PhD position on Clumped isotope fingerprints in the N2O biogeochemical cycle (48 month)

Updated: 2 months ago

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The Laboratory for Air Pollution / Environmental Technology has an opening for a

PhD position on Clumped isotope fingerprints in the N2O biogeochemical cycle (48 month)


Nitrous oxide (N2O) is the third most important greenhouse gas emitted today. Its sources are disperse and highly variable, which makes source studies and thus mitigation challenging. Measuring the doubly substituted, or “clumped”, isotopes of N2O will add new and unique dimensions to our ability to fingerprint and constrain the N2O biogeochemical cycle.

Empa is at the forefront of clumped isotope research by mid-IR laser spectroscopy. Within this SNSF funded project you will explore, how different N2O clumped isotope signatures reflect changes in substrate identity and reaction conditions. You will collaborate with a postdoc, who will mainly work on the advancement of our recently developed laser spectrometer for simultaneous analysis of four singly substituted and three clumped N2O isotopocules in gas samples.

We are looking for a highly motivated PhD student with a Master in chemistry, environmental sciences or a related discipline.

Your tasks

  • Study temporal trends in singly and doubly substituted N2O isotopocules for prominent microbial and abiotic production pathways. Work includes cultivation of pure cultures in batch and chemostats.
  • Derive isotope fractionation factors and develop a framework to interpret singly and doubly substituted N2O isotopocules.
  • Characterise and validate the analytical platform in proof-of-concept experiments (e.g. Knudsen diffusion) in collaboration with the postdoc working on the project.
  • Present the scientific results at project meetings, conferences and in publications.

Required qualifications

  • Master's degree in chemistry, environmental sciences or a related discipline.
  • High affinity for analytics and hands-on laboratory work.
  • Interest in data analysis using MATLAB or R.
  • Self-motivated and responsible personality.
  • Fluency in English is required; basic knowledge of German is a plus.

The main work will be carried out at Empa Dübendorf under the supervision of Dr. Joachim Mohn. The PhD supervisor is Prof. Moritz F. Lehmann at University of Basel, where the PhD student will be enrolled. Microbial studies will be conducted in collaboration with his group Aquatic and Isotope Biogeochemistry. For mathematical modelling of isotope fractionation in biochemical kinetics, a research stay at University of Sydney with Prof. F. Maggi is foreseen.

We are offering a multifaceted and challenging project with the potential to provide breakthrough results, in a modern research environment with excellent infrastructure.

Appointments can start as soon as possible, preferably before summer 2022. All applications received before 15 February 2022 will receive full consideration.


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