PhD candidate in plant root processes (M/F)

Reference : ERIN-2016-056

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 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 root water and nutrient uptake, this PhD project will investigate costs related to carbon investment into roots and returns in terms of water and nutrient uptake under different moisture and soil mechanical conditions, explicitly taking into account energy expenditure for mechanical work done by roots on the soil.




The candidate will construct and test measurement setups and conduct experiments on root and shoot growth, nutrient and gas exchange, accompanied by model simulations to interpret the results. For the monitoring and visualisation of root growth, the candidate will conduct part of the experiments on the premises of international collaborators in Germany/Sweden/UK. The experimental work will be accompanied by physically-based modelling of root water and nutrient uptake and soil mechanics during root growth. This will likely comprise the use of existing models as well as own model development.

Ideally, the candidate holds a Master in biological or environmental science, geo-ecology, or a related discipline, has an interest in plants and soil-vegetation interactions, no fear of Physics, Mathematics 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.  FZ Jülich, ETH Zurich) for field work and exchange of theoretical/technological know-how will be arranged according to needs and opportunities. For the growth experiments, up to three stays per year of one week duration at FZ Jülich are envisaged

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 on 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
  • 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
  • Practical skills with soil sample preparation are an asset


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


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Dr habil. Laurent PFISTER