Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Swiss PhD Positions in Soil Environmental Chemistry

2 PhD Positions in Soil Environmental Chemistry
Swiss Federal Institute of Technology

We are inviting applications for two PhD student positions in the Institute of Biogeochemistry and Pollutant Dynamics at ETH Zurich. The successful candidates will investigate the physicochemical structure and biogeochemical reactivity of nano-crystalline Fe(III)-(hydr)oxides formed in the presence of natural organic matter. In natural environments, the precipitation of Fe(III)-(hydr)oxides is often influenced by dissolved or particulate organic matter such as humic substances or polysaccharides originating from microorganisms and plants.

The structure and reactivity of such Fe(III)-precipitates containing significant amounts of organic carbon are of fundamental importance for understanding many biogeochemical processes, including contaminant behavior, carbon sequestration, weathering and soil formation. One subproject will focus on the molecular and microscopic level characterization of such precipitates and their interactions with trace metals in abiotic systems. In the other subproject we will study their dissolution behavior in abiotic and biotic systems using Shewanella and Geobacter strains, and track speciation changes of trace metals associated with these solids. Both students will apply state-of-the-art analytical techniques, including synchrotron X-ray absorption spectroscopy. The two sub-projects will be strongly linked and international collaborations are planned.

We are seeking highly motivated candidates with a strong interest in detailed laboratory research. Previous experience in the fields of mineralogy/crystallography, microbiology, and inorganic chemistry would be beneficial. Applicants should hold a MSc degree (or equivalent) in soil chemistry, environmental geochemistry, mineralogy, microbiology or a related basic science discipline. Good knowledge of spoken and written English is essential. Female and male candidates are equally invited to apply. Employment will be according to standard regulations of ETH Zurich (funding secured for 3 years). Start from March 2010 or upon mutual agreement.

Applicants should submit a letter of application, CV, statement of research interests, copy of certificates, and addresses of 2-3 potential referees to Prof. Ruben Kretzschmar, ETH Zurich, CHN F23.1, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland (paper copy by mail or single pdf-file by e-mail to For further details on the project please contact Dr. Christian Mikutta.

Evaluation of applications will start 15.01.2010 until the positions are filled.

More information on our research group can be found at