2019-8-Offer for a Thesis Allowance - Subject: Mercury speciation in bacteria cells combining analytical techniques

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E2S: Energy and Environment Solutions

What is E2S UPPA?

What is E2S UPPA?

The consortium at the heart of the Energy Environment Solutions (E2S) project is composed of the University of Pau and the Pays de l’Adour (UPPA) and two national research organisations, National Institute...

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Offer for a Thesis Allowance (or a Post-doc position)Subject: Mercury speciation in bacteria cells combining analytical techniques

Scientific context

Mercury (Hg) is a persistent pollutant in the environment, highly volatile and able to convert into highly toxic methylmercury (MeHg). MeHg is a serious threat as it is a neurotoxic compound, which is bioaccumulated and bioamplified in food webs. Bacteria play a central role in MeHg conversion but this Hg biomethylation cannot be fully explained. To better understand these processes, it is necessary to have a clear view of the Hg species available and released by bacteria. The present offer proposes to tackle Hg speciation combining analytical techniques based on mass spectrometry. Our team at IPREM lab aims to characterize Hg trafficking and methylation in sulphate-reducing bacteria (SRB) comparing strains able to both methylate and demethylate mercury and strains only able to demethylate methylmercury. The objective of this work is to set up analytical methods (GC-ICPMS, LC-MS...) to identify and quantify Hg species and to determine Hg speciation in different bacterial cultures depending on various mercury exposures. The role of thiol ligands is particularly focused.

Keywords:  Hg speciation, mass spectrometry, mercury methylation, sulfate-reducing bacteria



The selected candidate

  • will be in charge of the development of the identification and quantification of thiols ligands by LC-ESI-MS/MS.
  • will perform incubations using isotopically enriched mercury species followed by GC-ICPMS analysis to establish simultaneously methylation and demethylation rates and quantities of net methyl mercury production rates.
  • will model Hg speciation using (bio)geochemical software (VMinteq...).
  • He/she will also set experiments with labelled stable S isotopes to track the source of S in Hg-S-containing compounds, particularly using nanoSIMS. In collaboration with the BIC in Bordeaux, he/she will also implement transmission electron microscopy to correlate ultrastructures and nanoSIMS images.
  • He/she will be involved in bacterial cultures in various conditions and various ligands.

The PhD student /post-doc will also participate to teaching activities at the undergraduate level.


Working conditions

Hosting laboratories: IPREM (UMR 5254), Pau

Area of expertise: Environment and Microbiology, Analytical and bioinorganic chemistry, Environmental sciences, mass spectrometry, X-Ray Absorption Spectroscopy, Imaging Microbiology, Physiology, Genetics, Microbial Ecology, Environmental Microbiology

PhD supervisor: Mathilde Monperrus
PhD co-supervisor: Marie-Pierre Isaure
In Collaboration with: Marisol Goñi-Urriza

Scientific team:
The proposed offer is part of the project ‘GO-BEAM’ (Go inside a bacterial cell methylating Mercury) funded by E2S UPPA from 2018 to 2021. GO-BEAM, selected as a ‘Key Scientific Challenges E2S UPPA’ (http://e2s-uppa.eu/en/index.html, see the presentation of the project https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrU1uEh0Qkw) is a collaborative and transdisciplinary project involving genetic microbiology, analytical chemistry, imaging and spectroscopy. The objective is to improve the understanding of the Hg methylation/demethylation processes at the cell level. 1 PhD (on genetic microbiology) and 1 Post-Doctorate (on imaging and spectroscopy) are already involved in the project and the recruited PhD/Post-doc will complement the team. Scientific team: MP Isaure, M Goñi-Urriza, M Monperrus, B Khalfaoui-Hassani, R Guyoneaud, C. Gassie, 1 PhD student, 1 post-doc.

Starting date: as soon as posssible

Length: 3 years for a PhD / 2 years months for a Post-doc position

Employer: Université de Pau et des Pays de l’Adour (UPPA)
Funding: E2S UPPA

Gross monthly salary:
- 1878 € for a PhD (UPPA doctoral contract, according to E2S UPPA project, including 96h of teaching during the three years)
- 2919 € for a Post-doc (including 64h of teaching per year)


Required skills and competences - Who can apply ?


The candidate should have a strong predilection for laboratory work.
The ideal candidate has a master degree in analytical chemistry or environmental chemistry/geochemistry.
He/She is rigorous, highly motivated, with the capacity to work autonomously.
Team working abilities are highly appreciated.
He/she must have a good English level.


Application - Evaluation criteria

Depending on the received CVs, we will recruit either a PhD either a Post-doc.

Selection process :

  • Establishment of the selection committee
  • Evaluation of the applicants' file
  • Selected candidates will be contacted by maila few days after the 10th of November 2019
  • Interview with the selected candidates and ranking


  • Candidates will have 5 min to present their CV, 5 min to present their Master2 thesis/PhDand 5min to present the project.
  • This presentation will be followed by questions and discussion

Application files will be evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • Candidate's motivation, scientific maturity and curiosity
  • Candidate's knowledge
  • Grades and ranking in Licence/undergraduate, M1 and M2 for the PhD applicants and publication list, PhD reports for the Post-doc applicants 
  • English language proficiency
  • French proficiency for teaching in Bachelor’s degree
  • Oral and written communication skills
  • Candidate’s ability to present her/his work and results
  • Professional experience (e.g. internships in laboratory or other, any research work previously carried out, reports, publications ...)


Application file composition and submission deadline

Application will include (in a single pdf file):

  • CV
  • Cover letter detailing the candidate's motivations and interest in the scientific aspect of the PhD
  • Candidate's Licence and MSc marks and rankingfor PhD application/ Publication, PhD reports for Post-doc application
  • Reference letters
  • Contact details of at least two people (academic or industrial referees) who can be contacted for further reference

Applications must be sent with the title “Doctoral application” or "Post-doctoral position" to the following addresses:
mathilde.monperrus @ univ-pau.fr ; marie-pierre.isaure @ univ-pau.fr

For more details, please visit our websites: http://e2s-uppa.eu/en/index.html

Submission deadline : November 10th, 2019
and until the position is filled