Department: Heritage
Regime Full-time

Let’s shape the future – University of Antwerp

Together with Ghent University (Department of Applied Physics, Research Unit Plasma Technology) and the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK-IRPA) in Brussels, the research group Antwerp Cultural Heritage Sciences (ARCHES) of the University of Antwerp is looking for a joint, full-time (100%) doctoral candidate in the interdisciplinary field of Applied Sciences and Heritage science, focussing on the cleaning of heritage objects by non-thermal plasma-generated atomic oxygen.

The University of Antwerp is a dynamic, forward-thinking, European university. We offer an innovative academic education to more than 20 000 students, conduct pioneering scientific research and play an important service-providing role in society. We are one of the largest, most international and most innovative employers in the region. With more than 6000 employees from 100 different countries, we are helping to build tomorrow’s world every day. Through top scientific research, we push back boundaries and set a course for the future – a future that you can help to shape. ARCHES is a research group associated with the educational programs of Conservation-Restoration and Heritage studies. The group’s mission is to build bridges between various scientific fields (Life, Social and Natural Sciences), in pursuit of improving the conservation of both tangible and intangible heritage.

The UGhent Research Unit Plasma Technology (RUPT) has built up an internationally recognized expertise in the field of cold atmospheric pressure plasmas. The successful development of different plasma generation concepts has launched RUPT into numerous interdisciplinary collaborations exploring a wide range of applications in environmental technology and materials science. Atomic oxygen technology is considered a strategic extension for RUPT to explore new plasma physics. The different research tools, such as X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), atomic force microscope (AFM), FTIR, SEM, microscopy systems, plasma chambers, various power generators, optical imaging systems and UV spectrometers are available at RUPT.

The Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK-IRPA) in Brussels is part of the Belgian federal scientific research institutions, which in turn are managed by the FPS Science Policy BELSPO. KIK-IRPA, whose chief missions are research and public service, is committed to the inventory, the scientific study and the conservation-restoration of both movable and immovable cultural heritage in Belgium. These missions are performed by an interdisciplinary group of conservator-restorers, scientists and art-historians. KIK-IRPA thus occupies a central role in the promotion of Belgian heritage as well as in the creation and dissemination of knowledge and tools for the heritage sector and the public, both in Belgium and abroad.


  • You will work actively on the preparation and defence of a PhD thesis dedicated to the development and study of a new green, contactless cleaning technology for the active treatment of heritage objects, based on non-thermal plasma-generated atomic oxygen.
  • More in particular, your work will focus on studying the effect of atomic oxygen on the surface of heritage materials. You will characterize both the efficiency of the removal of different organic contaminants on the surface, and the potential unsolicited chemical reactions in the substrate material.
  • This position is part of a FWO funded senior research project for fundamental research, a collaboration between Ghent University, KIK-IRPA and UAntwerpen. This implies that the candidate will have to interact in an interdisciplinary way with, and travel between these institutes. The candidate is expected to interact with an associated consortium of European research institutes and museums as well, and clearly communicate its findings to plasma scientists, chemists, and various cultural heritage experts (e.g. museum staff, conservators-restorers, etc.)
  • You will publish scientific articles related to the research project in WoS journals with impact factor.
  • You will carry out a limited number of teaching and research support tasks for the above-mentioned university research groups.


  • You hold a master’s degree in chemistry, experimental physics, materials science, or surface analysis, or you will have obtained it by the time you start work. A sound background in organic chemistry, or good experimental skills in surface analytical techniques is desirable.
  • Expertise in material-technical research of heritage materials or its degradation mechanisms is a plus.
  • You can demonstrate that you achieved excellent results in your studies.
  • Your research qualities are in line with the faculty and university research policies.
  • You act with attention to quality, integrity, creativity and cooperation.
  • You can speak and write English fluently, knowledge of Dutch is considered a plus.

What we offer

  • We offer a full-time doctoral scholarship for a period of 1 year. Following a positive evaluation, the scholarship can be renewed for another 3 years.
  • You will work in an international context on an interdisciplinary, green project dealing with cutting-edge (plasma) science and giving access to state of the art equipment of multiple research groups.
  • Your monthly scholarship amount is calculated according to the scholarship amounts for doctoral scholarship holders on the pay scales for contract research staff (Dutch: Bijzonder Academisch Personeel, BAP).
  • The planned start date is September 1, 2022 or as soon as possible after that date.
  • Find out more about working at KIK-IRPA (, the University of Antwerp ( and Ghent University (

Want to apply?

  • You can apply for this vacancy through the University of Antwerp’s online job application platform up to and including 16 August 2022 (by midnight Brussels time). Click on the ‘Apply’ button, complete the online application form and be sure to include the following attachments: a motivation letter and your academic CV.
  • The selection committee will review your application as soon as possible after the application deadline. On August 23, we contact and invite the selected candidates and inform them about the next steps in the selection procedure. Please take note of the following date: August 25, 2022 for your possible online or on campus interview (in by mutual agreement).
  • If you have any questions about the online application form, please check the frequently asked questions or send an email to If you have any questions about the job itself, please contact Prof. Geert Van der Snickt, spokesperson of ARCHES via


While unsustainable development increasingly threatens Europe’s cultural heritage (CH) assets, museums and conservators continue searching for green approaches and materials. In the preservation of tangible CH assets, carbon-based soiling is among the most significant deteriorations factors. Pollution, vandalism, smoke and fires can cause catastrophic carbon-based contamination to tangible CH assets, and cleaning is essential for their preservation. However, currently available methods require hazardous chemicals, physical contact, and water, which can be too disruptive to many art materials. PlasmArt project rises to the challenge of cleaning and preserving extremely fragile artworks for the future based on the use of atomic oxygen. The project will bring together plasma physics, heritage science and conservation to realize a radical green innovation – a non-contact approach, based on atomic oxygen, which will empower conservators removing soiling in non-mechanical, liquid-free action, without health or environmental concerns, residues, and waste. To achieve its transformative goals, PlasmArt will research fundamental aspects of AO, develop and test a proof-of-concept system, and study interactions with ultra-sensitive art materials, propelling it to the emergent clean technologies in conservation.

The University of Antwerp received the European Commission’s HR Excellence in Research Award for its HR policy. We are a sustainable, family-friendly organisation which invests in its employees’ growth. We encourage diversity and attach great importance to an inclusive working environment and equal opportunities, regardless of gender identity, disability, race, ethnicity, religion or belief, sexual orientation or age. We encourage people from diverse backgrounds and with diverse characteristics to apply.


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