Überlandstrasse 133
8600 Dübendorf
8600 Dübendorf
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Eawag, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, is an internationally networked aquatic research institute within the ETH Domain (Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology). Eawag conducts research, education and expert consulting to achieve the dual goals of meeting direct human needs for water and maintaining the function and integrity of aquatic ecosystems.
PhD Student Position in Synthetic Microbial Ecology
The goal of the PhD project is to understand why toxin-producing cyanobacterial species sometimes have a growth advantage over non-toxin-producing species, and thus form harmful cyanobacterial blooms (cyanoHABs) in lakes. To address this question, this PhD project will construct synthetic microbial communities consisting of toxin- and non-toxin-producing cyanobacterial species and identify environmental conditions that select for toxin-producing species. The project will also assess the effects of predation and facilitation on the relative fitness of toxin- to non-toxin-producing species. The experiments will be complemented with simple mathematical models of cyanobacterial population dynamics in the presence or absence of predators and facilitators.

The selected PhD candidate willparticipate in a collaborative, cross-disciplinary project involving four groups in ecology, microbiology, environmental chemistry, and dynamical systems theory, to study the temporal and biological processes leading to the emergence of cyanoHABs. The project aims to understand the ecological and evolutionary mechanisms triggering cyanoHABs in lake ecosystems, and develop predictive models. The PhD student in synthetic microbial ecology will be responsible for collecting data on interactions between toxin- and non-toxin-producing cyanobacterial species in order to better understand, model and forecast community dynamics and cyanoHAB events.

The duration of the PhD position will be 4 years. The PhD degree will be awarded by ETH-Zurich. The candidate will be based in the Microbial Community Assembly Group at Eawag in Dübendorf, supervised by Dr David R. Johnson. The project is funded in collaboration with the groups of Dr Francesco Pomati, Dr Elisabeth Janssen, and Rudolf Rohr. A total of three PhD students, two Research Assistants and one Postdoc will be hired together as a cluster for this project. The PhD candidates will benefit from close collaboration with the whole project team, including the PIs’ groups and external collaborators. The international and cross-disciplinary nature of this synergistic project will be ideal for promoting skill acquisition, independent thinking and future scientific career development of the student.

We are looking for a highly motivated person with interests in experimental microbial ecology and a desire to integrate principles from the field of synthetic biology into ecological research. The project is cross-disciplinary and would benefit from a creative and open mind. At least 80% of the work will be experimental, while the remaining 20% will employ mathematical models.

The successful candidate is expected to hold an MSc degree in microbiology, ecology/evolution, or engineering, have demonstrated skills in scientific communication, and has a willingness to engage with collaborators from a wide variety of disciplines (ecology, chemistry, theoretical biology). First experiences with computer programming, environmental microbiology, and microbial ecology/evolution are valuable assets. Oral and written fluency in English is required.

Eawag is a modern employer and offers an excellent working environment where staff can contribute their strengths, experience and ways of thinking. We promote gender equality and are committed to staff diversity and inclusion. The compatibility of career and family is of central importance to us. For more information about Eawag and our work conditions please consult and Eawag is located within the Zürich metropolitan area, and the city of Zürich is continuously ranked among the top cities in the world for quality of life and is within close proximity to the Swiss Alps.

The review process of candidates will start on 23 August 2021, therefore submission is encouraged by 22 August 2021. Application should include a cover letter with a concise statement about your previous research experiences, your vision for the future and your motivation to work on this project (2 pages maximum). Additional a curriculum vitae including (if applicable) the list of publications, copies of your academic qualifications, and names and contact information of 2-3 academic references (please do not include letters with the application). The preferred start date will be late 2021 / early 2022. Pre-submission inquiries are welcome.

For further information, please contact Dr David R. Johnson

We look forward to receiving your application. Please send it through this webpage, any other way of applying will not be considered. A click on the button below will take you directly to the application form.
Eawag: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology