PhD Airborne, optimization of air sampling

Check this vacancy on the Erasmus MC website.

Job description

Erasmus MC, TU Delft and Erasmus University Rotterdam have joined forces in the Pandemic and Disaster Preparedness Center (PDPC). PDPC aims to prepare society for future pandemics and disasters. We will reduce vulnerabilities and risks and build resilience through effective disaster prevention, preparedness and recovery measures. Convergence of the technical, medical and social sciences is essential for developing the next generation of approaches to disasters and pandemics. In the foreseeable future, our society can expect many more and unforeseen virus outbreaks and extreme events because of climate change. But how do we protect society from the next pandemic or disaster? Which of the lessons learnt could develop prevention and intervention measures, and how could research contribute to preparedness?

One of the frontrunner projects in the PDPC is about predicting, measuring and quantifying airborne virus transmission, because the ability to spread via the air is a key determinant of pandemic potential of zoonotic respiratory virus infections. Quantification of infectious viruses in air and assessing their transmission potential via small or large respiratory droplets is crucial for risk assessments of zoonotic and pandemic outbreaks but is notoriously difficult to perform. The aim of this frontrunner project is to develop methods to predict and quantify the airborne transmission potential of viruses, based on model studies, experiments and outbreak research, that may lead to novel and improved mitigation strategies. This PhD candidate will focus on project 1, described below.

Project 1: Optimization of air sampling for the collection and quantification of infectious respiratory viruses.
The accurate determination and quantification of viruses in respiratory droplets is difficult, due to a lack of adequate measurement technology. Consequently, our ability to evaluate the actual threat arising from inhalation or contact with aerosolized viruses is limited. By combining knowledge on virological aspects and fluid dynamics of droplets, improved detection devices will be engineered to allow the rapid identification of “risk traits” in viruses among a vast diversity of animal viruses in nature. In laboratory settings, you will use state-of-the-art in-vitro systems in which viruses can be aerosolized, followed by a pre-determined ‘airborne time’ and collection with available air samplers. In this system the impact of droplet age, droplet size, evaporation rates and physiological conditions on virus infectivity will be studied for important respiratory viruses such as influenza virus, RSV and corona viruses. In collaboration with collaborators at TU Delft, you will explore and test novel methods for large scale air decontamination. This project will be executed at Erasmus MC under supervision of Dr. Sander Herfst.


  • We are looking for PhD students that are enthusiastic and highly motivated with a MSc degree or equivalent from an accredited academic program in Biology, Biomedical or Molecular Sciences, Epidemiology or (Veterinary) Medicine.
  • Demonstrable affinity with various molecular and/or and virological techniques will be beneficial. Background knowledge on exposure assessment is a pre.
  • You have an excellent command of the English language, both oral and written. For Project 2 and 3 knowledge of the Dutch language is also required.
  • Candidates are expected to obtain their PhD in 4 years.

Before you apply please check our conditions for employment.

Conditions of employment

You will receive a temporary PhD position for 4 years. The gross monthly salary is € 2.631,- in the 1st year and increases to € 3.336,- in the 4th year. The terms of employment are according to the Collective Bargaining Agreement for Dutch University Medical Centers (CAO UMC).

Additional information

For more information about this position, please contact dr. Sander Herfst, phone number: (+31)-(0)10-7044052 or e-mail:

For more information about the application procedure, please contact Jerry Chandansingh, phone number: (+31)-(0)6 50031006 or e-mail:

You must apply via the “Apply now” button. Applications via e-mail will not be processed.

Application procedure

To apply, please submit your resume and motivation letter via the Erasmus MC website.

Let’s go!

This application process is arranged via the Erasmus MC website. Do not forget to mention for which project (project 1 out of 3) you are applying. Make sure to apply before August 14.

Apply now