PhD in plant water transport processes (M/F)

Reference : ERIN-2018-001

Type: PhD Student
Contract type: Fixed term contract
Duration: 12 months (+24 months + potentially 12 months extension)
Place: Belvaux



The Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) is offering a fully paid PhD candidate position in the framework of a newly funded ATTRACT project: “Water and vegetation in a changing Environment” (WAVE,

This position is envisaged to start before 1st August 2018. The PhD candidate will be part of the Environmental Sensing and Modelling (ENVISION) Unit at the Department of Environmental Research and Innovation (ERIN) at LIST and will work in the Catchment and Eco-Hydrology (CAT) research group.

PhD project context

Environmental change can be observed at different spatial and temporal scales and encompasses various system properties, such as climate, land use, topography and soil properties. The WAVE project aims to improve our understanding of the interactions between vegetation and the water balance in ecosystems, in order to enable better predictions of some of the consequences of land use and environmental change for both ecosystem services and water resources.
To elucidate the physical and biological trade-offs related to plant water transport and storage, this PhD project will investigate carbon costs related to the construction and maintenance of xylem and supporting tissues, and associated water transport and storage capacity including its vulnerability to hydraulic failure.

Specific objectives of this PhD project will include:

1. Quantifying constraints and carbon costs related to xylem water transport.
2. Assessing the effect of temperature on water transport capacity.
3. Investigating the importance of tissue water storage as buffer for pressure drops and peak water demand.




The candidate will devise an apparatus for rapid measurements of xylem conductivity and combine field work, lab work and mathematical modelling to establish general relations between sapwood hydraulic conductivity, vulnerability to hydraulic failure and associated biomass to predict optimal wood anatomy features for different environments. The project will leverage on existing collaboration with partners in Switzerland (ETH, WSL).

Ideally, the candidate holds a Master in biological or environmental science, geo-ecology, or a related discipline, has an interest in plants and fluid dynamics, no fear of Physics, Maths and programming, and is highly motivated to pursue rigorous approaches to find definitive answers to scientific questions.


  • No restrictions apply as to the nationality of the candidates
  • Candidates may not have received a doctorate prior to their application to this position
  • Candidates shall be available for starting their position no later than 1st August 2018

Place of employment and main place of work

  • Primary supervisor at LIST: Dr. S. Schymanski
  • Degree-awarding institution: University of Luxembourg
  • Primary work location:  Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST)
  • Duration and location of secondment/s: Temporary stays with one of the collaborators in the WAVE project (e.g.  ETH Zurich, WSL) for field work and exchange of theoretical/technological know-how will be arranged according to needs and opportunities

Application procedure

The application can be submitted via LIST’s job portal: If there are any questions regarding the procedure please contact our HR office ( The application must include:

  • A motivation letter oriented towards the preferred position and experience
  • A current CV, which includes full contact details
  • Two reference letters or full contact details of the two referees
  • A copy of master (or similar) degree that allows for the enrolment in a doctorate degree

The main criterion for selection will be the existing skills, knowledge and research career potential of the applicant, match with the project, and fulfilment of the above mentioned qualifications. Candidates from all backgrounds are encouraged to apply.

LIST is an equal opportunities employer.

All open positions are published and recruitment is performed according to international best practices. All PhD candidates are joining LIST under an employment contract for the full duration of their PhD project.
The WAVE project subscribes to the principles of research integrity within the framework of the FNR funding scheme (FNR Research Integrity Guidelines). These rules rely on the European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity, the Singapore Statement on Research Integrity and the Montreal Statement on Research Integrity.





  • Master (or similar) in environmental science/engineering, geo-ecology, plant biology, or a related discipline
  • Prior exposure to fluid dynamics problems
  • Excellent skills in scientific writing and presenting

Required Seniority

  • High motivation to perform rigorous research and collaborate in an international setting
  • Ability to critically evaluate scientific publications
  • Any experience with laboratory and/or field measurements and experiments involving plants is also an asset


  • Programming skills are an asset (e.g. Python, R, Fortran, Matlab, Mathematica)
  • Quantitative data analysis skills


  • Excellent skills in speaking, reading and writing about science in English


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Dr habil. Laurent PFISTER