Postdoctoral Position in Chemistry and Remote Sensing

  • Location: Universite Libre De Bruxelles & Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy
  • Deadline for applications: May 31, 2021

Job description

The Tropospheric Modeling Unit of the Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy (BIRA-IASB) and the Spectroscopy, Quantum Chemistry and Atmospheric Remote Sensing Group of the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB) look for a highly motivated and skilled Postdoctoral Researcher to join their teams. This recruitment is part of the research profile Prf-2020-040_ARENBERG#2 – Assessing the REactive Nitrogen Budget and Emissions at Regional and Global scales” within the framework of FED-tWIN, the Belgian Programme of sustainable research cooperation between the Federal Scientific Institutes and the universities.

BIRA-IASB is a Belgian Federal Scientific Institute conducting research and providing services in space aeronomy, i.e. the physics and chemistry of Earth’s atmosphere and other planets, and outer space. The Tropospheric Modeling Unit has broad expertise in atmospheric model development and applications, including inverse modelling of emissions, cross-evaluation of models, emission inventories and atmospheric data, in particular from satellites. The ULB team has a strong expertise on the sounding of atmospheric composition by satellites. The group develops and maintains state-of-the-art radiative transfer software, which is used along with inverse methods to retrieve atmospheric trace gas concentrations and aerosol properties. The two teams have had a tight and fruitful collaboration during the last 10 years.

With this joint research profile, we wish to deepen this collaboration between the two groups and address critical challenges to our monitoring and modelling of atmospheric reactive nitrogen. With the guidance and support from both groups, the postdoctoral researcher will pursue innovative and interdisciplinary research relying on remote sensing techniques for satellite product development as well as on numerical modelling of the atmospheric composition.

o Tropospheric Modeling Unit at BIRA-IASB:

o Spectroscopy, Quantum Chemistry and Atmospheric Remote Sensing Group at ULB:

Description of the research profile

Atmospheric reactive nitrogen (Nr) emissions, mainly in the form of ammonia (NH3) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) have increased fivefold since the pre-industrial times, due to human activities related to intensive farming and fertilizer use, industry, transport, and domestic use. This results in a cascade of adverse impacts on air quality, climate, biodiversity, and soil and water quality. The main objective of this research profile is to make an improved assessment of the Nr budget in the atmosphere, its emission and deposition at regional and global scales, and to investigate its impacts on major atmospheric pollutants (ozone and fine particles).

To achieve this objective, current and planned remote sensing observations of reactive nitrogen compounds (NH3 and NOx) will be coupled with sophisticated atmospheric chemistry transport models and advanced inverse methodologies. More specifically, NO2 satellite data from the OMI and TROPOMI sounders will be used in the global and regional models to enable progress in the quantification of NOx emission sources with focus on highly industrialized and densely populated regions. A wide array of observations from infrared satellite sensors measuring NH3 (IASI, CrIS and a later stage IASI-NG, IRS) together with ground-based concentrations and deposition measurements will be used to evaluate the model and improve the representation of aerosol processes and the emission inventories, using inverse methods developed by the BIRA-IASB team.

A major focus will be put on NH3 observations from the IASI satellite instrument, for which 10 years of continuous observations are now available. This dataset is developed by the ULB team, which holds a leading role in the NH3 retrievals and contributes to the preparation of the follow-up satellite missions forming the space segment of the European atmosphere monitoring service for the next 25 years. Together, the satellite measurements of NO2, NH3, but also SO2, in combination with (inverse) model studies should provide an improved assessment of the fate of Nr emissions, including a better understanding of secondary inorganic particulate matter formation.

This research profile addresses the pressing need to accurately assess how much the anthropogenic activities modify the nitrogen cycle on Earth, to quantify their impacts, and to provide an improved understanding of pertinent issues related to NH3 emissions, atmospheric transformations and deposition to terrestrial bodies. The outcomes will help stakeholders to make informed decisions on strategies to mitigate the key threats associated to the excess of Nr, and to define policy regulations or incentive programmes for emission reductions.


