water quality and biofilms in btex-contaminated tap water

Type of project: MSc thesis or internship.
Starting date: February 2023, or later.
Duration: At least 6 months, open for discussion.
Allowance: €200,- or €400,- a month, depending on personal situation.
Location: Wetsus – European Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Water Technology, Leeuwarden, the Netherlands.

Project Description:
Benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes (BTEX) are toxic organic compounds from petroleum products that widely contaminate the natural waters. In the past decades, researchers have identified natural microbial species that can degrade BTEX compounds in contaminated sites.

A recent experiment with BTEX dissolved in water showed unanticipated formation of biofilms on surfaces of sensors in a flow-through laboratory experiment. The development of biofilms within water distribution systems are known to occur. However, the presence of tap-water microbes that can degrade BTEX was not expected since BTEX mixture is considered genotoxic and mutagenic even at low concentrations.

Hence, the goal of this project is to investigate whether BTEX compounds can affect biofilm formation in tap water through studying the kinetics of biofilm formation and substrate usage. The findings can enhance the understanding of BTEX effects on tap water microbiology and vice versa. Identifying a potent BTEX compounds degrader can also prove useful in improving environmental remediation programs.

–   Perform batch experiments with BTEX-contaminated water.
–   Chemical analysis (total nitrogen, TOC, total phosphorus, LC-MS/MS, etc.)
–   Microbiology analysis (DNA extraction, qPCR, microscopy, etc.)
–   Discussion for data interpretation.
–   Scientific writing of results.

Your profile:
–   Background in biotechnology, microbiology, or related fields.
–   Experience working in a (microbiology) laboratory is a must.
–   Know microbiology techniques (e.g., VMT certified).
–   EU student or non-EU student registered at a Dutch university.
–   Good level of English proficiency, both written and spoken.

Please apply through the application form below. If you have questions regarding this position, do not hesitate to send an email to Lester Wu at

  • Max. bestandsgrootte: 1 GB.
  • Max. bestandsgrootte: 1 GB.