PhD candidate for BIOPYRANIA: Developing polybenzimidazoles with new bio-based aromatic monomers

You are a highly motivated researcher with a master degree in chemistry, holding skills in polymer synthesis. You are willing to collaborate closely with both public and private partners on the development of polybenzimidazoles prepared from new, bio-based aromatic monomers.


Job Description
This project is part of the BIOPYRANIA EU project (HORIZON-JU-CBE-2023-R-04) with partners both the public and the private sector. 


European industry is facing the challenge of creating sustainable products while considering the environmental impact, durability, recyclability, and safety. There is a pressing demand to explore alternatives to fossil-fuel-based products, and this presents significant challenges for industries, notably the automotive and energy sectors. 


BIOPYRANIA offers an innovative solution by utilising new bio-based aromatic monomers, which are obtained through fermentative processes from European second-generation woody biomass. Expanding on previous studies of polyesters based on these new bio-based aromatic monomers at Maastricht University, BIOPYRANIA shows that incorporating these building blocks into materials results in distinctive properties. Leveraging these properties, the project aims to develop sustainable polyamide (PA) and polybenzimidazole (PBI) polymers for high-performance applications in automotive electrification and green hydrogen production.


With the increase of automotive electrification, lightweight and high-performance materials like BIOPYRANIA polyamides are crucial. Simultaneously, the green energy sector demands clean hydrogen production, and BIOPYRANIA aims to improve anion exchange membranes with polybenzimidazoles, with the expectation of meeting 22% of the global "final energy" demand. Recycling will boost their circularity profile, while digital methodologies and comprehensive studies will support and accelerate these advancements.


A task of Maastricht University is to develop a green route for the synthesis of polybenzimidazole (co)polymers from this new bio-based building block, as well as the chemical and physical polymer characterization. Chemical modification of the newly prepared (co)polybenzimidazoles will be studied in order to tune the properties of the polymers towards the final application, namely anion exchange membranes for electrolyzers/fuel cells. The PhD student will work closely together with academic and industrial project partners in the consortium. Lab scale recipes will be transferred to industrial partners for upscaling and material testing. Based on their feedback, the synthesis work will be further tuned. 

The PhD student will be appointed at the Aachen-Maastricht Institute for Biobased Materials of Maastricht University, which is part of the Faculty of Science and Engineering. You will work in the Sustainable Polymer Synthesis group of Associate Professor Katrien Bernaerts, which focusses on the synthesis and design of polymer materials with tunable properties and recyclability exploiting the functionality of biobased building blocks. You will operate from the Brightlands-Chemelot Campus in Geleen (NL), where the labs are located.

The candidate

  • holds a master degree in Chemistry, Chemical Engineering or related fields;
  • has skills in polymer synthesis and characterization. Experience with polycondensation is a pro;
  • has affinity with chemical and physico-chemical characterization of monomers and polymers;
  • is interested in chemical modification of polymers;
  • has a strong interest to investigate structure-property relationships of the synthesized (co)polybenzimidazoles both from fundamental point of view and for anion exchange membrane applications;
  • the candidate is expected to stay abreast of the recent literature (publications and patents) in the field of sustainable polymers, develop research ideas and valorize the research in the form of patents and research papers;
  • likes to interact with academic and industrial partners;
  • is result driven, inventive, creative, counts with potential impact, works ‘accountable’ and works with ownership;
  • masters scientific English for speaking, reading, and writing. Knowledge of Dutch is not required



What we offer
As PhD candidate for BIOPYRANIA: Developing polybenzimidazoles with new bio-based aromatic monomers
 at Faculty of Science & Engineering, you will be employed by the most international university in the Netherlands, located in the beautiful city of Maastricht. In addition, we offer you:

  • Good employment conditions. The position is graded in scale P according to UFO profile PhD Candidate, with corresponding salary based on experience ranging from €2770,00 and €3539,00 gross per month (based on a full-time employment of 38 hours per week). In addition to the monthly salary, an 8.0% holiday allowance and an 8.3% year-end bonus apply.
  • An employment contract for a period of 12 months with a scope of 1,0 FTE. Upon a positive evaluation, an extension of 3 years will follow. 
  • At Maastricht University, the well-being of our employees is of utmost importance, we offer flexible working hours and the possibility to work partly from home if the nature of your position allows it. You will receive a monthly commuting and internet allowance for this. If you work full-time, you will be entitled to 29 vacation days and 4 additional public holidays per year, namely carnival Monday, carnival Tuesday, Good Friday, and Liberation Day. If you choose to accumulate compensation hours, an additional 12 days will be added. Furthermore, you can personalize your employment conditions through a collective labor agreement (CAO) choice model. 
  • As Maastricht University, we offer various other excellent secondary employment conditions. These include a good pension scheme with the ABP and the opportunity for UM employees to participate in company fitness and make use of the extensive sports facilities that we also offer to our students. 
  • Last but certainly not least, we provide the space and facilities for your personal and professional development. We facilitate this by offering a wide range of training programs and supporting various well-established initiatives such as 'acknowledge and appreciate'. 


The terms of employment at Maastricht University are largely set out in the collective labor agreement of Dutch Universities. In addition, local provisions specific to UM apply. For more information, click here.

