PhD Opportunity: Microbial communities in Alpine permafrost affected soils, EPFL

PhD opportunity on “Investigating environmental adaptation of microbial communities in Alpine permafrost affected soils” at the Alpine and Polar Environmental Research Centre (ALPOLE), Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland

The laboratory for Microbiome Adaptation in the Changing Environment (MACE) lab is offering a fully funded, 4-year PhD position on a project on environmental adaptation of Alpine microbial communities. The successful candidate will join the Alpine and Polar Environmental Research Centre (ALPOLE) at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland. The ALPOLE research center is based in Sion, Switzerland with a mission to address key challenges related to environmental change in Alpine and Polar regions undergoing rapid and unprecedented transformations.

Permafrost landscapes are rapidly transforming due to anthropogenic climate change. Climate warming disproportionately impacting cryosphere habitats results in an increased rate of permafrost degradation and further releases of greenhouse gases (GHGs) via microbial decomposition of ancient carbon stores. The response of cryophilic microorganisms to warming in polar and alpine regions will shape future GHG emissions. The PhD project will focus on the environmental adaptation strategies of cryospheric microbial communities in response to climate warming and in turn gauge the downstream effects these communities have on GHG emissions and ecosystem functions in alpine permafrost areas. To anticipate the full potential of the microbial organisms to adapt to climate change the project will integrate understanding of both community population level changes and individual molecular scale adaptation strategies that allow organisms to thrive in rapidly changing and threatened permafrost environments. This will be achieved through integration of in situ field measurements, culturing, multi-omics, and computational methods. Furthermore, the overall project will aim to integrate multiple layers of data including biogeochemical measurements, Oxford nanopore metagenomics, and metatranscriptomics/metaproteomics in a united analysis.

Duties & responsibilities:

  • Carry out research activities related alpine permafrost microbiomes
  • Participate in experimental design and execution
  • Participate in field work and sample collection
  • Completion of classes as requirements by the doctoral school
  • Analysis and interpretation of experimental results
  • Writing scientific articles for publication in peer-reviewed journals
  • Participate in teaching assistance
  • Presenting results at international conferences


  • Master’s degree in a relevant field (environmental science, microbiology, molecular microbiology, genomics, ecology, bioinformatics, etc)
  • A genuine interest in the project
  • Good communication skills- written and oral
  • Scientific curiosity, organisational skills, rigor
  • Familiarity with bioinformatics analysis (would be an asset)
  • Experience in molecular techniques (would be an asset)
  • Field experience or willingness to participate/plan field expeditions


  • An opportunity to develop a scientific career in environmental microbiology
  • A chance to learn emerging techniques in microbiome science
  • Opportunities to attend and present research at international conferences
  • Competitive stipend

Start date: Fall 2023/early 2024 (exact start date is negotiable)

Work rate: 100 %

Duration: 1-year fixed-term contract that is renewable to 4 years according to EPFL rules

To apply:

Please send the following documents preferably as a single pdf file to Dr. Ianina Altshuler (

In the email subject line please put: MACE PhD application – Your Name

  • A brief letter of motivation / interest in the project
  • CV including a list of publications
  • Bachelor and Master transcripts (can be unofficial if still completing the Masters)
  • 2-3 reference letter
  • Contact information for 2-3 references

Following the interview process the candidate will also need to formally apply and be admitted into EPFL’s doctoral program.

Deadline: Applications will be evaluated as they are received.

For additional information, please email Dr. Ianina Altshuler.