Gepubliceerd op 25-07-2022

Doctoral candidate in the interdisciplinary field of Applied Sciences and Heritage science, focussing on the understanding, prevention and treatment of degrading silk textiles (full time)

Let’s shape the future – University of Antwerp

In collaboration with the University of Ljubljana (Faculty of Chemistry) and the AXIS research group (University of Antwerp, Department of Physics), the research group Antwerp Cultural Heritage Sciences (ARCHES) of the University of Antwerp (Faculty Design Sciences, Conservation-Restoration) is looking for a full-time (100%) doctoral candidate in the interdisciplinary field of Applied Sciences and Heritage science, focussing on the understanding, prevention and treatment of degrading silk textiles.

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.


  • You will work actively on the preparation and defence of a PhD thesis dedicated to the understanding of metal salt-induced degradation processes of historical silk textiles in heritage collections.
  • More in particular, your work will focus on the chemical characterisation of both historical degrading silk textiles and artificial aged mock-up samples (using X-ray based methods at synchrotron end stations, Size Exclusion Chromatography and Electron Spin Resonance) and the development and assessment of an enzyme-based treatment.
  • This position is part of an FWO funded, international senior research project (WEAVE program) for fundamental research, a collaboration between the Universities of Ljubljana and UAntwerpen. This implies that the candidate will have to collaborate in an interdisciplinary manner with chemists, heritage scientists and conservators working on this project. Therefore the candidate should have good communication skills and is expected to interact pro-actively with, and travel between, the European research institutes and museums associated with this project.
  • You will do most of your work at the City (CST) and Groenenborger (CGB) campuses of the University of Antwerp, under the guidance of professors Geert Van der Snickt (heritage science) and Koen Janssens (natural sciences). You will occasionally travel and work in Ljubljana, under the guidance of prof. Matija Strlic and set up a collaboration with prof. Vincent Nierstrasz of Boras University in Sweden.
  • You will publish scientific articles in WoS journals with impact factor, related to the research project.
  • You will carry out a limited number of teaching and research support tasks for the Antwerp research groups.


  • You hold a master’s degree in chemistry or physics, heritage science or chemistry applied to cultural heritage, or you will have obtained it by the time you start work.
  • Expertise in material-technical research of heritage objects is considered a plus.
  • Expertise in biopolymer science or textile materials technology is considered 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 project, giving access to state of the art equipment and key museum collections.
  • 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 the University of Antwerp (https://www.uantwerpen.be/en/).

Want to apply?

  • You can apply for this vacancy through the University of Antwerp’s online job application platform up to and including 15 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. As soon as a decision has been made, we will inform you about the next steps in the selection procedure. Please take note of the following dates: August 26 and/or August 29, 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 jobs@uantwerpen.be. If you have any questions about the job itself, please contact Prof. Geert Van der Snickt, spokesperson of ARCHES via geert.vandersnickt@uantwerpen.be.


Silk, a biopolymer with superior qualities, has been a high-end material since its earliest use. However, it is highly prone to environmental degradation. In the 19th c., a treatment with metals salts was introduced for dyeing purposes and for increasing its weight. The presence of these reactive substances in close proximity to the vulnerable base material has resulted in a significant number of degrading silk objects in present-day heritage collections. As to date no conservation treatment proved effective, metal-induced silk degradation is a major concern for museums. This research aims at understanding, preventing and treating affected objects by combining the partners’ expertise on chemical analysis, historical technology, collection management and conservation treatment. We propose unraveling the degradation pathways and assessing the influence of various harmful internal and external parameters. This will be done by producing self-synthetized and artificially aged equivalents of historical material, followed by their chemical characterization. The validity of the insights obtained on these ‘mock-ups’ will be benchmarked by analysis of a number of historical study objects. The results will be incorporated into a hands-on decision tool for the everyday collection management of a museum, via the development of a ‘damage function’. Finally, the aptness of two enzyme treatments, recently developed for industry, will be evaluated for the consolidation of degrading historical silk fabrics.

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.

Informatie over de vacature

Functienaam: Doctoral candidate in the interdisciplinary field of Applied Sciences and Heritage science, focussing on the understanding, prevention and treatment of degrading silk textiles
Locatie: Prinsstraat 13, Antwerpen, België
Uiterste sollicitatiedatum: 2022-08-15
Soort functie: PhD


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Het Huygens Instituut beoogt de Nederlandse geschiedenis en cultuur inclusiever maken. Het ontsluit historische bronnen en literaire teksten en ontwikkelt innovatieve methoden, tools en duurzame digitale infrastructuur.