Maastricht University
Why work at Maastricht University?
At Maastricht University (UM), everything revolves around the future. The future of our students, as we work to equip them with a solid, broad-based foundation for the rest of their lives. And the future of society, as we seek solutions through our research to issues from all around the world. Our six faculties combined provide a comprehensive package of study programmes and research.

In our teaching, we use the Problem-Based Learning (PBL) method. Students work in small groups, looking for solutions to problems themselves. By discussing issues and working together to draw conclusions, formulate answers and present them to their peers, students develop essential skills for their future careers.

With over 22,300 students and more than 5,000 employees from all over the world, UM is home to a vibrant and inspiring international community.

Are you drawn to an international setting focused on education, science and scholarship? Are you keen to contribute however your skills and qualities allow? Our door is open to you! As a young European university, we value your talent and look forward to creating the future together.

Click here for more information about UM. 

Faculty of Science and Engineering  
At the Faculty of Science and Engineering (FSE), we focus on themes such as circularity and sustainability, future farming, digitisation and (scientific) instrument development.  FSE's leading projects, like the Einstein Telescope Pathfinder, are sure to grab anyone's attention.  The faculty is a vibrant hub of education and research in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) and Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS).  At FSE, over 450 staff members and 3700 students gather to explore e exciting interdisciplinary research and educational programmes. Feel welcome, be part of our team and put your brilliant mind to work!  

FSE at the Brightlands Campuses  
Maastricht, Sittard-Geleen, Heerlen, and Venlo, the home of four creative Brightlands campuses, are bustling with 30,000 entrepreneurs, researchers, and students working diligently to solve global challenges. The Faculty of Science and Engineering is active on all four Brightlands campuses, and this is where our impact reaches its peak. To give you an idea of what is happening at each campus: Sittard-Geleen is home to the largest chemical site in the Euregion, while Venlo is a large hub for agri-food innovation. Maastricht is the site of the Health Campus, and Heerlen is the place to be for Smart Services.


The Aachen-Maastricht Institute for Biobased Materials (AMIBM) is a department of the Faculty of Science and Engineering (FSE) at Maastricht University. AMIBM is a European cross-border research institute established by Maastricht University and RWTH Aachen University focusing on the development of advanced biobased materials. The mission of AMIBM is to replace traditional polymer building blocks with innovative and sustainable alternatives for the development of novel and environmentally-beneficial materials. AMIBM promotes world-class multidisciplinary research in the field of biobased materials, by training PhD students with the multiple skills needed to be future leaders in the field, and creating the research breakthroughs that will enable the utilization of sustainable and renewable materials for advanced materials applications. The multidisciplinary team draws together scientists with expertise in organic chemistry, biocatalysis, lead finding of new biobased blocks, polymer chemistry, polymer physics, polymer engineering, biobased and biomedical materials, tissue engineering, and industrial and medical applications. More information can be found via


Research group Sustainable Polymer Synthesis 
Main research focus is on the design and synthesis of sustainable polymer materials with tuneable properties for the circular economy. Sustainability entails biobased building blocks (but no biorefinery) instead of fossil raw materials, green routes for polymer synthesis and processing, as well as chemical recycling/reprocessing methods (biodegradability, depolymerization, dynamic bonds) to make the end-of-life of polymers more sustainable. Structure-property relationships of the resulting polymers are evaluated in several fields of application e.g. stimuli-responsive polymers, coatings, fibres, engineering plastics and biomedical materials. Growing focus on the use of artificial intelligence techniques to support and accelerate the experimental work, e.g. data interpretation and prediction of structure-property relationships.

Are you interested in this exciting position but still have questions? Feel free to contact Katrien Bernaerts, Associate Professor Sustainable Polymer Synthesis Katrien Bernaerts ( or +31 43 388 2636) for more information.

Or are you already convinced and ready to become our new PhD candidate for BIOPYRANIA: Developing polybenzimidazoles with new bio-based aromatic monomers? Apply now and submit:

  • Cover letter including your motivation, your relevant experience (referring to the “description of the candidate”, above)
  • CV
  • Names and contact data of two people who could provide a reference
  • Diplomas/degrees including a grade transcript of previous education.


We will recruit until the position is filled. The selection process commences immediately, but will close when a suitable candidate has been found, even if this prior to the final date of the application window. 

The vacancy is open for internal and external candidates. In case of equal qualifications, internal candidates will be prioritized. 

Maastricht University is committed to promoting and nurturing a diverse and inclusive community. We believe that diversity in our staff and student population contributes to the quality of research and education at UM, and strive to enable this through inclusive policies and innovative projects led by teams of staff and students. We encourage you to apply for this position.




Job Type:  Academic
Faculty/Service Center:  Faculty of Science & Engineering
Closing date:  31-12-2024
FTE min:  1,0
FTE max:  1,0
Salary min:  €2770,00
Salary max:  €3539,00
ID job:  934
Job Type:  Academic
Faculty/Service Center:  Faculty of Science & Engineering
Closing date:  31-12-2024
FTE min:  1,0
FTE max:  1,0
Salary min:  €2770,00
Salary max:  €3539,00
ID job:  934