Research Assistant in Microbial Nutrient Cycling: Ireland

The University of Limerick (UL) offers a Research Assistant (RA) position in Microbial Nutrient Cycling. The overall purpose of a job is to develop a protocol with information on interaction of recycling fertiliser with soil microbiota to estimate nutrient (phosphorus and nitrogen) mobilisation from fertiliser and soil for plant uptake.



As part of the NWE Interreg project “Nutrient Recycling – from pilot production to farms and fields”, UL is leading the work package on investigating the impact of the soil amendments on the soil microbiome. In particular the function of microbial phosphorus mobilisation and nitrogen cycling will be investigated. A large proportion of the phosphorus in the recycled material is not directly available to the plants and needs microbial conversion. As part of this project, the diversity of the soil microbiomes will be monitored as a measure of its functional capacity with and without soil amendment.


The successful candidate will investigate the microbial driven phosphorus and nitrogen cycle and their mobilisation for plant uptake under the general guidance of the principal investigator. Samples will be taken from the project field trials and microbiological analyses will be conducted employing cultivation dependent (selective cultivation) and independent microbiological and molecular biological techniques (DNA extraction, PCR, qPCR, fingerprinting and sequencing). In addition, some enzymatic and chemical analysis of the samples will be carried out. The candidate will conduct individual and collaborative research with the consortium. In particular, the successful applicant will closely interact with project partners from Teagasc Johnstown Castle (site of the Irish field trial) and from IT Carlow where general microbial diversities will be determined.


The RA will be responsible for the data analysis and the creation of reports for dissemination among the project partners, the project stakeholders and the wider scientific community under guidance of the principal investigator.


The successful applicant will be able to plan, coordinate and implement project aims with the support of the principal investigator.

Academic development:

The successful applicant is expected to be interested in career furthering opportunities and thus will enrol as a postgraduate student with its RA supervisor as academic supervisor for a level 9 degree. EU student’s fees will be provided for two years to enrol for a research masters. This can be extended to three years for an enrolment as PhD student.

Funding is initially available for the post for a period of 24 months. In the case of a successful enrolment as PhD student, a student stipend will be offered for a third year of studies.

Essential Criteria

  • BSc (Level 8 NFQ first or second honours) or equivalent or completed a level 8 degree (first or second honours) before the start date in Biological/Life Sciences, Environmental/Agricultural Sciences or a related field
  • experience at undergraduate level in microbiological techniques, general or environmental chemistry, agricultural or biological sciences.
  • the successful applicant is expected to enrol as postgraduate student (Research MSc) in the Department of Biological Sciences with the research topic from the jobs description and Dr. A Schmalenberger as main supervisor. EU students’ fees will be provided for two years to enrol for a research masters. This can be extended to three years for an enrolment as PhD student.

Desirable Criteria


  • assists the research leader and team members to conduct research as set out in the grant proposal
  • will conduct literature and database searches and interpret and present the findings of the literature searches
  • is capable of following experimental protocols and can modify protocols or is able to develop new protocols
  • has experience in microbiological techniques such as media preparation, aseptic handling or working with pure cultures
  • has experience in general or environmental chemistry and analytics, for instance measuring enzymatic reactions using a photometer or able to set up chemical solutions with a defined molarity
  • is capable to analyse and interpret results of own research with the support of the supervisor
  • is able to learn new techniques and procedures in molecular biology and related subjects under supervision
  • has experience in soil nutrient cycling such as phosphorus or nitrogen cycling or other soil nutrient analysis
  • has knowledge in plant nutrition and plant growth
  • has practical skills in extractions of DNA from soil or microorganisms
  • has knowledge in PCR applications and DNA analysis
  • is experienced in cultivation of bacteria using general or selective media
  • students that progress to year three as part of their PhD will be offered a stipend for their third year

Research Management

  • is able to work and interact with multiple stakeholders in a research consortium
  • able to plan and manage own day-to-day research activity within the framework of the agreed project (maintain work plan and lab-book, meet agreed schedules for research)
  • conducts analysis and interpretation of results of own research
  • keep appropriate records as directed and in line with Funder/University policy

Research Outputs – Write Up and Dissemination

  • is able to write up results from own research activity for review by PI
  • provides input into the research project’s dissemination (report, papers) as directed by the PI
  • interacts and communicates well with consortium partners and stakeholders on research topics
  • presents information on research progress and outcomes to other team members, consortium partners, and the wider scientific community as agreed with the PI


  • supports and co-supervises the work of final year project students

Policy & Standards

  • knowledge and compliance with health and safety in laboratory based research projects to ensure work undertaken with good laboratory practice (GLP)
Further details
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