PhD in Global Biogeochemical Cycles at Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Germany

Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry • Jena 6 Semesters
Germany Full Time
Dr rer nat (PhD or similar) Onsite

The key elements of life, such as carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen, are continuously exchanged between land, ocean, and atmosphere through processes known as global biogeochemical cycles. Research activities in the IMPRS-PBGC aim at a fundamental understanding of these cycles, how they are interconnected, and how they can change with an altering climate and with human activity.

Ph.D. researchers participate in ongoing research comprising field observations, method development, experiments, and modeling. The Ph.D. program is thus an excellent starting platform for a successful career in a field related to global biogeochemical cycles and Earth System Science.

To answer questions relating to global biogeochemical cycling, individual Ph.D. projects can involve aspects of (geo-)microbiology, soil science, atmospheric measurement techniques, atmospheric transport models, terrestrial and atmospheric remote sensing, model data integration, data mining, land surface models, ecosystem fluxes, isotope methods, biodiversity, organismic interactions, biological mineral formation, paleoclimatology, micropalaeontology, and paleolimnology. The particular combinations depend on the Ph.D. researcher’s interests and on the orientation of open positions.

Besides their own scientific research culminating in the Ph.D. thesis, Ph.D. researchers complete an additional training program to develop a broad understanding of Earth System Science.

The additional curriculum comprises several partially elective elements:

  1. Courses offered by faculty members of the IMPRS:
    1. An overview course on biogeochemical cycles and core courses that introduce the Ph.D. researchers to scientific fields relevant to global biogeochemical cycles in which they have no deep knowledge as yet; this will facilitate interdisciplinary communication and collaboration
    2. Specific skills courses relevant for research in global biogeochemical cycles
  2. Participation in summer schools and workshops related to the Ph.D. project
  3. Training in collaborative research through short-term research visits at foreign top-level research groups
  4. Workshops on any personal skills which will improve Ph.D. researchers’ employment opportunities and future career performance in academia and elsewhere
  5. Outreach activities such as presentations of results at international conferences, publications in international journals, and explanation of Ph.D. researchers’ own scientific work to the general public (either in Germany or in the researchers’ home countries)

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Course Details:

The IMPRS-gBGC is a cooperation between the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry and Friedrich Schiller University Jena (FSU). It is guided by an executive committee and the spokesperson. The IMPRS-gBGC coordination office runs the daily administrative affairs.

The three-year programme focuses on original and independent research leading to a PhD thesis. An additional PhD curriculum provides a valuable complement to research work. The curriculum varies each year and is adapted to the needs of the PhD researchers. The current list of courses can be seen on the IMPRS-gBGC website.

Ph.D. researchers have a primary affiliation with a research group at either FSU or the MPI for Biogeochemistry and are enrolled at the FSU. The list of faculty members and their respective affiliations is available at

At the end of the Ph.D. program, a written thesis (ideally cumulative, i.e., based on at least three publications) and its successful defense qualify for a doctoral degree at FSU. The degree certificate indicates that the degree was obtained with the IMPRS.
In addition to guidance received from their direct adviser and discussions with fellows, Ph.D. researchers are also supervised and mentored by a Ph.D. advisory committee, which helps to set milestones for the research project as well as to time courses and other curricular elements.

Moreover, Ph.D. researchers are encouraged to discuss their projects and results with all researchers at the MPI-BGC and the FSU at internal seminars. Once a year, all IMPRS members – Ph.D. researchers and senior scientists – meet during a retreat to present their most recent results.

The research program calls for applications internationally twice a year and admits new Ph.D. researchers following a competitive selection process. Fellowships are offered for a duration of three years. International applicants are supported during their period of transition in Jena and are offered, German language classes.

Enrollment Requirements:

Applications for the program are open to motivated and highly qualified students from all countries. A prerequisite is a “Diplom” or Master of Science degree in environmental sciences, geosciences, geography, biological sciences, physics, chemistry, computer sciences, or related fields, including a corresponding thesis.

Language Requirements:

Proficiency in English is required since English is the official language of the program.

The IMPRS for Global Biogeochemical Cycles has not made third-party language tests compulsory. Whether an applicant has sufficient command of the English language for a fruitful stay in the IMPRS-PBGC will become apparent during the application procedure (which includes an interview either via web conference or in-person).
During the application process, you have the possibility to send us any language certificates you possess along with your other application documents.

About the University/Institution:

The Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry is dedicated to the study of global cycles of essential elements on Earth, their interactions among the biosphere, atmosphere, geosphere, and the oceans, and their interrelation with the physical climate system.

The institute was founded in 1997 by the Max Planck Society as the third Max Planck Institute in Jena. In 2003, the institute moved into its new building on the Beatenberg Campus. The Science Campus is home to several academic and for-profit research institutions and offers together with the Friedrich-Schiller University Jena excellent potential for local scientific collaborations.

Biogeochemical research is highly interdisciplinary and international. Scientists from all over the world are attracted to our institute and our research is often conducted in remote and exotic locations worldwide.

Application Deadline:

We accept applications twice a year. For current deadlines, please refer to

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