Doctoral scholarship holder Microbial ecology

Updated: 2 months ago

Department: Department of Biology
Regime Full-time

The Department of Biology in the Faculty of Science is looking for a full-time

Doctoral scholarship holder in the field of microbial ecology


Microbial ecosystem functioning at oxic-anoxic interfaces in wetlands

Wetland (freshwater marshes, saltmarshes, mangroves) are highly biodiverse ecosystems, which are inundated by water, either permanently or seasonally, and where oxygen-free processes prevail. Wetlands represent a globally significant pool of soil carbon that has been accumulating for millennia, and are an important sink for carbon dioxide (“blue carbon”). Some of the organic material that is deposited in wetlands is degraded by the ambient microbial community, while some is sequestered. Efficient decomposition is hampered by the lack of oxygen, and micro-organisms living at the oxic-anoxic interface in wetlands have evolved a variety of strategies to overcome this obstacle and effectively decompose organic matter. Recently, new mechanisms have been discovered how microbes can overcome the problem of staying in contact with oxygen while “mining” for electron donors and other resources in anoxic environments. Examples are long filamentous bacteria that are capable of long-distance electron transport as well as fungi that can act as O2 transporting vessels. These mechanisms may be important near the inundation layer as well as at the oxic-anoxic interface around plant roots. Within this project the evolutionary and ecological background of microbial strategies to overcome O2 limitation in wetlands will be studied in detail. The PhD student will explore which evolutionary strategies are used and how they may affect the geochemical cycling of carbon and other elements in peatlands.

Approaches: The microbial ecosystem at the interface of oxic and anoxic layers in wetlands will be studied using the following multidisciplinary approaches: in situ sampling of oxic-anoxic interfaces in various wetlands in Northwestern Europe, laboratory incubations of sediments with controlled oxic-anoxic interfaces, characterization of the pore water and solid phase geochemistry, determination of redox gradients by microsensor profiling, state-of-the-art microscopy, amplicon sequencing of microbial groups/genes, meta-genomics and/or meta-transcriptomics.

  • You will work actively on the preparation and defence of a PhD thesis of Microbial Ecology within the “Global Change Ecology” and “Microbial Systems Technology” Excellence Centres. You will publish scientific articles related to the research project.
  • You will carry out a limited number of teaching and research support tasks for the Department of Biology and Faculty of Sciences (supervision of practical courses, Msc- and Erasmus-students).


  • You hold a Master degree in Biology or Bioscience Engineering.
  • You can demonstrate excellent study results.
  • You have excellent skills in scientific writing in English.
  • Your teaching competences are in line with the University of Antwerp’s educational vision .
  • Your research qualities are in line with the faculty and university research policies .
  • Experience in a subset of the above listed microbial or biogeochemical techniques is an advantage.
  • You act with attention to quality, integrity, creativity and cooperation.

What we offer

  • We offer a doctoral scholarship for a period of two years. Following a positive evaluation, the scholarship can be renewed once for another two-year period.
  • The planned start date is 1 April 2020, or as soon as possible after that date.
  • Your monthly scholarship amount is calculated according to the scholarship amounts for doctoral scholarship holders on the pay scales for contract research staff (Dutch: Bijzonder Academisch Personeel, BAP).
  • You will do most of your work at Campus Drie Eiken in a dynamic and stimulating working environment.
  • Find out more about working at the University of Antwerp here .

Want to apply?

  • You can apply for this vacancy through the University of Antwerp’s online job application platform up to and including 1 February 2021 (by midnight Brussels time). Click on the 'Apply' button, complete the online application form and be sure to include the following attachments: a motivation letter and your academic CV.
  • The selection committee will review all of the applications as soon as possible after the application deadline. As soon as a decision has been made, we will inform you about the next steps in the selection procedure.
  • If you have any questions about the online application form, please check the frequently asked questions or send an email to . If you have any questions about the job itself, please contact Prof. Erik Verbruggen, of prof. Filip Meysman, of +32 494 064 327.

 The University of Antwerp received the European Commission’s HR Excellence in Research Award for its HR policy. We are a sustainable, family-friendly organisation which invests in its employees’ growth. We encourage diversity  and attach great importance to an inclusive working environment and equal opportunities, regardless of gender identity, disability, race, ethnicity, religion or belief, sexual orientation or age. We encourage people from diverse backgrounds and with diverse characteristics to apply.

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