PhD Candidate with A Specialization in Physics or Physical Chemistry

Leiden University, Netherlands is inviting excellent candidates to apply for a PhD position in environmental sciences. The initial contract for this position is three years. Applications will be evaluated on a continuous basis.

The Faculty of Science and the Leiden Institute of Chemistry are looking for a

PhD candidate, with a specialization in physics or physical chemistry

Project description

The title of the project is 'In situ scanning tunneling microscopy of electrocatalytic surfaces.' The project is aimed to address one of the long standing dreams of electrochemists: the atomic-scale real-time imaging of an electrode under reactive conditions. This project aims to achieve this by in situ electrochemical Scanning Tunneling Microscopy (STM). The technical challenge at hand is the electrochemical (faradaic) current of the reaction which overshadows the tunneling current, as a result of which imaging with the STM is in principle not possible.

We envisage two possible solutions to this problem: the application of a compensating current, and the splitting of the tunnel current from the total current. Specifically, the project will image the surface of Pt(111) and Pt(100) electrodes on the atomic scale by STM during faradaic reactions, such as hydrogen evolution, oxygen reduction and carbon monoxide oxidation. There are many hints in the literature that structural changes occur, and the insight into this phenomenon during catalytic reactions is extremely important for a better understanding of the reaction mechanisms on the atomic scale. If successful, these results would establish a new ground for modeling electrochemical reactions on the atomic scale and thus would lead also to a much better understanding of electrocatalysis relevant to fuel cells and electrolysers.

The intended research is only possible on a very special microscope developed in Leiden: a high-speed (video-rate), high-resolution electrochemical STM that is equipped with a real RHE, a flow cell for electrolyte exchange, and a home-made bipotentiostat allowing full operando conditions. Technical affinity and/or knowledge with electronic (feedback) circuits is crucial for a successful completion of the project.

The PhD will be supervised by two experts: Marc Koper (electrochemistry) and Marcel Rost (physics). The PhD will learn to operate the microscope and to handle the dedicated sample preparation and treatment, and will perform research in the field of platinum electrocatalysis. The research builds on recently published work, which is the result of a collaboration between the Leiden Institute of Chemistry and the Leiden Institute of Physics.

Our organisation

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 is top priorities. Our people are committed to expand fundamental knowledge by curiosity 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 of Science is very diverse, ranging from mathematics, information science, astronomy, physics, chemistry and bio-pharmaceutical sciences to biology and environmental sciences. The research activities are organized in eight institutes. These institutes offer eight bachelor's and twelve master's programs. The faculty has grown strongly in recent years and now has more than 1,300 staff and almost 4,000 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 chemistry and life science research in the Leiden Institute of Chemistry (LIC) is organized around two major research areas: 'Chemical Biology' and 'Energy & Sustainability'. The institute's research themes illustrate the central position of chemistry between biology, medicine and physics. The various research topics carried out within these themes are ideal for executing interdisciplinary research.

Terms and conditions

We offer a position for initially one year. After a positive evaluation of the progress of the thesis, personal capabilities and compatibility the appointment will be extended by a further three years. Salary range from 2,325.- to 2,972.- gross per month (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.

All our PhD students are embedded in the Leiden University Graduate School of Science. Our graduate school offers several PhD training courses at three levels: professional courses, skills training and personal effectiveness. In addition, advanced courses to deepen scientific knowledge are offered by the research school.


Leiden University is strongly committed to diversity within its community and especially welcomes applications from members of underrepresented groups. Information

Enquiries can be made to Marc Koper, Professor of Catalysis and surface chemistry, email If you have any questions about the procedure, please contact secretary Jos Dijkzeul, email Applications

To apply for this vacancy, please send no later than 31 January 2020 an email to the secretary of the 'Catalysis and Surface Chemistry' group, Jos Dijkzeul, email jdijkzeul@chem. leidenuniv. nl.


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