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Microbial technologies for converting P-loaded Fe(III)oxides

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Jonathan Lloyd (University of Manchester, UK)

Co-supervisor: Prof. Dr.AntonioDelgado (Universidad deSevilla, Spain), Dr. Andreas Voegelin (EAWAG, Switzerland)

Employer: University of Manchester, UK

Project description: This project is part of the European H2020 Marie Sklodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network P-TRAP (Preventing Phosphorus Input to Surface Waters – New Concepts in Trapping, Recycling and Management). P-TRAP tackles two urgent interlinked global problems: Potential shortages of phosphate for producing agricultural fertilizers and the decline of surface water quality upon excess phosphate input. P-TRAP targets the P flux from artificially drained agricultural areas and the internal P load of lakes. By this, P-TRAP aims at intercepting the undesired flux of phosphate from agricultural systems into surface waters and developing a phosphate recycling strategy.

The project of ESR 5 will focus on the development of novel biotechnological routes for the production phosphate-containing agricultural fertilizers. In this project the ESR will work on microbial-based processes for the bioconversion of P-loaded Fe(III) oxides to the readily bioavailable Fe(II) phosphate vivianite. To achieve this, the research programme will optimise both phosphate sorption to Fe(III) oxides, and the subsequent bioconversion to bio-vivianite using appropriate P fertilisers, microbial inocula and bioreactor systems; where possible waste or recycled starting materials will be used. Additional context will be obtained through collaboration with industrial partners where the effectiveness of bio-vivianite as a P fertiliser will be assessed. Approaches employed will include microbiological techniques (including genomic tools where appropriate), biomineral synthesis and characterisation, biogeochemical analyses and synchrotron spectroscopy. The project will be performed in close collaboration with UK and international partners and will involve secondments at academic and commercial partners in the P-TRAP project consortium, including laboratories in Switzerland and Spain.

Qualifications: We seek an enthusiastic PhD student holding a BSc or MSc degree (at the start of the contract) with appropriate background knowledge in environmental sciences, earth sciences and/or (environmental) microbiology, and with a strong passion for geomicrobiology and biogeochemistry. You have a solid knowledge of microbial/biogeochemical processes in aquatic and terrestrial environments, and an interest in cross-disciplinary environmental science.

You approach scientific problems with determination and are eager to develop multidisciplinary skills. You must be willing to travel abroad for secondments and measurement campaigns, and to present your research to an international research community. As this project requires close collaboration within the consortium, candidates are expected to be excellent team players. You also have excellent written and spoken English skills.

According to EU eligibility criteria, researchers may be of any nationality, BUT must be be within the first four years (full-time equivalent) of their research career and may not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in The UK for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to the starting date of the fellowship.

Terms of employment: You will be offered a full-time position at first for one year.  With good performance this will be extended to a total period of four years, with specific intent that it results in a doctorate within this period. The gross annual salary will be competitive and include benefits offered to employees at the University of Manchester which are outlined at: https://www.manchester.ac.uk/connect/jobs/benefits-working-here/.

The School of Earth and Environmental Sciences is strongly committed to promoting equality and diversity, including the Athena SWAN Charter for gender equality in higher education. The School holds a Bronze Award which recognises their good practice in relation to gender; including flexible working arrangements, family-friendly policies, and support to allow staff to achieve a good work-life balance. We particularly welcome applications from women and other under-represented groups for this post. Appointment will always be made on merit. For further information, please visit http://www.sees.manchester.ac.uk/about-us/athena-swan/.

The University will actively foster a culture of inclusion and diversity and will seek to achieve true equality of opportunity for all members of its community.

About the organisation: The University of Manchester is the largest university in the UK and employs >10,000 staff and serves >30,000 students (>10,000 of whom are Ph.D. students) in over 50 departments and institutes. The University of Manchester is committed to delivering high quality research with impact to inform teaching to develop the next generation of leaders around the world, and is consistently ranked among the top global universities (29th in the 2019 QS World University Rankings). The University of Manchester is proud of its focus on social responsibility and widening participation, and its diversity of both staff and students. The School of Earth and Environmental Sciences (SEES) at the University of Manchester supports cross-disciplinary education and research in the geosphere, biosphere, atmosphere and hydrosphere. With a staff of more than 300, SEES offers a vibrant postgraduate research environment, with approximately 200 registered PhD students and an annual intake of approximately 90 taught Masters students per year (the majority to study Pollution and Environmental Control).

You will be working within the Geomicrobiology Group, which focuses on the environmental impact of microbial processes in a wide range of natural and engineered systems. The group is one of the largest of its kind in Europe, consisting of 30+ researchers spanning the geo and biosciences, and benefitting from state of the art laboratories in the Williamson Research Centre for Molecular Environmental Sciences (WRC: https://www.sees.manchester.ac.uk/wrc/).  Regular in house training covers all the major techniques available within the WRC laboratories, including biomineral characterisation, imaging, spectroscopy, anaerobic microbiology and molecular ecology (including DNA sequencing and analysis). Courses are also made available to incoming PhD students including BSc/MSc courses on Geomicrobiology, Organic Geochemistry, Hydrogeology, Mineralogy and Research Techniques, to ensure that our PhDs have a rigorous and comprehensive training. Our “e-Prog” system integrates progression monitoring, skills training provision and management, personal/career development, feedback mechanisms and recording of personal achievement. Students agree targets with their supervisors in progression meetings and the student’s portfolio of skills and record of achievement is documented through the system. We provide transferable skills and career management training through an extensive graduate training programme based on the Vitae Researcher Development Framework (RDF) as well as student-specific training. PhD students participate in a wide range of subject specific summer schools in their early training, before exposure to National and International conferences. SEES students also organise their own annual conference, raising sponsorship, organising the agenda, inviting external keynotes and selecting talk and poster abstracts. All PhD students are encouraged to communicate their science through public engagement and communication events (e.g. Manchester Science Fair, Pint of Science and the AZ Teaching Trust). You will also profit from the training activities within P-TRAP which includes summer schools and other project-wide and local activities.

How to apply: Please upload your application material by using the vacancy portal of the University Utrecht. Evaluations and interviews will begin May 1st of 2019 and continue until the position is filled. The intended start will be September 1st of 2019.

The application material should include a letter of motivation, a curriculum vitae, copies of university and high-school degrees (including grades) and either two letters of recommendation or contact information of two people that can be contacted for reference. The selection procedure will follow the Code of Conduct for Recruitment. Candidates will be selected first on EU eligibility criteria, second on qualifications. The candidate will be selected based on a job-interview with the direct supervisors. For more information on the P-TRAP project, including this and other vacancies, please visit the P-TRAP website.

Contact: Additional information about the vacancy can be obtained from Prof. Jon Lloyd via jon.lloyd@manchester.ac.uk.