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Doctoral student position in Soil Science

100%, Zurich, fixed-term

The Plant Nutrition group at the Department of Environmental Systems Science is looking for a dedicated, well-organized, communicative, and highly qualified doctoral student to carry out the project described below. The project is planned to start on the 1st of October 2021 and will last 4 years.

Job description

Project title: “How do soil process domains determined by age and water balance constrain phosphorus speciation in soils?” (acronym P-Matrix)

Project desciption: This project aims at understanding the relationships between soil phosphorus (P) forms and soil development. More specifically you will identify and quantify P forms in the A and B horizons of soils developed on basalt on the Hawaiian archipelago, where soil age varies from 100’000 to 4’000’000 years and rainfall varies from 300 mm to 4’000 mm. The main methods you will use will be X-ray powder diffraction (XRD), P K-edge X-ray absorption near edge structure (P K-edge XANES), 31P nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), and isotope exchange kinetics. This research will be the first to describe organic and inorganic P species simultaneously over such a broad range of soil age and rainfall on a given parent material. During the project you will collaborate with partners from Switzerland and the United States, who have outstanding expertise in Hawaiian ecosystems and soil characterization.

Additional information: You will be supervised by Professor Dr Emmanuel Frossard from the Group of Plant Nutrition (ETH Zurich) and Professor Dr Ruben Kretzschmar from the Group of Soil Chemistry (ETH Zurich). Your salary will be in accordance with ETH Zurich regulations.

Workplace: You will be based in the Group of Plant Nutrition, Research Station Lindau-Eschikon, ETH Zürich (Homepage – Plant Nutrition | ETH Zurich), and you will do intense field work in Hawai’i.

Keywords: Pedogenesis, basalt, phosphorus, XRD, P K-edge XANES, 31P NMR, isotope exchange kinetics.

Start: 1st of October 2021

Duration: 4 years (100% position)

Application deadline: June 30th, 2021 (or until a suitable candidate is found)

Your profile

You must have received a university degree or equivalent (MSc or similar) with a background in soil, agricultural, or environmental sciences (or a related discipline). A good knowledge in the application of spectroscopic techniques to soil is highly desirable. It is required that you have an advanced knowledge of written and spoken English.

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.
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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 Homepage – Plant Nutrition | ETH Zurich. Questions regarding the position should be directed to Professor Dr Emmanuel Frossard ( for any informal enquiries (no applications).

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