PhD position Critical material sustainability and energy transition


Faculty of Science and Engineering


Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, University of Groningen, V24.0036

Job description

We seek a PhD candidate who is passionate about energy and sustainability scientific problems with a focus on the critical material perspective. Successful candidate will be under supervision of Prof. Xin Sun, working with colleagues at the Integrated Research on Energy, Environment and Society group (IREES -, within Energy and Sustainability Research Institute Groningen (ESRIG).

Although the clean energy technologies (e.g., solar & wind power, electric vehicles) are preferable from a decarbonization perspective, their deployment causes a surging demand of critical materials, with increasing concern of their high supply concentration, negative environmental and social impacts, by-product issues, geopolitical instability, and other unsustainable factors. There is a pressing need to tackle the challenge of coordinating the economic, environmental, and social impacts of energy-climate-material nexus.

In this context, the proposed PhD project focuses on the demand management solutions to mitigate the critical material impacts of the energy transition. Potential topics include (1) modeling dynamic demand for critical materials in multiple energy decarbonization and transportation electrification scenarios; (2) identifying the primary technological and societal factors that drive changes in demand patterns for critical materials; and (3) developing integrated approaches that simultaneously satisfy energy and mobility requirements while minimizing the need for critical materials and their environmental footprints. This project would involve with methodologies of dynamic material flow analysis, life cycle assessment, integrated assessment model, system dynamics, big data analysis, and design of new approaches for specific themes.

The PhD learning experience includes multidisciplinary data analysis, modeling and empirical research, along with soft skills including teamwork research, high-impact writing, visual & oral presentation, networking, and career development.

Founded in 1614, the University of Groningen enjoys an international reputation as a dynamic and innovative institution of higher education offering high-quality teaching and research. Flexible study programmes and academic career opportunities in a wide variety of disciplines encourage the 34,000 students and researchers alike to develop their own individual talents. As one of the best research universities in Europe, the University of Groningen has joined forces with other top universities and networks worldwide to become a truly global centre of knowledge.

The Faculty of Science and Engineering (FSE) is the largest faculty within the University. We offer first-rate education and research in a wide range of science and engineering subject areas, from mathematics, astronomy and mechanical engineering, to interdisciplinary fields such as artificial intelligence, pharmacy and nanoscience. Our community has an open and informal character with students and staff from around the world.


We expect you to have:

• a MSc degree in Science or Engineering discipline, preferably Environmental, Geographical, Geological, Energy, Chemical, Mechanical, and Earth System
• proficiency in both writing and oral presentation skills in English
• strong team player who works efficiently both independently and collaboratively
• general data collection, modeling and analytics, and programming skills (R/Python/Matlab), knowledge of artificial intelligence methods is a plus
• desirable theoretical and practical expertise in research about critical material, energy transition, climate change or other relevant topics, exemplified by a notable academic track record
• passion for scientific questions and interest in interdisciplinary subjects
• ability to think critically and systematically.

Conditions of employment

Contract length: 48 months.

We offer you, following the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities:

• a salary of € 2,770 gross per month in the first year, up to a maximum of € 3,539 gross per month in the fourth and final year for a full-time working week
• a full-time position (1.0 FTE)
• a holiday allowance of 8% gross annual income
• an 8.3% end-of-the-year allowance
• a position for four years; first, you will get a temporary position of one year with the option of renewal for another three years; prolongation of the contract is contingent on sufficient progress in the first year to indicate that successful completion of the PhD thesis within the contract period is to be expected. A PhD training program is part of the agreement, and you will be enrolled in the Graduate School of the Faculty of Science and Engineering.

Starting date is negotiable and preferably not later than December 2024.

Job Application

Please provide: - a one-page cover letter that clearly motivates why you apply for this position - your detailed curriculum vitae - the contact details of two to three reference letter writers. You may apply for this position until 14 April 11:59pm / before 15 April 2024 Dutch local time (CET) by means of the application form (click on "Apply" below on the advertisement on the university website). We will start selecting applicants to fill the position based on applications submitted before the deadline. The University of Groningen strives to be a university in which students and staff are respected and feel at home, regardless of differences in background, experiences, perspectives, and identities. We believe that working on our core values of inclusion and equality are a joint responsibility and we are constructively working on creating a socially safe environment. Diversity among students and staff members enriches academic debate and contributes to the quality of our teaching and research. We therefore invite applicants from underrepresented groups in particular to apply. For more information, see also our diversity policy webpage: Our selection procedure follows the guidelines of the Recruitment code (NVP): and European Commission's European Code of Conduct for recruitment of researchers: We provide career services for partners of new faculty members moving to Groningen. Unsolicited marketing is not appreciated.

Additional information

For additional information, please contact:

Prof. Xin Sun

In your application, please always include the job opening ID V24.0036

Digital application form