PhD position on ‘New bio-based fertilisers from organic waste upcycling’ within the FertiCycle...

Updated: 3 months ago
Job Type: FullTime
Deadline: 12 Apr 2020

The Group of Plant Nutrition at the Research Station Lindau-Eschikon is seeking a PhD student for the project "Determining crop uptake and fate of nutrients from new waste and bio-based fertilisers – the case of phosphorus".

Project background

Do you want to contribute to a more sustainable future and to the development of solutions for the circular economy? The FertiCycle Network is looking for 15 highly talented and motivated candidates for PhD, with the skills, knowledge and enthusiasm to help our network make research breakthroughs on new bio-based fertilisers from organic waste upcycling.

The FertiCycle Network is a multidisciplinary European Training Network (ETN) funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions. The consortium comprises of nine of the world’s leading universities and seven research institutions/agencies/companies in eight European countries ( ).

The PhD position published here is based in the Group of Plant Nutrition of the ETH Zurich, Switzerland.

Job description

The candidate will work with various bio-based fertilizers, as well as soil and plant samples from a long-term field experiment and from incubation and pot studies. These samples will be a model in order to improve the long-term tracking of the fate of fertilizer phosphorus (P) in soil plant systems. The candidate will focus on a novel isotope method, using the stable 18O bound to P, to study the fate of fertilizer P in soil-plant systems. The objective will be to determine isotopic signatures of fertilizers and of P pools in soils that have for years received these fertilizers. The approach will be combined with established P radioisotope techniques and will involve experiments under the controlled conditions of the laboratory and greenhouse. The results will improve our understanding of the forms of P contained in bio-based fertilizers and of the processes that transform these P compounds in the soil. This knowledge is required to predict the availability of bio-based fertilizer P to crops and its potential for P losses to the environment. New and innovative techniques will be used, including isotope methods (18O-P, P radioisotopes), advanced P speciation methods (e.g., 31P-NMR), chemical soil P extraction and possibly microbiological and enzymatic assays.

Workplace: The PhD project will be completed in the Group of Plant Nutrition, Research Station Lindau-Eschikon, ETH Zürich ( ), and includes a secondment at a FertiCycle partner institution.

Start: 1 September 2020 (or upon agreement)

Duration: 3 years

Additional information: The PhD candidate will be supervised by Dr. Astrid Oberson, Dr. Federica Tamburini and Prof Emmanuel Frossard from the Group of Plant Nutrition (ETH Zurich).

Keywords: FertiCycle, phosphorus, isotopes, nutrient recycling, fertilizer, cropping

Your profile

Applicants must have obtained a MSc degree in Soil Science, Environmental Science, Agricultural Sciences or a related field. He/she should bring the following skills and competences: 

  • Experience with isotope methods, chemical and microbiological analysis and treatment of soils, bio-based fertilizers or other type of fertilizers, plant fertilisation trials (pot or field), and a strong understanding of cycling of phosphorus (or other elements) in agroecosystems.
  • Good skills in data management and analysis.
  • Strong communication (written and oral) and interpersonal skills.
  • Experience with cross-disciplinary and/or multi-cultural collaboration will be an advantage.
  • Candidates must fulfill the admission requirements of ETH Zurich: . Notably, it is required that the candidate has advanced written and spoken English.
  • Candidates must fulfill the eligibility criteria of the H2020 MSCA Mobility Rule (see ). Importantly, researchers must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in Switzerland for more than 12 months in the three years immediately before the recruitment date.

ETH Zurich

ETH Zurich is one of the world’s leading universities specialising in science and technology. We are renowned for our excellent education, cutting-edge fundamental research and direct transfer of new knowledge into society. Over 30,000 people from more than 120 countries find our university to be a place that promotes independent thinking and an environment that inspires excellence. Located in the heart of Europe, yet forging connections all over the world, we work together to develop solutions for the global challenges of today and tomorrow.


We look forward to receiving your online application with the following documents:

  • A letter that clearly demonstrates your motivation and suitability for the position
  • A curriculum vitae
  • Full transcripts of your Bachelor and Master degree (or equivalent)
  • A copy of your diploma/MSc thesis
  • Academic certificates
  • Contact information of three referees

Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal. Applications via email or postal services will not be considered.

Further information about the group of plant nutrition can be found on our website . Questions regarding the position should be directed to Dr. Astrid Oberson, email: (no applications).

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