PhD Fellow in Soil Fertility

University of Copenhagen Department of Plant and Evironmental Sciences

PhD Fellow in Optimizing Use and Application Method of Waste and Bio-Based Fertilizers – Plant and Rhizosphere Responses to Fertilizer Placement


Do you want to contribute to a more sustainable future and development of solutions for the circular economy? The Soil Fertility group at Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Science, University of Copenhagen is offering a 3-year PhD scholarship to work on optimising use and application of waste and bio-based fertilisers – plant and rhizosphere responses to fertiliser placement, commencing 1 Sept 2020, as part of the European Training Network ‘New bio-based fertilisers from organic waste upcycling (FertiCycle)’.

Description of the scientific environment

The Soil Fertility research group focuses on soil fertility issues and environmental impacts related to sustainable agriculture with a special focus on nutrient cycling and climate change. Our research aims at a mechanistic understanding of soil nutrient and organic matter dynamics at both the level of micro-scale biogeophysical processes and at eco-system scales, in the pursuit of increased nutrient use efficiency, improved crop productivity and reduced environmental impacts from agriculture in the 21st century.

Project description

The work of the PhD fellow will be part of the EU FertiCycle Network, which is a multidisciplinary European Training Network (ETN) funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and nnovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions. The Ferticycle Network comprises 9 world leading universities and 7 research institutions / agencies/companies in 8 European countries. The FertiCycle Network is currently recruiting 15 highly talented and motivated candidates for PhD studies, with the skills, knowledge and enthusiasm to help our network make successful research breakthroughs on new bio-based fertilisers from organic waste upcycling – the chosen candidate will be collaborating with these colleagues for the coming 3 years.

The PhD project will focus on the formulation of bio-based fertilisers from nutrient rich residuals of manure, urban or bioindustrial wastewater processing or slaughterhouse origin. The central question of the project will be to clarify if such resources may be developed into high-efficiency fertiliser granules or pellets, which can be used for soil under-seed placement in certain crops. The candidate will therefore focus on identifying materials suitable for placement, possible pre-treatments and formulating granules or pellets for bio-based fertiliser placement, and testing how these materials affect plant roots, rhizosphere processes and subsequent plant growth. The result should be increased plant availability of nutrients contained in these products, especially P, in order to facilitate better nutrient recycling and redistribution locally, regionally or even globally.

The PhD student will work with new and innovative techniques to improve solubility and plant availability of nutrients will potentially include chemical treatment and physico-chemical treatment (granulation) allowing placement to increase plant nutrient availability. Plant P and N uptake and use efficiency will be quantified by isotope tracing techniques and effects on plant root development and micronutrient uptake evaluated.

The candidate will also be asked to do secondment (internship as visiting researcher) at one of the other FertiCycle partners for a shorter period of time (1-3 months).

Principal supervisor will be associate professor Jakob Magid ( ), and co-supervisor professor Lars Stoumann Jensen ( , coordinator of the FertiCycle network), both at Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences.

Job description

Your key tasks as an Early Stage Researcher (ESR) member of the Ferticycle Network and as a PhD student at the SCIENCE PhD school are to:

  • Perform independent scientific research, as well as collaborate with other members of the international FertiCycle research network.
  • Participate in international secondments (internship as visiting researcher) to other organisations in the FertiCycle network.
  • Attend the FertiCycle training programme as well as other PhD courses
  • Deliver written reports of your research on a regular basis.
  • Write and publish scientific articles related to your research project and write your PhD thesis.
  • Support the valorization of research results into tangible deliverables.
  • Participate in scientific meetings and conferences to present your research to the scientific community.
  • Actively participate in outreach activities aimed to promote your own scientific research as well as the FertiCycle network activities to a wider audience.
  • Contribute (limited) to teaching activities, as part of your own career training.

Formal requirements
Applicants for this position should have:

  • An MSc degree in Soil Science, Environmental Science, Agronomy or similar.
  • Sufficient academic skills and background to successfully complete a doctoral degree, and ability to fulfil the admission requirements of the SCIENCE doctoral program at University of Copenhagen.
  • Experience with chemical and microbiological analysis and treatment of soils, organic wastes and other type of residues.
  • Experience with plant fertilisation trials (pot or field) and methods for determination plant nutrient availability and fertiliser value for crops will be an advantage.
  • Good skills in data management and analysis.
  • Strong communication (excellent in written and oral English) and interpersonal skills.
  • Experience with cross-disciplinary and/or multi-cultural collaboration will be an advantage.

Eligibility criteria

In order for applicants to be eligible for this position, they have to fullfil certain criteria:

  • H2020 MSCA Mobility Rule: applicants must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the country of the host organisation (in this case Denmark) for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately before the recruitment date (start of contract). Compulsory national service, short stays such as holidays, and time spent as part of a procedure for obtaining refugee status are not taken into account.
  • H2020 MSCA eligibility criteria: Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) must be, at the date of recruitment by the host organisation, in the first four years (full-time equivalent research experience) of their research careers and have not been awarded a doctoral degree. Full-Time Equivalent Research Experience is measured from the date when the researcher obtained the degree entitling him/her to embark on a doctorate (either in the country in which the degree was obtained or in the country in which the researcher is recruited, even if a doctorate was never started or envisaged).

Terms of employment

The position is covered by the Memorandum on Job Structure for Academic Staff. The position is full-time (37 h/w) for 3 years.

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.

The starting salary is currently at a minimum 328.355 (approx. €43,750) including annual supplement (+ pension at a minimum DKK 53,360). Negotiation for salary supplement is possible.

Application Procedure

The application, in English, must be submitted electronically by clicking APPLY NOW below.

Please include

  • Cover Letter, detailing your motivation and background for applying for this specific PhD project, incl. any earlier study or work experience relevant for the topic.
  • CV
  • Diploma and transcripts of records (BSc and MSc)
  • Other information for consideration, e.g. list of publications (if any),
  • Full contact details (Name, address, telephone & email) of 1-3 professional referees

The University wishes our staff to reflect the diversity of society and thus welcomes applications from all qualified candidates regardless of personal background. Note that for the EU H2020 MSCA program certain elegibility criteria apply, see above.

The deadline for applications is 14 April 2020, 23:59 GMT +2

After the expiry of the deadline for applications, the authorized recruitment manager selects applicants for assessment on the advice of the Interview Committee. Afterwards an assessment committee will be appointed to evaluate the selected applications. The applicants will be notified of the composition of the committee and the final selection of a successful candidate will be made by the Head of Department, based on the recommendations of the assessment committee and the interview committee.
The main criterion for selection will be the research potential of the applicant and the above mentioned skills. The successful candidate will then be requested to formally apply for enrolment as a PhD student at the PhD school of Science at University of Copenhagen.
Recruitment will adhere to the principles of the European Charter for Researchers and Code of Conduct for Recruitment. You can read more about the recruitment process at University of Copenhagen at
For more specific information about the PhD scholarship and the contents of the FertiCycle project, please contact the principal supervisor Associate Professor, Jakob Magid, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, E-mail,  Direct Phone: +45 2482 4668.
General information about PhD programmes at The PhD school of SCIENCE is available at
Further information on the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences is linked at
More info on the FertiCycle European Training Netwok can be found at (from 5 March 2020).


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: 14-04-2020
Employment start: 01-09-2020
Working hours: Full time
Department/Location: Department of Plant and Evironmental Sciences