PhD Student in Environmental Research

The Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) with its 1,100 employees has gained an excellent reputation as an international competence centre for environmental sciences. We are part of the largest scientific organisation in Germany, the Helmholtz association. Our mission: Our research seeks to find a balance between social development and the long-term protection of our natural resources.

The project “Integrity of nuclear waste repository systems – Cross-scale system understanding and analysis – ICross” is an initiative of the Helmholtz Association to solve urgent questions related to the future safe disposal of radioactive waste in subsurface systems. The current project aims at defining biogeochemical processes which may affect the integrity of the repository. In addition to other criteria, these will be finally used to assess the safety of a radioactive waste repository over a time scale of hundred thousands of years. The current project will investigate in detail the biogeochemistry of metal corrosion processes expected to take place in a repository in deeper geological clay strata. The focus will be microbial-mediated iron corrosion processes taking place under anoxic conditions. Direct electron uptake and scavenge of hydrogen by sulfate-reducing and methanogenic microorganisms will be investigated under in situ-related conditions. We plan to conduct experiments with corroding methanogenic and sulfate-reducing microbial cultures to explore limiting factors of microbial activity in such repositories. In addition, the current project will address the biochemistry of iron, sulfur and carbon cycles in deeper clay sections that may affect the integrity of a nuclear waste repository. Work with radioactive material is not part of the project.

PhD position (m/f/x)

Subject: Biogeochemistry of iron corrosion in deeper geological clay sections

working time: 65% (25,35 hours per week), limited to 3 years; Continuous application until the position is filled.

Your tasks:

  • Preparation and microscopic analysis of biofilms on iron or mineral surfaces by electron- and He-ion microscopy
  • Analysis of the attachment of model cultures at iron surfaces by various microscopic techniques (see ProVIS
  • Electron-dispersive X-ray spectroscopic analysis of iron surfaces and mineral precipitates. Surface analysis and single cells in biofilms with high-resolution imaging technologies ( nanoSIMS or ToFSIMS or Electron microscopy)
  • Work with model sulfate reducing and methanogenic corrosive cultures, aiming at understanding the mechanism of electron uptake from iron. Specific tasks include cultivation on steel coupons, physiology experiments, analysis of the formed biofilm by high-resolution imaging technologies, genome and proteome analyses.
  • Molecularbiological characterization of biofilms on iron surfaces
  • Stable isotope probing (proteins, DNA) to analyze structure, function and activity of iron oxidizing biofilms corroding iron surfaces
  • Experimental work with partners in a subsurface laboratory in Mt. Terri (Switzerland)
  • Cooperation within the ICross project with partners from the GFZ German Research Centre for Geoscience and from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf with regard to potential biogeochemical processes in nuclear waste repositories in the deep subsurface.

Your profile:

  • Master’s degree in Biology, Microbiology, Chemistry, Biochemistry or related study programs
  • Excellent English speaker (working language of the project)
  • Interest in biogeochemistry of iron corrosion and microscopic techniques (see ProVIS
  • Interest in interdisciplinary collaboration in larger project

We offer:

  • Top level interdisciplinary research at a research centre which enjoys an excellent reputation within Germany as well as internationally
  • Excellent technical facilities
  • Work in inter-disciplinary and multinational teams
  • Excellent links to national and international research networks
  • Support and optimal training courses by our graduate school (HIGRADE)
  • Remuneration in accordance with the TVöD public-sector pay grade 13 (65%)

Equal opportunities are an integral part of our personnel policy; we therefore particularly welcome applications from qualified women. Severely disabled persons are given priority where applicants are equally qualified.

Your contact for any questions you may have about the job:
Dr. Hans-Hermann Richnow,

Dr. Florin Musat,

Dr. Matthias Schmidt,

Dr. Carsten Vogt,

Closing date for applications:

Place of work: LeipzigPlease use our online application system for your application.

More information about jobs at the

Helmholtz-Zentrum für Umweltforschung GmbH – UFZ
Permoserstraße 15
04318 Leipzig, Germany