemistry, bioinformatics, data science and eco-hydrology. As such, LuxTIME aims at exploring radically new ways of analyzing and interpreting factual evidence of the past by building an interdisciplinary framework for the investigation and visualization of “big data” of the past. LuxTIME is wired around three PhD projects and involves a larger group of senior researchers from the two institutions – participating PhD candidate supervision and topical workshops.

The selected PhD candidate will join the ENVISION unit’s ‘Catchment and eco-hydrology’ (CAT) group. The CAT group focuses on pressing questions related to :

  • How eco-hydrosystems collect, store, mix and release water, solutes and matter,
  • New environmental monitoring tools operating at unprecedented spatial and temporal scales and
  • Forecasting and predicting our water futures, as expressed through floods, drinking water availability, water for agriculture, or ecosystem services.

The PhD candidate will collaborate closely with the two other LuxTIME PhD candidates hired by the Luxembourg Centre for Contemporary and Digital History (C2DH) and the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) at the University of Luxembourg.




Main missions – PhD topic

The surface and groundwater bodies of the Minette region in Luxembourg are located at the eastern tip of the Paris sedimentary basin. Prior work in the area has shown that bedrock geology is controlling fundamental functions of water collection, storage, mixing and release. Here, we leverage this work and extend our investigations to the field of contaminant hydro(geo)logy for gaining a better understanding of how more than a century of exposures related to manifold industrial, urban and agricultural activities, is impacting surface- and groundwater bodies in the Minette region.

By leveraging multiple water age dating and water quality analyses techniques, this PhD project aims at characterizing the chronological evolution – from pre-industrialization to the present day – of multiple contaminants (e.g., nutrients, trace metals, pesticides, xenobiotics) in the aforementioned water bodies. The multi-chemical investigation will be combined with information gained on water source, flow paths and transit times (e.g., relying on stable isotopes of O and H in water). Water sampling campaigns will include surface water, soil solutions and groundwater. The sampling will follow both a longitudinal transect in the upper Alzette River basin in order to observe the impact of different anthropogenic activities and vertical profiles in specific locations, targeting distinct water bodies of different ages.

The water sampling strategy and subsequent analytical work will be designed in partnership with two other PhD candidates in LuxTIME, enrolled at the University of Luxembourg. Results from the PhD research in contaminant hydro(geo)logy will be wired into work carried out in the two complementary PhD projects in historical exposomics and historical data visualisation. The PhD project in historical exposomics [UdL Ref. 50003536:] leverages contaminant hydro(geo)logy datasets, historical documents and digital history techniques for characterizing the environmental history (from pre-industrialization through to present day) and potential exposures in the Minette region. The PhD project in historical data visualisation [UdL Ref.50013002:] will capitalise on datasets generated in the PhD projects in contaminant hydro(geo)logy and historical exposomics for building a digital platform that allows to explore radically new ways of analyzing and interpreting factual evidence of the past.


Research work

  • Craft and implement a research plan aligned with the overall objectives of the LuxTIME project
  • Identify – together with the supervision team – training needs required for a successful implementation of the PhD project
  • Acquire state-of-the-art knowledge in contaminant hydrology, hydrogeology and isotope hydrology
  • Manage field and laboratory work in accordance with the PhD project objectives
  • Organise and participate in weekly progress meetings with the supervisor
  • Organise and participate in progress meetings with the PhD advisory board
  • Actively collaborate with other PhD candidates

Dissemination, Valorisation and Transfer

  • Contribute to the preparation and submission of papers to peer reviewed journals; actively participate in international workshops and conferences (e.g., via oral & poster presentations)
  • Contribute to the creation of intellectual property rights (patents, licences, etc.)
  • Participate in outreach activities targeting a lay audience
  • Meet and exchange with academic and non-academic collaborators, interested in the PhD work outcomes


  • Participate in international and regional conferences and workshops in his/her research field
  • Select and participate in training sessions (e.g., soft skills, specific skills)
  • Identify and follow courses offered in the framework of the doctoral school at the University of Luxembourg
  • Identify and follow summer schools in line with his/her thesis subject




Educational background

  • MSc in environmental sciences or related discipline
  • Contaminant hydrology, hydrogeology, isotope hydrology or environmental engineering with a contaminant focus or related disciplines


  • Background in interdisciplinary training including water and contaminant sources, flow paths and transit times
  • Practical experience with contaminant analyses (high resolution mass spectrometry) and/or isotope analysis will be a strong advantage
  • Training in data science, e.g. using and establishing relational databases, knowledge of cheminformatics and chemical databases, statistical approaches for data analysis
  • High interest in environmental history
  • Experience in basic scripting language(s) e.g. R, Python, Matlab will be considered an asset

Language skills

  • English is mandatory
  • Knowledge of French / German / Luxembourgish advantageous



We offer

  • Full-time position (40 h/week)
  • Initial 36 months fixed-term contract, renewable for up to 48 months, depending on thesis progress evaluation. Project funding is available for 48 months.
  • Starting date from Oct. 1st, 2020 (position will be advertised until filled)
  • Highly competitive remuneration including all public national security system benefits
  • A dynamic, exciting and equal opportunity international research environment



  • No restrictions apply as to the nationality of the candidates.
  • Candidates shall be available for starting their position before end of 2020 (ideally on 1st October 2020)


Place of employment and main place of work

  • Primary supervisors at LIST: Drs. Laurent Pfister & Christophe Hissler
  • Work location:  Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST), Belvaux, Luxembourg
  • The PhD degree will be awarded by the University of Luxembourg


Application procedure:

The application can be submitted via LIST’s job portal: If there are any questions regarding the procedure please contact our HR office ( The application must include:

  • A motivation letter oriented towards the position and experience
  • A recent CV, which includes contact details
  • One or two reference letters

Application deadline is 1st August 2020. Yet, applications will be reviewed on-going until the position is filled. An assessment committee will review the applications and candidate selection will rely on guidelines, which aim to ensure equal opportunities. Shortlisted candidates will be invited to interview either in person or by teleconference.

The main criterion for selection will be the existing skills and expertise of the applicant and matching with the qualifications mentioned above.

The LIST is committed to equality of opportunities and gender balance.


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Dr habil. Laurent PFISTER
Dr habil. Laurent PFISTER

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Aldjia AFIRI