PhD candidate for the Sustainability in Biosystems and Sustainable Plant Protection Programs

 |  01.06.2022

IRTA is currently seeking an enthusiastic and motivated PhD candidate to join the team of our Research Programs of Sustainability in Biosystems and Sustainable Plant Protection. We invite applications from ambitious candidates with relevant research experience and passion to conduct research and innovation activities on the valorization of organic fertilizers and enhancement of soil functions through novel fungalbased biofertilizers.

  • Supervisor/s: Dr Francesc Prenafeta and Dr Carme Biel
  • Job location: IRTA Marimon / IRTA Cabrils
  • Full-time position (37.5 h/week)
  • Terms of appointment: The duration of the PhD Candidate contract will be for one year, extendible by yearly periods to a maximum of (3) years.
  • Salary: Salary: The financial remuneration will be €1,236.39/gross per month (€17,309.45/gross per annum) for the first and second years. For the third year, it will be €1,324.10/gross per month (€18,545.84/gross per annum) which will be subject to the corresponding withholdings, pursuant to prevailing regulations, and to the collective employment agreement of IRTA.
  • Employee Benefits: 22 vacation days, 3 days of family & work conciliation, 45h of personal days, Friday afternoon off, Compressed Summer schedule from 15/06 to 15/09, Conciliation schedule.

Deadline for application: 13/06

Tasks and Responsabilites:

This PhD thesis will study and validate new added-value biofertilizers manufactured from organic wastes and by-products from the agri-food sector, inoculated with fungi known as dark septate endophytes (DSE). Such novel biofertilizers may contribute to reduce the dependence on the use of mineral fertilizers and pesticides and the associated environmental emissions, they might improve soil health and quality, including an increase in soil organic carbon (SOC), while maintaining and even favouring increasing crop productivity. However, little is known on the biodiversity, ecophysiology, and potential applications of DSE, which will be the main research topics of this dissertation.

In order to achieve the research objectives, the candidate will be responsible for planning a research strategy and perform the necessary laboratory and field experiments in order to:

  • Isolate and characterize a DSE strain collection with suitable biofertilizer traits. This will require the
    development of specific isolation methods, molecular identification, and physiological tests in the lab.
  • Select DSE strains that can viably be inoculated and thrive on different organic fractions (e.g., compost and digestate), and in combination with other beneficial soil microorganisms, such as arbuscular mycorrizal fungi (AMF).
  • Produce selected biofertilizers and validate their performance through assays on model horticultural crops.
  • Gain a deeper understanding of the interaction between the inoculated DSE and AMF, the rhizosphere autochthonous microbial populations, and the host plant.
  • Study the nutrients’ dynamics (N and P) and determine the C sequestration potential associated with the application of fungal-based biofertilizers.
  • Present and discuss the obtained results in accordance with the existing literature, and justify the main achievements, shortcomings, and remaining challenges.
  • Write the main research results in at least four scientific articles to be published in indexed peer-reviewed journals.

Required qualifications and experience

Candidates must hold one of the following degrees: Biology, Biotechnology, or Agronomy.

a) A Master’s in Soil Science/Microbiology or Plant Physiology, or similar.

b) To be in a position to access a doctoral program according to the requirements of Catalan universities, e.g. accrediting between 60 and 120 ECTS credits at the official university master’s degree level or equivalent.

The candidate must not have a PhD.

Desirable requirements

  • Laboratory experience in environmental chemistry and/or microbiology.
  • Experience in research planning and implementation.
  • Basic knowledge of bioinformatics and/or statistical methods.
  • Good communication skills.
  • Driving license
  • Languages
  • Proficiency in English
  • Catalan and Spanish are valued

Application process

If you wish to be considered for this position, please, apply via our Recruitment Platform to the job post with reference CPI1522 and upload your CV and motivation letter. All information will be treated in the strictest confidence.