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PhD position: Plant Nutrition/Soil Molecular Ecology

Background:The group of Plant Nutrition of the ETH; in collaboration with the Soil Division of the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) is seeking applicants for a PhD position in Plant Nutrition/Soil Molecular Biology at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich). The candidate will be based at the ETH research station, Lindau.Research project:The PhD work will be part of a new project called "Zinc Biofortification of Wheat through Organic Matter Management in Sustainable Agriculture (ZOMM)”. The goal of the ZOMM project is to understand how organic matter (OM) inputs into soil that are available to farmers (in Switzerland and in India) impact on Zn and Cd accumulation in wheat grains and how OM management can be optimized to increase grain Zn density without increasing the accumulation of Cd and compromising on soil fertility and yield. This project is funded by the Mercator Research Program of the World Food System Center of ETH Zürich.Job description:We are looking for a highly motivated, team-oriented PhD student to work on the ZOMM project. The PhD work will focus on the role of the soil microorganisms (including mycorrhizal fungi) in the bio-mobilization of zinc and cadmium for crop nutrition. To achieve this goal, field trials and pot experiments will be performed and basic and advanced techniques in rhizosphere ecology will be applied. In addition, the PhD student will actively take part in the field surveys in Switzerland and India and in organization of workshops for farmers and stakeholders. The PhD work will be complementary to a second PhD study which will focus on the soil chemical processes of Zn and Cd mobilization. The 2 PhD students will work in close collaboration and will be the main drivers of the ZOMM project.Requirements:Applicants must hold a Master of Sciences (or equivalent) in agricultural sciences, biology or environmental sciences with a very good background in molecular ecology.
  • The university degree must entitle the PhD candidate to start postgraduate studies at the ETH Zurich (see this link for more information).
  • Background in agricultural science and molecular biology/ecology (with techniques such as cloning, PCR, quantitative PCR, pyrosequencing) is expected, with a focus on soil fertility, rhizosphere ecology and soil microbiology and chemistry, and excellent grades.
  • Good statistical background and experience with appropriate software is expected.
  • Experience in conducting field surveys and farmers interviews is an advantage.
  • Experience in working with mycorrhizal fungi is an advantage.
  • Ability and willingness to conduct intensive field work.
  • Excellent skills in written and spoken English are indispensable. Communication in German is a clear advantage.
  • Driving license required for the project (to be obtained before the start of the field experiments in spring 2014).
  • Willingness to travel to India for short stays.
  • Experience in scientific writing and publishing.
  • Interest in organic agriculture.
  • Other qualities required: team oriented, enthusiastic, innovative and accuracy.
Application deadline:1st July 2013 or until the position is filledAdditional information:The PhD student will be supervised by Prof. Emmanuel Frossard from the Group of Plant Nutrition at ETH, and by Dr. Cécile Thonar and Paul Mäder from the FiBL.Salary will be according to ETH standards.For further inquiries please contact Dr. Cécile Thonar ( to apply:Please send your application with 1) letter of motivation, 2) curriculum vitae, 3) list of publications, 4) copy of diploma/MSc thesis including notes and grades, 5) translations of all documents unless they are in German, English or French, and 6) contact information of two persons (including their current e-mail addresses) willing to provide a letter of recommendation. Send application to: Cécile Thonar ( with “ZOMM application” in the subject. 
ETH Zurich - Plant Nutrition Group