Postdoctoral Researcher in Stable Isotope Geochemistry of Groundwater

Aug 31, 2023 21:59:00 GMT+00:00
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We seek a Postdoctoral Researcher for a multidisciplinary project across three groups:

  1. The Surface Earth Evolution (SEE) group in the Department of Earth Sciences at ETHZ is committed to investigate the processes that drive biogeochemical cycles over human to geologic timescales.
  2. The Ruff Lab at the Ecosystems Center, Marine Biological Laboratory (Woods Hole, MA, USA) is driven to investigate the ecology and ecophysiology of microbial communities, with a particular interest in syntrophic metabolisms and mutualistic interactions.
  3. The Kraft Lab at Nordcee, University of Southern Denmark (Odense, Denmark) is dedicated to understand and constrain novel microbial metabolisms using natural samples and laboratory culturing experiments.

Combined, our work intersects traditional fields of Earth science, microbiology, and microbial ecology to holistically study the drivers and impacts of microbial metabolisms on the Earth system. We effectively integrate field-based sample collection and monitoring with lab-based geochemical measurements and numerical models.

Project background

This position is part of the project “Dark oxygen production: Assessing an overlooked microbial process in Earth’s hidden ecosystems” funded through the non-profit Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP). The project aims to discover, constrain, and resolve the controls on novel microbial metabolisms that produce O2 in the absence of oxygenic photosynthesis (so-called “dark oxygen”). Specifically, we will combine biogeochemical, microbiological, and bioinformatics tools to quantify the importance and diversity of dark oxygen metabolisms in a suite of groundwater aquifers. We will use these measurements to better understand oxygen cycling on Earth, both today and throughout geologic history.

Job description

You will be responsible for developing and executing research projects within the context of low-temperature geochemistry, with a focus on oxygen stable isotopes. In particular, you will use cutting-edge methods to investigate the triple and clumped oxygen-isotope signatures of O2 produced by abiotic processes (e.g., water radiolysis) and novel dark oxygen microbial metabolisms (together with the Kraft Lab, SDU). In addition to laboratory analyses, you will participate in field campaigns across Europe and North America to collect groundwater samples for geochemistry and microbiology. Beyond this, there will be opportunities to develop additional projects: depending on the background and interests of the successful applicant, there is flexibility regarding the specific directions of these additional projects.

This position is integral to the research team, which includes 3 postdoctoral researchers across three groups. You will therefore lead these tasks but will be supported by all involved PIs. This multidisciplinary team offers the opportunity to learn, develop, and apply scientific skills beyond traditional isotope geochemistry!

Your profile

Required experience, skills, and characteristics:

  • Ph.D. in stable-isotope geochemistry or related field
  • Experience with field sampling and chemical laboratory analyses
  • Excellent teamwork and communication in a cross-cultural environment
  • History of independently developing and executing research projects
  • Proficiency in English
  • Ability to work independently with flexibility, critical thinking, and a willingness to learn new skills!

Desirable criteria:

  • Experience at the interface of microbiology and isotope geochemistry
  • Familiarity with sampling dissolved gases from natural settings and/or laboratory cultures
  • History and interest in hands-on use and development of isotope ratio mass spectrometry
  • Interest in actively participating in the mentorship of young researchers (e.g., M.Sc. thesis students)

We offer

This Postdoctoral Researcher will be primarily based in the SEE group. We offer excellent, inclusive working conditions, an internationally competitive salary (paid according to ETH standards, including additional child-care support when applicable), and several mentorship and career development opportunities. Our laboratories are located in downtown Zurich and the working language is English. The offered position will last three years (36 months), and there are opportunities to extend this contract by applying for additional funding through postdoctoral fellowships at ETH specifically and in Switzerland in general. The start date will ideally be on or before 1 October 2023 (and the latest 1 January 2024).

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We value diversity

In line with our values, ETH Zurich encourages an inclusive culture. We promote equality of opportunity, value diversity and nurture a working and learning environment in which the rights and dignity of all our staff and students are respected. Visit our Equal Opportunities and Diversity website to find out how we ensure a fair and open environment that allows everyone to grow and flourish.

Curious? So are we.

We look forward to receiving your online application until 31.08.2023 with the documents:

  • Curriculum Vitae including educational history, any publications, awards, etc.
  • Motivation letter (~2 pages) describing your interests, goals, project ideas, and how you see your work fitting into this overall research topic
  • Names and contact details of three references

Shortlisted applicants will be invited for an interview by 22.09.2023.

We exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal. Applications via email or post will not be considered. For more information, please contact Prof. Jordon Hemingway (, department of Earth Sciences.