Lund University, Faculty of Science, Department of Biology

Lund University was founded in 1666 and is repeatedly ranked among the world’s top universities. The University has around 47 000 students and more than 8 800 staff based in Lund, Helsingborg and Malmö. We are united in our efforts to understand, explain and improve our world and the human condition.

Lund University welcomes applicants with diverse backgrounds and experiences. We regard gender equality and diversity as a strength and an asset.

Biology is the broad subject about all living things. It encompasses everything from processes at the molecular and cellular level to global processes at ecosystem level. The subject is divided into a range of sub-disciplines and specialisations. The PhD programme at the Department of Biology includes many of these specialisations, from molecular biology to applied ecology, from viruses and individual cells to evolutionary biology and global biodiversity. Taking on research studies at the Department of Biology generally means focusing on a delimited part of the research area of biology and may include field studies, experiments, theoretical studies, or a combination of these.

Work duties
The main duties of doctoral students are to devote themselves to their research studies which includes participating in research projects and third cycle courses. The work duties can also include teaching and other departmental duties, up to 20%.

Soil microorganisms are responsible for the long-term sustainability of terrestrial ecosystems, due to their role in breaking down organic matter which regulates the soil-atmosphere carbon balance, and the release of plant-limiting nutrients to fuel productivity. Despite the fundamental importance of this decomposition process, it remains unclear how carbon and nutrient mineralization in soils are linked.

The overarching aim of this PhD project is to identify how microbial demand for limiting resources determines the balance between carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus release in soils. The outcome of this project will increase our capacity to predict ecosystem responses to changes in resource availability, as well as how microorganisms may be managed to optimize soil carbon sequestration and fertility. 

In this project, we will interlink the limiting factors for microbial growth with microbial mineralization activities in soil. To do so, we will use state-of-the-art stable- and radio-isotope techniques, including 15N and 33P pool-dilution to measure rates of gross nitrogen and phosphorus mineralization, and 3H and 14C incorporation methods to measure bacterial and fungal growth rates. Soils will be sampled from natural and managed ecosystems, including opportunities to use soils from long-term field experiments. The insights from these ecosystem-level assessments will be validated across natural environmental gradients, and ultimately incorporated into an ecosystem model to evaluate the consequences of microbial resource use for global fluxes of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus.

The project will be laboratory-intensive, with some opportunities for fieldwork. You will also have the opportunity to learn and use the ecosystem model LPJ-GUESS.

The project is suitable for candidates with a background and interest in microbial ecology, ecosystem ecology and biogeochemistry. The project offers excellent opportunities for research and professional development as part of the interdisciplinary research environement Biodiversity and Ecosystem services in a Changing Climate (

Admission requirements
A person meets the general admission requirements for third-cycle courses and study programmes if he or she:

  • has been awarded a second-cycle qualification, or
  • has satisfied the requirements for courses comprising at least 240 credits of which at least 60 credits were awarded in the second cycle, or
  • has acquired substantially equivalent knowledge in some other way in Sweden or abroad.

A person meets the specific admission requirements for third cycle studies in Biology if he or she has passed an independent project (for example a degree project) of at least 30 credits in a relevant subject and have good oral and written proficiency in English.

Additional requirements
The candidate should have:

  • An advanced university degree (MSc or equivalent competence) in Biology, Ecology, Environmental Science, Soil Science, Biogeochemistry, or a closely related area
  • Excellent oral and written proficiency in English
  • Documented research experience (e.g. master thesis or equivalent), preferably related to the project
  • Demonstrated ability to conduct independent work
  • Practical experience of conducting laboratory work, preferably including methods related to the project

In addition to the mandatory requirements, documented experience in the following areas will be considered as strong merits:

  • Experience in using isotope-based methods
  • Knowledge of ecosystem models
  • Practical experience of conducting fieldwork with relevance to the project
  • Experience in data handling and statistical analysis

Assessment criteria
Selection for third-cycle studies is based on the student’s potential to profit from such studies. The assessment of potential is made primarily on the basis of academic results from the first and second cycle. Special attention is paid to the following:

  • Knowledge and skills relevant to the thesis project and the subject of study.
  • An assessment of ability to work independently and to formulate and tackle research problems.
  • Written and oral communication skills
  • Other experience relevant to the third-cycle studies, for example professional experience.

Consideration will also be given to strong collaborative skills, motivation, and independence, and how the applicant, through his or her experience and skills, is deemed to have the abilities necessary for successfully completing the third cycle programme.

Terms of employment
Only those admitted to third cycle studies may be appointed to a doctoral studentship. Third cycle studies at LTH consist of full-time studies for 4 years. A doctoral studentship is a fixed-term employment of a maximum of 5 years (including 20% departmental duties). Doctoral studentships are regulated in the Higher Education Ordinance (1993:100), chapter 5, 1–7 §§.

Instructions on how to apply
Applications shall be written in English and include a cover letter stating the reasons why you are interested in the postgraduate education programme and in what way the research project corresponds to your interests and educational background. The application must also contain a CV (including contact information for references), degree certificate or equivalent, and other documents you wish to be considered (e.g. master thesis).

Type of employment Temporary position
First day of employment According to agreement
Salary Monthly salary
Number of positions 1
Full-time equivalent 100
City Lund
County Skåne län
Country Sweden
Reference number PA2022/634
  • Lettice Hicks, forskare,, +46 46 222 37 63
Union representative
  • OFR/ST:Fackförbundet ST:s kansli, 046-222 93 62
  • SACO:Saco-s-rådet vid Lunds universitet, 046-222 93 64
  • SEKO: Seko Civil, 046-222 93 66
Published 02.Mar.2022
Last application date 12.Apr.2022 11:59 PM CEST

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