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PhD student to investigate controls on microbial chitin turnover in sediments 100%

ETH Zürich

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PhD student to investigate controls on microbial chitin turnover in sediments 100%

The Environmental Microbiology groupat the ETH Zurich’s Institute of Biogeochemistry and Pollutant Dynamics in the Department of Environmental Systems Science is a highly interdisciplinary research laboratory that examines controls on the presence, abundance, community composition, and metabolism of microorganisms in aquatic sediments and the Earth’s crust. We are currently looking for a
PhD student to investigate controls on microbial chitin turnover in sediments
Chitin isthe second most abundant biopolymer on Earth after cellulose, and the most abundant biopolymer in aquatic systems, yet little is known about the fate of chitin in sediments. Given the vast amounts of chitin that are produced annually by the biosphere, and the importance of aquatic sediments as the biggest carbon sink on Earth, an integrated understanding of chitin preservation and degradation in sediments is necessary. This project will provide first insights into the size of the global sedimentary chitin sink by quantifying the chitin content in surface and subsurface lake and marine sediments across a wide range of geographical locations. These global patterns in the lateral and vertical distribution of chitin in sediments will produce important insights into the variables that control whether sedimentary chitin is preserved over geologic time or microbially broken down to the greenhouse gasses CO2 and methane over shorter time scales. Targeted in vitro and in situ experiments will then be used to investigate the controls on microbial chitin degradation and identify key microbial chitin degraders in surface and subsurface sediments. This will lead to crucial new insights into the physiologies of the uncharacterized majority of microorganisms that inhabit anoxic sediments worldwide. This project will combine a range of geochemical and microbiological methods. Geochemical assays will include HPLC-PAD, GC, GC-IRMS, IC, and colorimetry. Microbiological techniques will include epifluorescence microscopy combined with Raman spectroscopy and optical tweezers for single cell isolation, fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH), DNA and RNA stable-isotope-probing (SIP), flow cytometry, and next generation sequencing of barcoded 16S rRNA genes, metatranscriptomes, and single-cell genomes to determine the identities and metabolic genes of unknown chitin-degrading microorganisms. By combining a highly interdisciplinary approach with cutting-edge technologies to study the fate of a globally important biopolymer in sediments, this study will significantly advance our understanding of the global carbon cycle.
We are looking forhighly motivated candidates with a background in one or more of the following areas: (1) aquatic biogeochemistry, (2) organic geochemistry, (3) use of molecular biological tools to study microbial communities, (4) enrichment/cultivation of microorganisms, (5) bioinformatics for the analysis of large gene sequence data sets, and (6) statistics for the analysis of multivariate environmental data sets. The ideal candidate will enjoy spending time in the field and working as part of a multi-disciplinary research team, and have an interest in designing experiments under conditions that are close to natural conditions. The ability to scuba dive will greatly benefit planned in situ experiments.
For more informationabout the position please contact Prof. Mark Lever at mark.lever@usys.ethz.ch(no applications) and visit our website www.envmicro.ethz.ch.

We are looking forwardto receive your online application until including (1) a cover letter (2 pages maximum) stating the (a) motivation for applying to this position, (b) research interests, (c) research background, (d) general goals and reasons for pursuing a career in science, and (e) names and email addresses of two potential referees, (2) a curriculum vitae (incl. publications, if relevant), and (3) English-translated transcripts. Please address it to: ETH Zurich, Mr. Olivier Meyrat, Human Resources, CH-8092 Zurich. Reviews of applications will start November 15, 2016. The position will be filled no later than summer 2017.

Applications via email cannot be considered.

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