PhD position in Soil Science – How plant-microorganism-soil interactions in the Rhizosphere determine trace gas fluxes and the fate of root derived carbon in soils:

A 3-year PhD fellowship is available in the Department of Geosciences & Natural Resource Management University of Copenhagen, Denmark, with an expected start 1 June 2023 or as soon as possible thereafter. The PhD is fully funded by the Novo Nordisk Foundation.

About “RootCarb”
Soils not only provide the basis for human life, soils are also important to meet climate mitigation and biodiversity goals at regional, and even global scales. To reach these goals soil organic carbon plays a central role. For the storage and stability of soil carbon, plants and their roots are an important regulating factor. This regulation is based on the complex interplay of plant roots, soil microorganisms and mineral soil particles. Although we know of the importance of roots, we still do not fully understand how plant root traits affect the stability of soil carbon and the release of greenhouse gases.

We also still lack a deeper understanding of the underlying biogeochemical processes between plant roots, microorganisms and soil particles that foster the persistence of originally plant root derived soil organic matter. The 5-year project “Understanding the regulation of soil carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emissions by plant-root-microorganism interactions” is funded by the Novo Nordisk Foundation in the frame of the Ascending Investigator program, led by PI Assoc. Prof. Carsten W. Mueller. ‘RootCarb’ will provide both, the fundamental scientific understanding of how plant roots regulate soil carbon storage and greenhouse gas emissions, and practical proxies to be used in future agricultural management to sustain healthy and productive soils.

About your part in the project
In your project part you will target the fate of plant root derived organic matter as a function of plant-microorganism-soil interactions. Thus, together we will aim at better understanding the interactions of plant roots and their traits, microbial activity and the physical soil structure that regulate the fate of persistent soil organic matter. The work will range from highly controlled experiments at lab scale to field trials in which we will study root-microorganism-soil interactions in more detail. You will apply stable isotope tracing, classical soil biogeochemical methods as well as state-of-the-art spectromicroscopic imaging techniques to underpin quantitative data with in-situ process scale observations.

You will put a special emphasize on developing experimental approaches that allow to directly study the interaction of plant roots, microorganisms and soil minerals at the microscale. Your major work will focus on tracing plant derived organic matter from the plant via root and microorganisms into different soil organic matter pools and its fate (trace gas measurements) in combination with the assessment of microbial community structure and activity.

The position is available for a 3-year period and your key responsibilities as a PhD student at University of Copenhagen are:

  • Manage and carry out your research project according to the above research tasks
  • Write scientific articles and your PhD thesis
  • Disseminate your research at the institute, on international scientific conferences and to the broader general public
  • Attend PhD courses (30 ECTS)
  • Conduct secondment at a foreign research institution
  • Work for the department (primarily teaching activities)

As a PhD student you will be part of the “Soil Science” research group led by Associate Professor, Carsten W. Mueller, Geography Section, University of Copenhagen,, +45 35334125.

Requirements for applying for the position
To be eligible for the PhD program, you must have completed a degree program, 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. soil science, geo-ecology, biology, biogeochemistry, forest science, agronomy or a closely related field. For information of eligibility of completed programs.

We are seeking a highly motivated and ambitious individual with good interpersonal and communication skills. We are looking for and will prioritize applicants with combined experiences of:

  • Good knowledge on soil biogeochemical processes with special emphasize on rhizosphere processes and soil organic matter cycling
  • Practical experience in planning and conducting lab and/or field experiments including the study of plant-soil systems
  • Experience with trace gas measurements and chemical soil analyses including soil organic matter studies
  • Experience with soil microbiological techniques and imaging approaches are a merit
  • Applicants must be fluent in both written and spoken English to a level sufficiently high for communication and dissemination at an academic level.

For specific information, please contact Assoc. Prof. Carsten W. Mueller, Department for Geoscience and Natural Resource Management,

About the host institute
University of Copenhagen is the largest research and education institution in Denmark. Internationally, the University is highly competitive and is ranked as one of the leading universities globally with the most recent Shanghai rankings placed the University as No. 30 worldwide and No. 6 in Europe. This is also reflected by its membership of the prestigious International Alliance of Research Universities.

Your workplace will be the Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management (IGN), which conducts research and education on the past, present and future physical, chemical and biological environments of the Earth and their interactions with societal and human systems to provide graduates and research in support of sustainable future solutions for society.

The department has strong experience in interdisciplinary collaboration. You will further be affiliated with the Section for Geography at IGN and be a member of the Terrestrial Ecosystem Analysis research group in this section. The research group focuses on a deeper understanding of physical, geochemical and biological processes in terrestrial ecosystems.  

Terms of employment
Employment as PhD fellow is full time and for maximum 3 years. The employment is conditional upon your successful enrollment 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.

The terms of employment and salary are in accordance with Memorandum on Job Structure for Academic Staff. Terms of appointment and payment accord to the agreement between the Ministry of Finance and The Danish Confederation of Professional Associations on Academics in the State, and according to the rules and regulations laid down by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action European Training Network.

The PhD study must be completed in accordance with The Ministerial Order on the PhD program (2013) and the University’s rules on achieving the degree. Salary, pension and terms of employment are in accordance with the agreement between the Ministry of Finance and The Danish Confederation of Professional Associations on Academics in the State.

More information
For further information about the position, applicants should contact principal supervisor Associate Professor, Carsten W. Mueller, Geography Section, University of Copenhagen,, +45 35334125.

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

The application must include the following documents in PDF format:

  • Motivation letter of application (max. one page)
  • A short scientific introduction to the topic and research of this PhD project, including your suggestions for methods (max. one page, cited literature excluded)
  • Curriculum vitae including information about your education, experience, language skills and other skills relevant for the position
  • Master of Science diploma and transcript of records. If not completed, a certified/signed copy of a recent transcript of records or a written statement from the institution or supervisor will do.
  • 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.
  • Publication list (if possible)

As a prerequisite for a PhD fellowship employment, your master’s degree must be equivalent to a Danish master’s degree.
Please note that we might ask you to obtain an assessment of your education performed by the Ministry of Higher Education and Science.

Application deadline:
The deadline for applications is 27 November 2022, 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 above mentioned requirements.

The University wishes our staff to reflect the diversity of society and thus welcomes applications from all qualified candidates regardless of personal background.

Interviews for the position will be held in January 2023 in person or via Skype, Zoom, or equivalent.

The further process
After the expiry of the deadline for applications, the authorized recruitment manager selects applicants for assessment on the advice of the hiring committee. All applicants are then immediately notified whether their application has been passed for assessment by an unbiased assessor.

The assessor makes a non-prioritized assessment of the academic qualifications and experience with respect to the above-mentioned area of research, techniques, skills and other requirements listed in the advertisement.

Once the assessment work has been completed each applicant has the opportunity to comment on the part of the assessment that relates to the applicant him/herself.

The applicant will be assessed according to the Ministerial Order no. 242 of 13 March 2012 on the Appointment of Academic Staff at Universities.

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

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.


Application deadline: 27-11-2022

Employment start: 01-06-2023

Working hours: Full time

Department/Location: Institut for Geovidenskab og Naturforvaltning

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: