PhD position in Aerosol Microbiome Research

100%, Zurich, fixed-term

We seek to fill a PhD position to study aerosol microbiomes at the land-sea interface along the European coast. The position will be based at ETH Zürich, Switzerland and provides great opportunities to work as part of a European collaborative project and receive interdisciplinary training in ocean-atmosphere research at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel.

Project background

Microbes perform functions essential for diverse ecosystem services and health. They impact key climatological processes such as cloud formation and precipitation in the atmosphere. Atmospheric transport is known to mediate the exchange of microorganisms within and between terrestrial and marine environments. However, airborne microbial communities remain the least studied microbiome on Earth, especially in remote areas such as the open oceans. Processes at the ocean-atmosphere interface are of particular importance, given that they underpin the distribution of airborne marine microbes, which may affect ecosystem structure and health even thousands of kilometres away from their source. To advance our understanding, it is thus essential to establish an inventory of airborne marine microbes and study the factors that shape their diversity, drive their emission, and project their dispersal across space.

Job description

The project aims to:

  1. explore the diversity, function and ecological drivers of airborne microbial communities at the land-sea interface,
  2. to study the aerosolization efficiency of marine and terrestrial bacteria, and
  3. to elucidate long-range microbial exchange and dispersal between ocean, land and atmosphere and thereby help disentangle the origin of airborne microbes. Beyond gaining new insights, the project aims to establish genomic resources for airborne microbes.

The project is part of a large, international research collaboration, which includes the sampling along the European coastline (the TREC expedition) coordinated by the European Molecular Biology Laboratory. The PhD candidate will be part of the Microbiome Research group at the Institute of Microbiology at ETH Zürich, the joint Life Science Zurich Graduate School between the University of Zürich and ETH Zürich, and collaborate with researchers at the Ocean-Atmosphere interactions group at the Weizmann Institute of Science

Your profile

Required qualifications:

  • MSc (or equivalent) degree
  • Basic programming (e.g., Python, R, UNIX/bash scripting) and biostatistical skills
  • Excellent communication, teamwork and organizational skills

The following additional qualifications may be advantageous:

  • Fieldwork experience
  • Familiarity with Next Generation Sequence data analysis
  • Background in microbial ecology, aerosol research or related fields

Your workplace

We offer

You will work within a vibrant, inter-institutional, highly-collaborative research environment with ample opportunities for training, exchange of expertise and networking.

Working, teaching and research at ETH Zurich

We value diversity

In line with our values, ETH Zurich encourages an inclusive culture. We promote equality of opportunity, value diversity and nurture a working and learning environment in which the rights and dignity of all our staff and students are respected. Visit our Equal Opportunities and Diversity website to find out how we ensure a fair and open environment that allows everyone to grow and flourish.

Curious? So are we.

We look forward to receiving your online application with the following documents by August 31st 2022:

  • A cover letter (one page) that outlines your motivation for the position
  • A Curriculum Vitae
  • Names and contact information of two references
  • If applicable, work references and/or other certificates

Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal. Applications via email or postal services will not be considered. Questions regarding the position should be directed to Prof. Dr Shinichi Sunagawa (

About ETH Zürich

ETH Zurich is one of the world’s leading universities specialising in science and technology. We are renowned for our excellent education, cutting-edge fundamental research and direct transfer of new knowledge into society. Over 30,000 people from more than 120 countries find our university to be a place that promotes independent thinking and an environment that inspires excellence. Located in the heart of Europe, yet forging connections all over the world, we work together to develop solutions for the global challenges of today and tomorrow.