At the ULB, you will develop satellite products of ammonia (NH3) from infrared satellite sensors, namely IASI, and you will be in charge of the development of new NH3 products from the forthcoming IASI-NG and IRS satellite missions. At BIRA-IASB and in collaboration with the ULB team, you will use state-of-the-art atmospheric models to enable progress in the quantification of the emission sources of reactive nitrogen (ammonia and nitrogen oxides), using a wide array of satellite observations, complemented by ground-based concentrations and deposition measurements.

You will supervise and support Master and PhD students and contribute to the preparation and management of new research projects. You will have a collaborative spirit and liaise with collaborators. You need to be able to organize and troubleshoot your work independently, document it thoroughly and communicate results and experiences with the team in a transparent and professional manner.


We are looking for a highly motivated, well-organized and dynamic candidate with a high level of independence and creative thinking. The successful candidate should

  • hold a PhD degree in Sciences or Applied Sciences obtained at the earliest 12 years prior to the submission date of the job application. The 12-year period is extended by one year for each maternity, parental and adoption leave of the candidate and for each long-term sick leave of the candidate or his/her immediate family.
  • have at least 3 years’ experience as postdoctoral fellow in a relevant field, in particular in tropospheric composition and atmospheric remote sensing of reactive nitrogen
  • have a good publication record in highly-ranked international scientific journals
  • have a very good knowledge of widely used data analysis tools in environmental sciences (Matlab, Python, Fortran) and with scientific data formats (HDF, NetCdf)
  • be able to work independently and in a team, as well as in international environment
  • be eager to learn new techniques and show keen interest and curiosity driven approach to scientific questions
  • be able to guide PhD students and coordinate the projects between our teams
  • have some experience in outreach and in the support to policy making
  • be a team player with excellent oral and written English communication skills, a good knowledge of French or Dutch is an asset
    We offer
  • A contractual position of indeterminate duration, with simultaneous 50% appointment at BIRA-IASB and 50% appointment at ULB
  • A stimulating, research work environment where quality, professionalism and team spirit are encouraged
  • At BIRA-IASB, the salary will follow federal regulations for the scientific career in the SW2 scale, with possibility to acquire a bilingualism bonus. At ULB, the salary will be that of post-doctoral researcher at scale 530.
  • Access to state-of-the-art infrastructure at BIRA-IASB and ULB
  • Extra-legal benefits are offered both at BIRA-IASB and ULB • Flexible schedule and possibility to work occasionally from home
  • Refund of commuting expenses when using public transportation or bicycle
  • Access to special advantages arranged for employees of the federal scientific institutions (e.g. possibility to follow trainings, free childcare in July/August)
  • The opportunity to interact with several world-class investigators at both institutions, as well as in Europe and abroad (through an established network and research consortia)
  • All relevant work experience (public/private sector) will be considered when determining seniority
  • The starting date of the contract is October 1, 2021


After evaluating the submitted applications, the selected candidates will be invited for an interview. Candidates whose diploma is not awarded in Belgium must submit a NARIC certificate of equivalence. If the equivalence certificate has not yet been obtained, the application must at least have been initiated at the time of the application. More information about the equivalence certificate can be found on the website:

Both BIRA-IASB and ULB seek to foster an environment where all talents can flourish, regardless of gender, age, cultural background, nationality or impairments. If you have any questions relating to accessibility or support, please contact us at [email protected] and/or [email protected].


Please send to Dr. Jenny Stavrakou ([email protected], tel.: +32 2 373 6766) and to Prof. Pierre Coheur ([email protected], tel.: +32 2 6502578)

• A detailed CV, including a list of your scientific publications

• A cover letter describing your motivation

• Contact information of 2 referees

Deadline for applications: May 31, 2021

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