PhD Environmental Sciences: Rapid Food Transitions

Leiden University
September 22, 2023
Offerd Salary:Salary ranges from € 2.266
Working address:N/A
Contract Type:Other
Working Time:Full time
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The Faculty of Science and the Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML) are looking for:

2 PhD candidates related to an international scientific prize for research on sustainable food systems. Work will focus on rapid food transitions and require expertise in food systems and industrial ecology (e.g. Life Cycle Assessment, Material Flow Accounting, input-output etc).

Vacancy number: 13986

Overview Food systems across the world are facing a period of radical change, both due to the recognition of food-related environmental damage, but also due to climate impacts. Rapid change is unavoidable, but rapid transitions could help resiliency to impacts while reducing environmental harms. The Great Food Transformation suggests three main pillars for change: 1) Dietary change, 2) Food waste reductions, and 3) production changes. However, dietary change comprises by far the largest opportunity, especially in high-income nations. This Great Food Transformation would reduce the environmental damage from the food system and would also free large areas of land with climatic impacts. Reductions of biogenic methane would further have a cooling effect even in the short term.

A new project will start from September 2023, funded by an international scientific prize for work on sustainable food systems (judged by 100 scientists globally, more information here and a keynote of the work here). Two PhD candidates will be appointed at the Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML), continuing the team's work on rapid food transitions. The two candidates will work closely with Dr Paul Behrens, Dr Oliver Taherzadeh, and other staff on areas including the social impacts of global food transitions, impacts on food resiliency, and climate impacts.

One PhD candidate will work on developing our modelling framework further to accommodate a wider range of impacts, scenarios and sub-national detail.

Key tasks: You will work in an interdisciplinary setting to integrate models and data from different fields (food sciences, economics, climate science, epidemiology, etc.). Specifically, you will:

  • Perform several detailed analyses on the environmental impacts of global food systems.
  • Help to further extend an integrated food system model with international trade flow data to better attribute environmental impacts of food production to remote consumers.
  • Perform several detailed analyses on the social impacts of food system transformations (e.g. nutrition, mortality, and food access).
  • Analyze climate impacts on food systems and explore the resiliency of food system transformations across global food supply networks.
  • Selection criteria:

  • You should have an M.Sc. in a relevant field (chemistry, biology, sustainability science, and/or industrial ecology), but we also consider candidates from other scientific fields.
  • Strong data management, visualization and coding skills (e.g. in Matlab, Python and/or R) are highly valued. During your MSc your thesis ideally involved handling, combining, and analysing large datasets and/or focused on quantitative sustainability analysis.
  • Knowledge of industrial ecology methods, such as LCA, MFA, and IOA are highly valued.
  • An interdisciplinary knowledge of the societal and policy levers related to environmental and/or food system challenges is highly desirable
  • You must be proficient in spoken and written English.
  • You are a team player and can communicate your work to the public.
  • An interest in teaching
  • Research at our Institute/Faculty The Faculty of Science is a world-class faculty where staff and students work together in a dynamic international environment. It is a faculty where personal and academic development are top priorities. Our people are driven by curiosity to expand fundamental knowledge and to look beyond the borders of their own discipline; their aim is to benefit science, and to make a contribution to addressing the major societal challenges of the future.

    The research carried out at the Faculty is very diverse, ranging from mathematics, information science, astronomy, physics, chemistry and bio- pharmaceutical sciences to biology and environmental sciences. The research activities are organised in eight institutes. These institutes offer eight bachelor's and twelve master's programmes. The faculty has grown strongly in recent years and now has more than 2,300 staff and almost 5,000 students. We are located at the heart of Leiden's Bio Science Park, one of Europe's biggest science parks, where university and business life come together.

    The environmental science research in CML is organized around two major research areas: ‘Industrial Ecology' and ‘Environmental Biology'. This makes CML one of the few institutes covering both the circular, sustainable economic use of natural resources and natural capital, as well as assessing the environmental impacts of economic activities on natural resources, biodiversity and natural capital. Presently, over 150 FTE (including postdocs and PhDs) are employed at CML. CML collaborates with the TU Delft and Erasmus University (Rotterdam) in the Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Centre for Sustainability (LDE-CfS).

    Terms and conditions We offer a 1-year position with the possibility of extension to 4 years based on performance. Salary ranges from € 2.266.- gross per month in the first year to € 2.897 gross per month in the fourth year based on a full-time position (pay scale P in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities).

    Leiden University offers an attractive benefits package with additional holiday (8%) and end-of-year bonuses (8.3 %), training and career development and sabbatical leave. Our individual choices model gives you some freedom to assemble your own set of terms and conditions. For international spouses we have set up a dual career programme. Candidates from outside the Netherlands may be eligible for a substantial tax break.

    Diversity At the Faculty of Science we value inclusiveness and strive for a diverse community with equal opportunities for all. We give full support to our staff in achieving their potential to become independent academic researchers and teachers. For more information about our policy on diversity and equality please go to the diversity page on our website. Female researchers are also welcomed to join the Researchers In Science for Equality network of the Faculty if Science (

    Information Enquiries can be made to Dr. Paul Behrens ([email protected]) and Dr. Oliver Taherzadeh ([email protected]).

    Applications To apply for this vacancy, please send an email to [email protected] . Please ensure that you upload the following additional documents quoting the vacancy number:

  • CV
  • A motivation letter
  • The names and contact details (email addresses and phone numbers) of two referees
  • A writing sample of around 2000 words, for example a thesis or report.
  • Only applications received before Friday 22 September will be considered. Interviews will take place on 29 September 9.00 – 13.00 CET (Virtual or in person in Leiden)

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