PhD Environmental Sciences: Rapid Food Transitions

Research / Academic

Food systems across the world are facing a period of radical change, both due to the recognition of food-related environmental damage, but also due to climate impacts. Rapid change is unavoidable, but rapid transitions could help resiliency to impacts while reducing environmental harms. The Great Food Transformation suggests three main pillars for change: 1) Dietary change, 2) Food waste reductions, and 3) production changes. However, dietary change comprises by far the largest opportunity, especially in high-income nations. This Great Food Transformation would reduce the environmental damage from the food system and would also free large areas of land with climatic impacts. Reductions of biogenic methane would further have a cooling effect even in the short term.

A new project will start from September 2023, funded by an international scientific prize for work on sustainable food systems (judged by 100 scientists globally, more information here and a keynote of the work here). Two PhD candidates will be appointed at the Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML), continuing the team’s work on rapid food transitions. The two candidates will work closely with Dr Paul Behrens, Dr Oliver Taherzadeh, and other academic staff in the rapid food transition team on areas including the social impacts of food transitions, impacts on food resiliency, and climate impacts.
One PhD candidate will work on developing our modelling framework further

Key tasks:
Your will work in an interdisciplinary setting to integrate models and data from different fields (food sciences, economics, climate science, epidemiology, etc.). Specifically, you will:

  1. Perform several detailed analyses on the environmental impacts of global food systems.
  2. Help to further extend an integrated food system model with international trade flow data to better attribute environmental impacts of food production to remote consumers.
  3. Perform several detailed analyses on the social impacts of food system transformations.
  4. Analyze climate impacts on food systems and explore the resiliency of food system transformations.


Selection criteria:

  • You should have an M.Sc. in a relevant field (chemistry, biology, sustainability science, and/or industrial ecology), but we also consider candidates from other scientific fields.
  • Strong data management, visualization and coding skills (e.g. in Matlab, Python and/or R) are highly valued. During your MSc your thesis ideally involved handling, combining, and analysing large datasets and/or focused on quantitative sustainability analysis.
  • Knowledge of industrial ecology methods, such as LCA, IOA are highly valued.
  • An interdisciplinary knowledge of the societal and policy levers related to environmental and/or food system challenges is highly desirable
  • You must be proficient in spoken and written English.
  • You are a team player and can communicate your work to the public. • An interest in teaching

Salary Benefits:

Terms and conditions
We offer a 1-year position with the possibility of extension to 4 years based on performance. Salary ranges from € 2.770.- gross per month in the first year to € 3.539 gross per month in the fourth year based on a full-time position (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.

At the Faculty of Science we value inclusiveness and strive for a diverse community with equal opportunities for all. We give full support to our staff in achieving their potential to become independent academic researchers and teachers. For more information about our policy on diversity and equality please go to the diversity page on our website. Female researchers are also welcomed to join the Researchers In Science for Equality network of the Faculty if Science (

Work Hours:

32 - 40 hours per week


Rapenburg 70