PhD fellowship in Volatile Organic Compound exchange in freshwater ecosystems

 PhD fellowship in Volatile Organic Compound exchange in freshwater ecosystems

Department of Biology
Faculty of SCIENCE

University of Copenhagen


A 3-year PhD position on exchange of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in freshwater ecosystems is offered at the Department of Biology, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. The position will be based at the newly established center of excellence (Center for Volatile Interactions, VOLT) funded by the Danish National Research Foundation. Start date is April 1, 2024 or as soon as possible thereafter.

The successful candidate will join the Center for Volatile Interactions. The Center is housed in Universitetsparken, Copenhagen, where we have laboratory facilities and state-of-the-art instrumentation for analyses of volatile compounds, molecular analyses of microbial community structure and activity, as well as climate chamber facilities for incubation studies. We offer creative and stimulating working conditions in a dynamic, collaborative, and international research environment. VOLT aims to unravel biological processes producing and consuming VOCs. Our main focus is on understudied, volatile-producing and consuming organisms and environments, such as soil, cryptogams, freshwater, seawater, and glacial ice environments, as well as plant leaf and rhizosphere microbial communities. Our research encompasses experimental work in laboratory and in the field and includes rate measurements, experiments with stable isotopes, and molecular analyses to assess volatile production/consumption processes and to identify the microbial organisms involved.


The project

This PhD position will assess VOC exchange in lakes and possibly other freshwater ecosystems. VOC production and consumption rates will be sought linked to environmental conditions and community dynamics in bacterio- and phytoplankton. These may be assessed in situ as well as under controlled conditions in incubation studies. Floating chambers with semi-automated VOC sampling setups will be used to assess VOC exchange at water-air surfaces. VOCs will be measured using proton transfer reaction-time of flight-mass spectrometry (PTR-TOF-MS) and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). Activity and composition in plankton will be measured by isotope and molecular sequencing techniques. The PhD candidate will be supervised by Prof. Riikka Rinnan and Prof. Lasse Riemann from VOLT.

The PhD student will participate in field work at Lake Geneva in an international team with main collaborators Associate Prof. Michael Steinke from University of Essex, UK and Prof. Isabelle Laurion from INRS, Canada, and other field work will likely include Danish lakes. The PhD project can also include collaboration with Prof. Jukka Pumpanen, University of Eastern Finland, within a consortium assessing VOC emissions from northern rivers.


Who are we looking for?

We are looking for an enthusiastic and ambitious candidate with an MSc degree in biology/ecology/ microbiology, geosciences, chemistry or similar fields obtained before the initiation of the PhD position. Experience with limnology, gas exchange measurements, VOC analytical techniques, isotope labelling, aquatic microbial ecology, molecular biology or metabolomics is an asset. Fluency in written and spoken English language is a requirement. We also expect you have a curious mindset and good interpersonal skills. The main criterion for selection will be the research potential of the applicant; i.e. scientific publication(s) will be a strong asset.


The PhD programme

Qualifications needed for the regular programme
To be eligible for the regular 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 project, e.g., biology, microbiology, ecology, or molecular biology. 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 in the PhD programme

  • Carry through an independent research project under supervision
  • Complete PhD courses corresponding to approx. 30 ECTS
  • 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

Application and Assessment Procedure

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

Please include

  1. Application letter describing your motivation and research interests (max. one page)                          
  2. Curriculum vitae including information about your education, experience, language skills and other skills relevant for the position (max. 2 pages)
  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. List of publications
  5. Abstract or short summary of the MSc thesis
  6. Contact details of two references


Application deadline:

The deadline for applications is January 3rd 2024, 23:59 GMT +1.

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


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. The assessor will conclude whether each applicant is qualified. The assessed applicants will have the opportunity to comment on their assessment. You can read about the recruitment process at


For specific information about the PhD fellowship, please contact Professor Riikka Rinnan,

General information about PhD study at the Faculty of SCIENCE is available at the PhD School’s website:

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.


Riikka Rinnan


Application deadline: 03-01-2024
Employment start: 01-04-2024
Department/Location: Department of Biology

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