PhD position in atmospheric chemistry: Assessing workers’ exposure to complex chemical mixtures

100%, Zurich, temporary

The Atmospheric Chemistry Group in the Department of Environmental Systems Science invites applications for a PhD student position. In a collaboration with SECO and SUVA within the national inspections campaign of chemicals at work, the research project aims at improving the assessment of occupational exposure to hazardous volatile chemicals in complex mixtures used in industrial and professional sectors.

Project background

Many chemical products used at workplaces, such as paints, lacquers or lubricants contain hazardous volatile components, which upon inhalation may lead to associated health risks. In general, exposure levels to vapors depend on the specific use of the chemical product (e.g. temperature, type of application), and the physicochemical properties of the components (e.g. solubility, miscibility, and volatility). For instance, when the operating temperature leads to evaporation of some less hazardous components, the concentration of the remaining more hazardous ones is increased, which in turn may increase their volatility and lead to increased inhalation hazards. Or, when a product is reactive, the mixture composition changes with time, which influences the activity coefficients of all components. Therefore, to examine inhalation risks the type of application and the interactions of the components with each other need to be considered.

Job description

The main tasks of the PhD student will be:

  • Categorizing complex chemical products used in different industrial or professional sectors in terms of composition, use and properties of the components.
  • Estimating workers’ exposure to hazardous components depending on the form of the chemical product (liquid mixtures, powders, suspensions, or emulsions) and its use (industrial spraying, mixing processes, or open bath systems).
  • Extending exposure models to include the effect of non-ideal mixing by including activity coefficients obtained from a thermodynamic model.

The start of the project is as soon as possible.

Your profile

The successful candidate should hold an MSc degree (or equivalent) in environmental sciences, chemistry or chemical engineering with good knowledge of thermodynamics and interests in programming languages such as Python, Java or Fortran. We are looking for a highly motivated, committed, and creative person. Good writing and oral communication skills in English are required.

ETH Zurich

ETH Zurich is one of the world’s leading universities specialising in science and technology. We are renowned for our excellent education, cutting-edge fundamental research and direct transfer of new knowledge into society. Over 30,000 people from more than 120 countries find our university to be a place that promotes independent thinking and an environment that inspires excellence. Located in the heart of Europe, yet forging connections all over the world, we work together to develop solutions for the global challenges of today and tomorrow.
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We look forward to receiving your online application that includes a CV, academic transcripts, work certificates (if any) and a 1-page motivation letter stating research experiences and interests. Please provide the contact information of at least two potential referees. Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal. Applications via email or postal services will not be considered.

For further information about the project and the working group, please contact Claudia Marcolli by email at (no applications) and visit our Website:

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