PhD Candidate Investigating Linkages Between Water Hyacinth, Water Quality and Human Health in Zimbabwe

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Job Description:

The University of Twente wants to be an organisation that optimally deploys diversity, talents, and capabilities in the labour market for now and in the future. In the framework of our diversity and inclusiveness policy, we strongly stimulate people with a (work) disability to apply for this position.

The University of Twente is committed to providing a working environment where everyone is valued, respected, and supported to progress. Our priority is to ensure that no one is disadvantaged based on their ethnicity, gender, culture, disability, LGBTQ+ identities, family and caring responsibilities, age, or religion. We encourage everyone who shares these values to apply.




Your challenge

Water hyacinth is a free-floating plant that has invaded water bodies worldwide. It thrives in nutrient-rich waters and disrupts riparian communities by entangling fishing nets, blocking ship traffic, clogging drains and outlets, and preventing access to water. It may even be associated with disease transmission, by forming a habitat for vectors bearing diseases like malaria or schistosomiasis. But water hyacinth offers opportunities as well as a source of income, or possibly as a predictor of water-related diseases.

The position aims to improve our understanding of links between water hyacinth and human health to increase lake community resilience to water-related diseases. This will be achieved by using state-of-the-science geospatial data analysis coupled with local health-related knowledge and perceptions.

You will work on water hyacinth (WHY) risk assessment based on syndromic surveillance and mapping survey data of lake communities, work on the evaluation of perceived effects of WHY infestation and water quality based on surveys and interviews with partners, and work on systematic investigation of WHY implications on water quality and human health using satellite-based data. Besides that, you will also work on the development of a water-related disease-prediction tool, and on the creation of a smartphone application to educate local communities on the health implications of WHY and water quality. The collection of empirical data at the study site forms an integral part of your research, and you will conduct several research visits to Zimbabwe throughout the project.

You will collaborate with a PhD student working on satellite-based detection and prediction of WHY occurrence (also based at ITC/University of Twente), and with another PhD student focusing on possibilities of WHY exploitation, based at the University of Western Cape in South Africa.



Qualifications and Experience

  • MSc degree in Geo-information sciences, Medical or Health Geography, GeoHealth, (Aquatic) Ecology, or another relevant field
  • Experience with empirical data collection and analysis, using mixed quantitative and qualitative methods including surveys, spot checks, and in-depth interviews
  • Interest in topics such as water, sanitation, hygiene (WASH), water-related infectious diseases and health, biodiversity, (aquatic) ecology, climate change, and water management
  • Ability or willingness to learn to work with different partners and aware of cultural diversity
  • A creative problem-solver with an analytical mind
  • A critical and reflective demeanour
  • Good communication skills
  • Proficiency in written and spoken English
  • Love to apply your skills to improve the lives of people affected most by pollution and climate change
  • Some affinity with Zimbabwe and southern Africa is an advantage


  • An inspiring multidisciplinary, international and academic environment. The university offers a dynamic ecosystem with enthusiastic colleagues in which internationalization is an important part of the strategic agenda
  • Full-time position for 4 years
  • A professional and personal development programme within Twente Graduate School
  • Gross monthly salary of € 2,770.- in the first year that increases to € 3,539.- in the fourth year
  • A holiday allowance of 8% of the gross annual salary and a year-end bonus of 8.3%
  • Excellent support for research and facilities for professional and personal development
  • A solid pension scheme



For more information about the position, you are encouraged to contact Dr Marloes Penning de Vries (email: You are also invited to visit our homepage.

Please submit your application before November 25, 2023. Your application should include:

  • A motivation letter (maximum 2 pages of A4), emphasizing your specific interest, qualifications and motivation to apply for this position
  • Curriculum Vitae (including a list of grades of your BSc and MSc education)
  • A short description (150 – 250 words) of your MSc research

1st round interviews are tentatively scheduled for the last week of November. A possible 2nd round interview will be scheduled when needed.

  • A total of 41 holiday days per year in case of full-time employment
  • Excellent working conditions, an exciting scientific environment, and a green and lively campus




The University of Twente




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