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Designing pre-treatment and anaerobic digestion of biowastes for higher crop nutrient utilisation

Applications are invited for a PhD fellowship/scholarship at Graduate School of Science and Technology, Aarhus University, Denmark, within the Agroecology programme. The position is available from 1 August 2020 or later.

Designing pre-treatment and anaerobic digestion of biowastes for higher crop nutrient utilisation

Research area and project description:
The candidate will work with various inputs of wastes and crop residues to biogas plants and with different pre-treatment of inputs. Anaerobic digestion (biogas) is expected to be important in future green energy supply. Simultaneously, anaerobic digestion can help to improve the recycling and utilization of nutrients in wastes. However, there is a need for more knowledge about how waste quality, pre-treatment and process conditions affect the utilization of nutrients in the produced digestate in plant production.

The chosen candidate will therefore focus on innovative pre-treatment methods and on process conditions for increased fertilising and economic value. The objective will be to i) identify and describe important pre-treatment factors and their effects on digestate quality as fertilisers, and ii) determine effects of digestion parameters (temperature, retention time) and interaction with biowaste quality on final digestate quality, potential ammonia emissions and nutrient fertiliser value. Different selected bio-wastes (manures, crop residues, green waste, food waste) will be anaerobically digested in continuous flow pilot digesters and a) relationships between initial chemical composition and composition after digestion will be studied with focus on the proportion of inorganic N form. b) Effects of waste pre-treatment (e.g. extrusion, high temperature/pressure treatment) and digestion process parameters (temperatures and retention times) on change in composition after digestion will be investigated. c) Net release of inorganic N and potential ammonia emission after application of treated and untreated wastes to soil will be investigated in micro-plot field studies and pot experiments.

The project is part of the FertiCycle Network, a multidisciplinary European Training Network (ETN) funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions. The consortium is comprised of 9 world leading universities and 7 research institutions/agencies/companies in 8 European countries.

Qualifications and specific competences:
Applicants need to have a MSc degree in Soil Science, Environmental Science, Agronomy or similar.

Experience with chemical analysis of soils and plants and experience with treatment of organic wastes and other types of residues, and with plant fertilisation trials (pot or field) will be an advantage.

Good skills in data management and analysis.

Strong communication (written and oral) and interpersonal skills.

Experience with cross-disciplinary and/or multi-cultural collaboration will be an advantage.

Important note: the applicant must not have resided or carried out her/his main activity (work, studies, etc.) in Denmark for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately before the recruitment date. 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 (this is a requirement in European Training Networks).

Place of employment and place of work:
The place of employment is Aarhus University, and the place of work is Research Centre Foulum, Blichers Allé 20, DK-8830 Tjele, Denmark. 

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).

Applicants seeking further information are invited to contact:

Senior researcher Peter Sørensen, E-mail: ps@agro.au.dk, telephone +45 25125632


Application procedures

Before you apply

Information and attachments:

Please be aware that you must have all relevant appendices, attachments, addresses for referees, etc. ready when you apply, as the entire application must be uploaded to the system in one go.

Documentation of language skills:

The English language requirement at GSST is comparable to an “English B level” in the Danish upper secondary school (“gymnasium”).

English language qualifications comparable to an “English B level” are documented by one of the following tests:

  • TOEFL test, minimum score: 560 (paper-based test) or 83 (internet-based test). The paper-based test must have a “total score”. From the August 2019 call, GSST will no longer accept the paper-based test.
    Aarhus University does not accept the TOEFL ITP test. Aarhus University’s TOEFL code is 8935. Ask the test centre to send your test results to Aarhus University, in order to enable verification of your test results.
  • IELTS (academic) test, minimum average score: 6.5 points
    If you are applying for a 3+5 or 4+4 programme and therefore simultaneously must be enrolled in a Master’s degree programme, please be aware that the B2 level IELTS test is no longer accepted. For admission in a Master’s degree programme, a result of at least 6.5 points equivalent of C1 level is required as stated in the General admission requirements.
  • Cambridge English Language Assessment:
    Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency (CPE)
    Cambridge English: Certificate of Advanced English with grade A,B or C (CAE)
    Cambridge English: First Certificate  with grade A (FCE)

When to take the test and how to upload the documentation:
The test result must not be more than two years old at the time of application.

The English language test should be taken before applying for admission and uploaded under “language skills documentation” in the online application form.

It is possible to apply for admission before you have taken the test. In this case documentation stating that you have signed up for a test (please state expected submission date) must be uploaded. If the test result is not part of the original application the test result is to be sent to sphd@psys.au.dk no later than one month after the application deadline.

The following applicants are exempted from documenting their English qualifications/taking a test:

  • Applicants with citizenship from the following countries: Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States, or one of the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway or Sweden).
  • Applicants with a Bachelor’s or Master’s programme completed in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, or the United States. In this case, please upload your Bachelor’s or Master’s diploma under the section ”Language skills documentation”.
  • Applicants with a Bachelor’s or Master’s programme completed at a Danish university for which the requirement was English B level at the time of admission. In this case, please upload your Bachelor’s or Master’s diploma under the section ”Language skills documentation”.

The programme committee may request further information or invite the applicant to attend an interview.

How to apply:

1)      Find the application form:
Go to www.phd.scitech.au.dk/for-applicants/apply-here - Note, the online application system opens on 1 March 2020.
Choose May 2020 Call with deadline 1 May 2020 at noon (11.59 AM CEST).
You will be directed to the call, and must choose the programme 'Agroecology'.

2)      Fill in the following information:

  • Personal information
  • Academic background
  • Admission
  • Financing (if any)
  • Study: In the dropdown menu you must choose the project: "Designing pre-treatment and anaerobic digestion of biowastes for higher crop nutrient utilisation"
  • Source (how you found out about the call)

Next to some of the information fields you will find a number. Click on the number to get further directions on how to fill in the information field/what information is needed.

3)      Application attachments:
Please be aware that you cannot submit the application if one or several of these documents have not been uploaded.

If you wish to upload more than one document under each section, you must scan/merge all documents into one large PDF file and upload this. Please note that we reserve the right to remove scientific papers, large reports, theses and the like. Instead you can indicate a URL where the information is available.

All information in the application must be in English or Danish, preferably English.

As a minimum all applications must include (pdf-files only, max. 20 MB, no zip):

  • One reference (template for references)
  • Curriculum vitae,
  • Motivation (max. 1 page)
  • Transcripts, grade point averages (weighted and unweighted), and diploma(s) for both Bachelor’s and Master’s degree
  • Project description (½-4 pages). For technical reasons, you must upload a project description. When - as here - you apply for a specific project, please simply copy the project description above, and upload it as a PDF in the application. If you wish to, you can indicate an URL where further information can be found. Please note that we reserve the right to remove scientific papers, large reports, theses and the like.
  • Documentation of language skills if required.

After submission of the application, you will receive a confirmation e-mail with an application ID, you should use for reference if needed.

GSST reserves the right to verify the authenticity of your educational diploma and transcripts:

  • Request additional information to verify an application.
  • Reject the application if it is proven, or if the University has reasonable belief, that the information provided is false or if the applicant refuses to provide the requested information, whether or not an offer has already been made. 
  • For further information on applying, assessment procedures, etc. please see the GSST Application Guide.  

Please note:

  • The programme committee may request further information or invite the applicant to attend an interview.
  • The project will only be initiated if final funding (from GSST/the faculty) is secured.

All interested candidates are encouraged to apply, regardless of their personal background.

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