PhD Researcher Sea Spray Aerosols – Deadline 01 September 2022

VLIZ aims to increase our understanding of processes and interactions in changing marine and coastal environments. It has a multidisciplinary team of passionate researchers, moving the boundaries of scientific knowledge and addressing societal challenges through excellent marine research.

We are hiring a marine researcher to start a PhD on the influence of microbial life (phytoplankton, bacteria, viruses) on the formation and stability of sea foam, which is the predominant source of sea spray aerosols. Sea spray aerosols are microscopic droplets of seawater that are formed by bubble bursting at the ocean surface. They play a major role in cloud formation and are suspected to affect human health after inhalation. Until now, research at VLIZ and Ghent University has focused on the presence and human health effects of biogenic chemicals inside sea spray aerosols. We found that the enrichment of marine biogenic chemicals inside sea spray aerosols shows strong intervariability, which we believe is caused by differences in foam stability. With this PhD, we want to get a better understanding of sea foam formation and its role in the aerosolization of waterborne chemicals and bacteria. In particular, we want to investigate whether the production of transparent exopolymer particles by bacteria and phytoplankton – released naturally or via viral lysis of these hosts – can be used to predict the abundance of sea spray aerosols and the enrichment of biogenics within them. The research will integrate field work – mainly beach sampling – with experimental approaches in the lab, combining biological observations (flow cytometry; plankton imaging) with analytical chemistry. You will be working in Ostend at VLIZ as part of a research unit devoted to various aspects of marine microbial ecology. The PhD will be performed in collaboration with the Blue Growth Research Lab of Ghent University, where another team of PhD students is working on various research projects related to sea spray aerosols.

Our offer

  • A challenging job in a dynamic environment at the InnovOcean site in Ostend at the VLIZ research division.
  • A fixed-term position for 2(+2) years and a salary scale according to qualifications and experience, following the salary scales of the Flemish Government.
  • Additional allowances: holiday allowance, end-of-year allowance, meal vouchers, bicycle allowance, free public transport for commuting.
  • A good work-life balance with, among other things: 35 vacation days, flexible working hours within a 38-hour working week and the option to partly work from home.

Your tasks

  • Plan and perform field work at the coast and at sea
  • Process samples in the lab and measure the phytoplankton, bacteria and viruses present
  • Process samples in the lab for chemical characterization (Na+, Chl-a, DOC, TEP, CSP)
  • Set up lab experiments to investigate foam formation and foam stability; analyse the data
  • Formulate additional research hypotheses and questions;
  • Collaborate with researchers at the partner institutes at Ghent University
  • Write high quality research manuscripts for submitting to peer-reviewed scientific journals;
  • Participate in and represent VLIZ at project meetings, follow up and deliver milestones and deliverables
  • Discuss planning and report progress to your supervisor and external partners;
  • Mentor BSc and MSc students during their student jobs, internships or thesis works;
  • Collaborate with colleagues at VLIZ to increase interdisciplinarity in various research projects;
  • Present research at national and international conferences;
For each function, VLIZ considers enthusiastic involvement, open servitude, excellent professionalism and integrity as important characteristics.

Your profile

  • MSc in Applied Sciences (bioscience engineering) or Exact Sciences, (e.g. biology; biochemistry)
  • Strong interest in fluid dynamics and aerosol research
  • Knowledge of microbial ecology and experience with microbial or plankton research are a plus;
  • In the possession of a driving licence B;
  • Critical and creative;
  • Scientifically integer;
  • Open minded and taking initiative;
  • Passionate scientist, willing to learn new skills and develop excellent research
  • Strong interpersonal skills, a motivated team player;
  • Willing to work in an international context;
  • Good oral and written English communication skills;
  • Academic writing skills are a plus;
  • Knowledge of statistics;
  • Experience with R open software is a plus;
  • Willingness to spend time at sea

About us

Over the last 20 years, the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) has become a knowledge institution indispensable to the marine research landscape. What started as an institute focusing on science support, has evolved into a national and international point of contact for marine research. VLIZ initiates and carries out multidisciplinary research and supports marine experts by providing research infrastructure, data, information and knowledge. VLIZ supports the blue economy and reaches out to a broad public. VLIZ further broadens its marine horizons and aims at becoming a world player in the field of marine and coastal research.

A stimulating working environment forms the base of our flourishing knowledge institute. The well-being of our employees comes first. VLIZ is looking for colleagues who, with their passion and knowledge, want to strengthen our growing institute and face the blue challenges of the future.

Additional information

For more information concerning this vacancy, please contact dr. Maarten De Rijcke, by e-mail to

Does this vacancy appeal to you?

Send in your cover letter and CV no later than Thursday 1 September 2022:

  • By post: Jan Mees, General director VLIZ, InnovOcean site, Wandelaarkaai 7, 8400 Oostende
  • By mail: with subject “Vacancy Researcher LRR”

You can contact us by telephone on +32 (0)59 34 21 30.

VLIZ promotes equality and diversity in the workplace. You will be recruited based on competencies. Qualities of people are decisive, regardless of gender, religion, ethnic origin, age, sexual orientation or any disability.


Based on the received motivation letters and CVs, a select group of candidates will be invited for a job interview.

You will be notified by email. The job interviews take place at the offices of VLIZ mid September.

You can find out more about this opportunity by clicking here.

via VLIZ
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