PhD project offered by the IMPRS-gBGC in

" style="display:none">Anchor
" target="_blank"> , " target="_blank">

Project description

Soils act either as a large source or sink for various trace gases. As such, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) as well as chemically more reactive volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and reactive nitrogen species are known to be produced or consumed within microbial processes. Studies of functional gene expression – as a proxy for microbial activity – and corresponding release rates of trace gases are rare. However, such studies are of great importance to understand the impact of environmental parameters on the microbial processes and thereby on the release of trace gases, respectively. In its final consequence these results can be used as input parameters for modeling to budget the global sources and sinks of trace gases from soils.
The proposed project will address the following research questions:
  1. Can “general profiles” for trace gas release be determined which are dependent on the change in environmental parameters?
  2. Do functional gene expression data correlate with microbial processes and respectively with trace gas release?
  3. How is the release rate for different trace gases changing with soil depth?
In order to address these research questions, the candidate will perform laboratory incubation studies under controlled environmental conditions. As such, various soil temperatures, soil moistures, nutrient concentrations, and mixing ratios of a trace gas can be adjusted. Continuously the mixing ratios of CO2, CH4, N2O, NO, and VOCs will be measured while the environmental parameters are changing. As measurement methods laser absorption spectroscopy (CO2, CH4, N2O), chemiluminescence (NO), and proton-transfer-reaction-mass spectrometry (PTR-MS) will be used. Soil samples from different ecosystems across the world will be analyzed with a focus on samples originating from rainforest and savanna ecosystems from Brazil. Some sub-samples will be sacrificed for functional gene expression analysis. Therefore various qPCR assays for carbon and nitrogen cycling can be applied.

Working group and planned collaborations

The successful candidate will work in the MPI-BGC Department of Biogeochemical Processes (BGP). Collaborations with the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv, Halle-Jena-Leipzig, Germany), Max Planck Institute for Chemistry (Mainz, Germany), Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazonia (IPAM, Canarana, Brasil), Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazonia (INPA, Manaus, Brasil) are highly encouraged.


Applications to the IMPRS-gBGC are open to well-motivated and highly-qualified students from all countries. Prerequisites for this PhD project are

  • a Master’s degree in microbiology, biogeochemistry or other disciplines related to environmental sciences
  • basic knowledge in biogeochemical cycling, enzyme kinetics, biochemistry
  • experience in RNA/DNA extractions, PCR, qPCR
  • bioinformatics and programming skills
  • multidisciplinary scientific expertise, including chemical, physical and biological aspects and methods
  • excellent oral and written communication skills in English

After you have been selected

The IMPRS-gBGC office will happily assist you with your transition to Jena.
The conditions of employment, including upgrades and duration follow the rules of the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science and those of the German civil service. The gross monthly income amounts about 2000 EUR, which will cover all your expenses in Germany.
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.

(a) Online profile of VOCs measured in an incubation experiment; (b) Rainforest ecosystem (ATTO site, Brasil); (c) Desert ecosystem (Taklamakan Desert, Xinjiang, China).
(a) Online profile of VOCs measured in an incubation experiment; (b) Rainforest ecosystem (ATTO site, Brasil); (c) Desert ecosystem (Taklamakan Desert, Xinjiang, China).

>> more information about the IMPRS-gBGC + application