Job offer available in Scotland PhD Studentship – Linking the molecular composition with peatbog status at University of Edinburgh

3 year fully funded PhD studentship available to start 1st September 2017 under the supervision of Dr Nicholle Bell, Dr Mat Heal, School of Chemistry, University of Edinburgh and Dr Margaret Graham, School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh.

Project background – Peatlands provide vital ecological services from carbon storage to flood alleviation. However human activities, such as forestation, as well as climate change has led to global peatland damage; over 80% of the UK’s peatlands alone are damaged. In order to recover their crucial functions peatlands require restoration measures.

The Bell group are examining the restoration of damaged peatlands on the molecular level using Nuclear Magnetic Resonance spectroscopy and Fourier Transform Ion Cyclotron Resonance Mass Spectrometry. These two techniques are classed as the most important for the characterisation of the molecular composition of organic matter rich soils and waters.

The major emphasis of the proposed PhD project is on combining the bulk and molecular level information to explore key indicators for assessing the peatland status, predicting its fate and helping to inform peat restoration strategies. This research will involve sampling of gas, soil, pore water and vegetation from sites across Scotland, including the world’s largest blanket bog situated in the Flow Country. Peat samples will be analysed via variety of techniques including state-of-the-art solid and liquid state spectroscopy. Each individual technique will produce a different style of data of varying size, therefore procedures to sort and combine the data sets are required. Once the data is combined different statistical methods will be investigated to create a peatland assessment tool. In order to fulfil the requirements for the project we are seeking to recruit a highly motivated PhD student with skills in either analytical chemistry, statistical analysis or environmental science to join our research team.

Requirements This award suits a candidate with background and aptitude for chemistry, statistical analysis or environmental science. The position is open to those with informatics, mathematics, and analytical, synthetic or environmental chemistry or ecology degrees and can be tailored to suit exceptional candidates. This is a 36 month fully funded PhD studentship available to UK/EU citizens (no UK residency requirement). The successful candidate should have or expect to obtain a 1st class or upper 2nd class degree. Some knowledge of programming is essential for handling large data sets. Prior knowledge of statistical methods is desired but not essential at this stage.  Courses in statistics for large environmental data sets will be available via the IIES (University of Eastern Finland). The project offers the opportunity to become expert in an array of techniques suitable for a wide range of scientific career pathways.

Application process – You can apply for studentship by 31st May 2017.

In the first instance, informal enquiries (accompanied by a CV) should be directed to Dr Nicholle Bell (

Formal applications are made through the University’s EUCLID system, as outlined here: