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Open Positions 1
Time Span 01 Dec 2019 for 3 years
Application Deadline 27 Aug 2019
Financing yes
Type of Position
  • PhD - Individual Supervisor
  • PhD - Doctoral Programme
Field of Research
  • Mathematics / Natural Sciences
  • Veterinary Medicine/Agriculture, Forestry, and Nutritional Sciences
Subjects Soil science, (Soil-, Clay-) Mineralogy, Geology, Biogeosciences, Environmental Sciences or related natural sciences
Description In cooperation with the Friedrich Schiller University Jena, the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry houses a unique and flexible research program that grants German and foreign students a broad selection of learning opportunities while still maintaining a research focus.
The International Max Planck Research School for Global Biogeochemical Cycles (IMPRS-gBGC) offers a PhD program specializing in global biogeochemistry and related Earth system sciences.

The PhD program
Successful applicants will be part of the IMPRS-gBGC. Research focuses on the distribution of elements essential to life and the climate among the components of the Earth system and the interaction between biosphere, atmosphere, lithosphere, land and oceans.

Besides doing research for their PhD project, PhD candidates also benefit from a three-month external research visit, specialised courses in e.g. statistics, Earth observation, modelling and analytical techniques, as well as in soft skills. The IMPRS-gBGC is thus an excellent starting platform for a successful career in a field related to global biogeochemical cycles and Earth system science.

Subtitle: A pilot study in Cambisols developed from siliciclastic rock at AquaDiva CZE (Würzbach, Thüringen) and Spodosols developed from Granites, Fichtelgebirge).

Project description
In forest ecosystems under low to medium pH conditions, secondary hydrous Al-oxides like boehmite, gibbsite, diaspore, or nordstrandite and aqueous Al complexes are of paramount importance. These Al phases are involved in several environmentally relevant processes such as pH buffering at low pH, formation of organo-mineral mixed phases, soil-organic-matter dynamics, transformation of organic matter, as well as incorporation of inorganic contaminants. Another important aspect of Al speciation concerns the toxicity of Al to plants (catchword term “forest decline”). The formation and transformation of (hydrous) Al oxides is known to be favoured in acidic soils with coniferous vegetation. Yet, these environments also exhibit high amounts of mobile humified organic matter that may interact with the Al-phases to form organo-mineral colloidal phases that are involved Al-export and the processes of podsolization. Despite its importance in such environments, (hydrous) Al oxides have been rarely studied due to analytical difficulties: they are small and usually display poor crystallinity. Therefore, only a few Al phases have been doubtlessly identified in soil. A better understanding of their formation and subsequent ageing is thus mandatory to rate their role for major biogeochemical cycles of e.g. carbon and nitrogen. We intend to combine well defined incubation experiments with the investigation of natural hydrous Al-oxides sampled from acidic topsoil and subsoil horizons collected from Cambisols developed from siliciclastic rock at AquaDiva CZE (Würzbach, Thüringen, Germany) and Spodosols developed from Granites (Fichtelgebirge, Bavaria, Germany). The samples will be analysed with bulk and spatially resolved spectroscopic techniques. Laboratory weathering, transformation and release experiments with different Al-silicates as precursor minerals a will be run in the presence or absence of microbial consortia obtained from forest floor and soil extracts by incubation experiments. The newly formed Al phases will be studied by Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (Al-NMR), atomic force microscopy (AFM); electron micro probe analysis (EMPA), scanning and transmission electron microscopy (SEM/TEM), X ray diffractometry (XRD) and XAS (depending on successful beamtime acquisition). The lab synthesized phases will then be compared with hydrous Al phases and coatings formed in soil under natural conditions.

Possible collaborations
Age of organic matter of mineral-organic mixed phases will be studied together with Sue Trumbore.
Possible Collaborations beyond AquaDiva/IMPRS/Jena Experiment:
Synchrotron based XAS-spectromicrosopy may be studied together with Jürgen Thieme (NLS2, Brookhaven, USA).

Applications to the IMPRS-gBGC are open to motivated and qualified students from all countries. Prerequisites for this PhD project are:
* a Master’s degree in Biogeoscience, Geoecology, Soil Mineralogy, Mineralogy, Soil Science, Environmental Geology, Clay mineralogy or related
* Sound education in soil science or mineralogy with special emphasis in soil mineralogy
* Knowledge in lab experimentation, spectroscopic and spectromicroscopic techniques or synchrotron based X-ray absorption spectroscopy is welcome
* Excellent oral and written communication skills in English

The Max Planck Society seeks to increase the number of women in those areas where they are underrepresented and therefore explicitly encourages women to apply. The Max Planck Society is committed to increasing the number of individuals with disabilities in its workforce and therefore encourages applications from such qualified individuals.

Working Language
  • English
  • German
Language of Dissertation
  • English
  • German
Required Documents
  • CV
  • Reports, certificates
  • Letter of Motivation
  • Others : two references
More Information


Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry and Friedrich Schiller University Jena • International Max Planck Research School for Global Biogeochemical Cycles (IMPRS)
Dr. Steffi Rothhardt
Hans-Knöll-Str. 10
07745 Jena

Phone: 00493641576260