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MSc thesis research project - characterisation of anaerobic biotransformation of hexachlorocyclohexane

The Department of Isotope Biogeochemistry at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research GmbH - UFZ offers the following or master thesis:

MSc thesis research project - characterisation of anaerobic biotransformation of hexachlorocyclohexane

MSc thesis research topic for students (m/f) enrolled in a university programme interested to work on the enrichment of anaerobic microorganisms capable of contaminant degradation and the characterisation of degradation applying compound-specific stable isotope analysis Your duties: Although banned in the Stockholm convention, hexachlorocyclohexane (HCH) is still a contaminant of concern world-wide. HCHs occur in several isomers: α, β, δ, and γ-HCH of which only γ-HCH has insecticidal activity and α-HCH is enantiomeric. Aerobic degradation has been well characterised and carbon-isotope and enantiomer enrichment of α-HCH was observed. Knowledge on the anaerobic degradation, however, is limited although contaminated field sites are usually anoxic and HCH accumulate in anoxic sediments of rivers and lakes. Applying soils and sediments from former and current production sites (e.g. the Bitterfeld-Wolfen region and India), microorganisms capable of the biotransformation of HCH will be enriched and characterised. Microcosms will be prepared and analysed over time for transformation products. In parallel, the isotope and enantiomer enrichment by described cultures containing Dehalococcoides mccartyi strains, capable of biotransformation of HCH, will be investigated. These isotope and enantiomer enrichment patterns may be used as indicators for in situ degradation but also to investigate the overall reaction.

Research questions include: 1) Which isomers and enantiomer are preferentially degraded by the different sediments, 2) what are the products and 3) how do isotope and enantiomer pattern change during degradation?

The tasks of the planned research include:
  • preparation of microcosms under various conditions
  • degradation experiments with the strict anaerobic D. mccartyi strains,
  • analysis of metabolites using GC-FID and GC-MS
  • compound-specific stable isotope analysis (e.g. C, H, Cl) of HCH during degradation

Your profile: We are looking for a motivated candidate (m/f) currently enrolled in a Diploma or MSc programme with a strong interest in microbiology, geoecology, environmental science or similar. The thesis can start as soon as possible and will take six to nine months. Additionally, an internship for an introduction to the topic prior to the thesis research is possible. The working place will be Leipzig.
We offer:
  • A good introduction to scientific research
  • Excellent technical equipment
  • Involvement in an interdisciplinary, multinational team
  • Excellent support

How to apply:
Closing date for applications:

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Your contact for any questions you may have about the job:
For more information contact Dr. Ivonne Nijenhuis ( or Yaqing Liu (
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About Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, UFZ

The Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ was established in 1991 and has more than 1,100 employees in Leipzig, Halle/S. and Magdeburg. They study the complex interactions between humans and the environment in cultivated and damaged landscapes. The scientists develop concepts and processes to help secure the natural foundations of human life for future generations.

More about Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, UFZ

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