Soil organic matter is one of the most important components regulating the transfer of nutrients in terrestrial ecosystems. An innate constituent of soil organic matter is that it contains carbon, nitrogen, sulfur and phosphorus. However, our understanding of how phosphorus transfers through soil organic matter remains limited because information on the chemical nature of soil organic phosphorus remains incomplete. It is thought that a portion of this could be comprised of phosphomonoesters (R1-C-OPO3, where R1 is an organic moiety) contained in polymeric structures of high molecular weight material.
The Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) is funding a PhD project to investigate the chemical nature of organic phosphorus in soils. This will involve understanding the molecular weight distribution of organic phosphorus in soil extracts and its chemical nature. The project will provide new insight on the diversity and quantitative determination of soil organic phosphorus, particularly those of: inositol phosphates, nucleic acids, phospholipids, phosphonates and ‘unknown’ phosphomonoesters. The project will involve the use of some of the most advanced and high-resolution equipment/techniques at the ETH Zürich, including: nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and high-performance liquid chromatography.
SNSF is looking for a highly motivated PhD candidate with the necessary skills to plan and carry out tasks independently. The candidate will be required to travel to national and international workshops/conferences, contribute to group activities, work in an interdisciplinary team, and publish research findings in internationally peer-reviewed journals.
Applicants must have received a Bachelor degree in one of the following or related disciplines: chemistry, earth, environmental or agricultural science, and also a Master’s degree in one of the following or related disciplines: earth, environmental or agricultural science. It is desirable the candidate has prior experience in soil organic matter, phosphorus biogeochemistry, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, or chromatographic techniques. The candidate requires proficiency in written and spoken English.
The PhD candidate will be based at the Research Station Lindau-Eschikon campus of the ETH Zürich, and also work at the Hönggerberg campus of the ETH Zürich. The position is limited for 3 years. The position is able to commence as soon as possible.
Picture credit: Mikael Damkier