A PhD fellowship in Fate of Nanofertilisers in Soils

The Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences (PLEN), University of Copenhagen (UCPH) invites applications for a PhD fellowship in studies on the environmental fate of nanofertilisers in soils with start 1st Aug. 2023 or as soon as possible thereafter. The position is in the Environmental Chemistry group in the Section of Environmental Chemistry and Physics (ECP).

The project
The PhD project is part of a larger Novo Nordisk Fonden research project called BioComFert: Biocompatible nanofertilizers for targeted delivery and programmed release of essential mineral ions in crops, led by Professor Søren Husted at PLEN, UCPH and involving several research groups at UCPH and DTU (DK) and at McGill University (Canada). The overall aim of BioComFert is to develop novel nanomaterials for targeted delivery of nutrients via micro- and nanoporous leaf cuticles to the specific plant tissue and organelles where they are needed. A set of nanomaterials are currently being developed with different nutrient loads (i.e., P, Mn) and surface properties, and their effectiveness tested on different plants, involving nanoscale characterisation tools to monitor entry and delivery pathways of these nanofertilisers, and plant nutritional status.

The aim of this PhD project will be to assess the environmental fate of these nanofertilisers when they end up in the soil. It is very likely that when nanofertilisers are sprayed onto crops, a fraction will enter the soil directly, and others may enter later, e.g., during rainfall/wash-off, or during other climate stresses. Thus, before these newly developed nanofertilisers (NPs) can be applied to crops for real, it is critical to monitor their fate in soil and assess potential losses into the environment. This will include NP mobility studies in model and field test soils, under varied environmental and climate stresses, as well as assessment of NP stability, i.e., dissolution and transformation behaviour, and their ultimate impact on soil biogeochemistry. In BioComFert, a variety of state of the art characterisation tools are being employed and methods develop (e.g., X-ray micro-CT, fluorescence and electron microscopy), and the candidate will be encouraged to make use of these tools and further develop protocols to monitor the fate of NPs in the soils.

Who are we looking for?
We are looking for a highly dedicated and enthusiastic candidate with interest in soil biogeochemistry and nanomaterials and background in environmental sciences, soil sciences, geochemistry or a related field. The project involves extensive laboratory work and characterisation of solids and solutions using various standard but also high-end characterisation tools, so a keen interest for learning and applying state of the art equipment and developing robust laboratory workflow procedures is a must. This project is closely interlinked with other BioComFert PhD and Postdoc fellowships, thus the candidate is expected to interact and communicate regularly with the other fellows and PIs in the project, to report on new results and participate in project discussions.

Our group and research - and what do we offer?
Research in the Environmental Chemistry group is rooted in soil and water biogeochemical chemistry with focus on understanding and quantifying pollutant fate processes at the molecular level. This insight feeds into research and innovation on sustainable pollutant remediation technologies, resource recycling, risk assessment, soil and water regulation, and mechanistic modelling. We have access to advanced infrastructure and equipment required for such studies. There are 4 seniour researchers and around 10 PhD and 1-2 guest students/researchers in the group. We share strong synergies with the research groups in Soil Fertility, Environmental Microbiology, and Plant Nutrition at PLEN, and also extensively collaborate with other universities, industries and regulatory offices in Denmark as well as internationally. Thus, we offer creative and stimulating working conditions in a dynamic and international research environment.

The following links give further information on the research group and section (https://plen.ku.dk/english/research/env_chem_phys) and the department (https://www.science.ku.dk/english/about-the-faculty/organisation/).

Principal supervisor: Assoc. Prof. Dominique J. Tobler, Section of Environmental Chemistry and Physics, PLEN, KU, dominique.tobler@plen.ku.dk, phone+4535325369. 

The PhD programme

Formal qualifications needed for the PhD programme
To be eligible for the PhD programme, you must have completed a degree programme, equivalent to a Danish master’s degree (180 ECTS/3 FTE BSc + 120 ECTS/2 FTE MSc) related to the subject area of the projects. For information of eligibility of completed programmes, see General assessments for specific countries and Assessment database.

Terms of employment in the regular programme
Employment as PhD fellow is full time and for maximum 3 years.

Employment is conditional upon your successful enrolment as a PhD student at the PhD School at the Faculty of SCIENCE, University of Copenhagen. This requires submission and acceptance of an application for the specific project formulated by the applicant.

Terms of appointment and payment accord to the agreement between the Danish Ministry of Taxation and The Danish Confederation of Professional Associations on Academics in the State. The position is covered by the Protocol on Job Structure.

Responsibilities and tasks in the PhD programme

  • Carry through an independent research project under supervision 
  • Complete PhD courses corresponding to approx. 30 ECTS / ½ FTE
  • Participate in active research environments, including a stay at another research institution, preferably abroad
  • Teaching and knowledge dissemination activities
  • Write scientific papers aimed at high-impact journals
  • Write and defend a PhD thesis on the basis of your project

We are looking for the following qualifications

  • MSc degree in environmental sciences, geochemistry, soil sciences or related field
  • Professional qualifications and activities relevant to the PhD project
  • Hands-on training in solid and solution phase analyses
  • Curious and creative mind-set with a strong interest in soil biogeochemistry and nanomaterials
  • Relevant publications
  • Proficiency in spoken and written English

Application and Assessment Procedure

Your application including all attachments must be in English and submitted electronically by clicking APPLY NOW below.

Please include

  1. Your motivation for applying for this PhD project (max. 2 page)
  2. Curriculum vitae including information about your education, experience, language skills and other skills relevant for the position
  3. Original diplomas for Bachelor of Science or Master of Science and transcript of records in the original language, including an authorized English translation if issued in another language than English or Danish. If not completed, a certified/signed copy of a recent transcript of records or a written statement from the institution or supervisor is accepted.
  4. Publication list (if possible)
  5. Contact information for three reference persons

Application deadline
The deadline for applications is Sunday 30th of April, 2023, 23:59 GMT +2.

We reserve the right not to consider material received after the deadline, and not to consider applications that do not fulfill the abovementioned requirements.

Interviews with selected candidates are expected to be held in week 23 or 24 (June 2023). 

The further process
After deadline, a number of applicants will be selected for academic assessment by an unbiased expert assessor. You are notified, whether you will be passed for assessment. The assessor will assess the qualifications and experience of the shortlisted applicants with respect to the above mentioned research area, techniques, skills and other requirements, and the assessor will conclude whether each applicant is qualified. Next, the assessed applicants will have the opportunity to comment on their assessment. You can read about the recruitment process at https://employment.ku.dk/faculty/recruitment-process/.

For specific information about the PhD fellowship, please contact the principal supervisor.

General information about PhD study at the Faculty of SCIENCE is available at the PhD School’s website: https://www.science.ku.dk/phd/.

The University of Copenhagen wishes to reflect the surrounding community and invites all regardless of personal background to apply for the position. 


Part of the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU), and among Europe’s top-ranking universities, the University of Copenhagen promotes research and teaching of the highest international standard. Rich in tradition and modern in outlook, the University gives students and staff the opportunity to cultivate their talent in an ambitious and informal environment. An effective organisation – with good working conditions and a collaborative work culture – creates the ideal framework for a successful academic career.


Dominique Jeanette Tobler


Application deadline: 30-04-2023
Employment start: 01-08-2023
Working hours: Full time
Department/Location: Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences
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