PhD position on microplastic effects in the rhizosphere of crops

Jülich Research Centre (FZJ)

Jülich, Germany

Work group:

IBG-3 – Agrosphäre



Area of research:

PHD Thesis



Job description:

The Institute of Bio- and Geosciences – Agrosphere (IBG-3) conducts research to improve our understanding of biogeochemical and hydrological processes in terrestrial systems. Specific studies focus on environmental controls on biogeochemical cycling of elements, the analysis of exchange processes and nutrient dynamics in the soil-plant-atmosphere continuum. A combination of experiments, modelling and innovative observation technologies is used to bridge the gap between model, process and management scale. Its research contributes to the sustainable and resource-conserving use of soils and water and to the quantification of the effect of climate and land use change on terrestrial ecosystems.


Your Job:


The work will be conducted in the project “µPlastic - Understanding and mitigating microplastic effects on rhizosphere processes and interactions in agricultural soils”, which is part of the program of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) “Plant roots and soil ecosystems: Importance of the rhizosphere for the bioeconomy” in the framework of the “National Research Strategy Bioeconomy 2030”.The µPlastic project aims at elucidating and quantifying key physical, microbiological and biogeochemical processes associated with microplastic pollution of the soil and their effect on crop growth, water uptake as well as carbon and nitrogen turnover in the rhizosphere. We will conduct a series of experiments in pots and newly developed rhizotron systems to study the effects of microplastic particles on root development and performance as well as on microbial abundance and actitivity.You will be responsible for conducting pot and rhizotron experiments using non-destructive and destructive techniques, such as microdialysis, magnetic resonance imaging, and infrared laser absorption spectroscopy in combination with stable isotope labelling to quantify root water and nutrient uptake, root exudation and rhizosphere soil carbon and nitrogen turnover as a function of microplastic material and load, crop species and root developmental stage. Furthermore, also the fate of the microplastic particles (degradation) will be followed with electron microscopy and other techniques.Your tasks in detail:



  • Set-up and conduction of pot and rhizotron experiments

  • Quantification of root water uptake and nitrogen turnover with H218O and 15NO3 labelling

  • Quantification of root exudation and carbon turnover with 13CO2 labelling

  • Perform magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of root systems

  • Perform electron microscopy of microplastic particles to follow their potential degradation

  • Present and publish results at national and international conferences and peer reviewed journals

Your Profile:

  • Masters degree in bio- or geosciences, environmental sciences, chemistry or similar subjects
  • Knowledge of plant and soil sciences
  • Experimental skills, ideally laboratory and greenhouse experience
  • Ability to work independently as well as collaboratively in an international, interdisciplinary team across institutes
  • Very good communication and organizational skills
  • Very good command of the English language

Please do not let lack of some skills make you feel you are ineligible for the position. If some skills are missing, they can generally be taught.

Our Offer:

  • Competent and interdisciplinary working environment, as well as an excellent framework in the areas of experiments and modelling.
  • Vibrant international work environment on an attractive research campus, ideally situated between the cities of Cologne, Düsseldorf, and Aachen
  • Attendance at national and international conferences and workshops
  • Possibility for further scientific and technical training through international experts
  • Exceptional research infrastructure
  • Contract for the duration of 4 years
  • Pay in line with 75% of pay group 13 of the Collective Agreement for the Public Service (TVöD-Bund). Pay higher than the basic pay may be possible
  • Information on employment as a PhD student at Forschungszentrum Jülich can be found here www.fz-juelich.de/gp/Careers_Docs

Forschungszentrum Jülich promotes equal opportunities and diversity in its employment relations.We also welcome applications from disabled persons.


Please apply via recruiter’s website.

Quote Reference: 2020D-046