Job advertisement Ph.D. In Geochemistry: REE interactions with organo-mineral colloids as a control of the REE environmental dissemination

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Ph.D. In Geochemistry: REE interactions with organo-mineral colloids as a control of the REE environmental dissemination

Ph.D. In Geochemistry: REE interactions with organo-mineral colloids as a control of the REE environmental dissemination


Université de Rennes 1

University of Rennes 1 (UR1) is a multidisciplinary institution, famous for its excellence and dynamic research, consisting of 4 main scientific areas: Mathematics and ICT (Information and Communication Sciences & Technologies), Life and Health Sciences, Material Sciences, Humanities and Social Sciences. It welcomes about 23,300 students, all surrounded by 1,900 teachers & full-time researchers and about 1,100 administrative & technical staff. As part of UR1, Géosciences Rennes is a Joint Research unit supported by the French National Research Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and UR1. It is an internationally recognized multidisciplinary laboratory in Earth and Environmental Sciences, with research ranging from lithosphere dynamics, basin analysis, Earth surface processes up to physical hydrogeology/hydrology and biogeochemistry of emergent pollutants, coupling field, experimental and numerical modeling approaches. Géosciences Rennes has developed strong links with leading research institutions across Europe and partnerships with industrial, governmental and non-governmental bodies and publishes ~ 120 papers/year in high-quality refereed international journals. It received top marks during the 2016 national evaluation and is one of the outstanding research institutions in the Earth Science French academic landscape. Eleven Professors, 18 Associate Professors, 24 CNRS Researchers, about 30 technical and administrative staff, 43 PhD students and 18 post-doctoral fellows are currently working in Géosciences Rennes. It hosts ~10 foreign researchers/year.


Rennes, France


Relevant divisions
Biogeosciences (BG)
Energy, Resources and the Environment (ERE)
Geochemistry, Mineralogy, Petrology & Volcanology (GMPV)

Full time

Entry level

max. 2900 € / Year, Conditional family allowance of 500€ per month (potentially subject to taxes), Mobility allowance of 600€ per month (potentially subject to taxes

Required education

Application deadline
15 June 2020

21 April 2020

Job description

Ph.D. Title : REE interactions with organo-mineral colloids as a control of the REE environmental dissemination
Research objectives
Characterize and model REE interactions with organo-mineral colloids, which partially control REE dissemination in the environment.
Rare earth elements (REE) are crucial to a wide range of modern technologies such as catalytic additives, hybrid vehicles, wind turbines, oil refining and lighting technologies; all of them rely on the chemical, optical and electro-optic, and paramagnetic properties of REE.The industrial use of REE and all the strategies developed to increase the REE supply by either mining or recycling also increase the REE fluxes resulting in environmental and occupational exposures. Potential concerns about the environmental safety of their use is raisen, since concentrations already 100 times above background in some areas have been reported. Disruption of biogeochemical cycles by some REE is already apparent notably in aquatic and terrestrial environments. However, many uncertainties in our current understanding and modelling are related to the lack of studies on the REE anthropogenic sources (e.g. mining and mining waste, recycling wastes, gasoil, oil sands, etc.) and transfer. Moreover, no studies were dedicated to the understanding of the mechanisms that control their transport in between soils, waters and sediments. A major reason is that REE are particle-reactive, having high affinity for colloids that subsequently control both their mobility and transport.
The pH.D. project aims at providing both speciation datasets and innovative analytical and modelling tools required to fully understand the intimate bonds linking REE to heterogeneous colloids. Such knowledge is crucial to understand, quantify and predict the REE mobility, bioavailability and toxicity in the environment. Investigate the REE speciation onto heterogeneous surfaces is still unexplored and requires advanced spectrometry and spectroscopic techniques (XAS, WAXS, SAXS, GC-MS, etc.) but also the development of innovative analytical and colloids-characterization methodologies adapted to field studies (e.g. REE selective electrodes, field DLS). Indeed, the “nano-speciation” of REE is still unexplored. By developing multi-dimensional analytical approach, such as field flow fractionation coupled to high resolved mass spectrometry, a one-step further approach will be achieved on the REE distribution to colloidal phase. New development using MSn will allow to characterize trace REE and related mechanisms to colloids and other nanoscale materials. The use of multi angle light scattering associated to these methods will bring new data on the implication of the colloid aggregation mechanisms on the REE distribution.
The ESR will benefit from advanced expertise on REE-surface modelling from UR1, spectroscopy from SOLEIL and huge technical expertise of Cordouan Technology. More precisely, the pH.D. project will consist on a coupling between experimental laboratory work, field campaign and modelling calculations to investigate the distribution of REE on heterogeneous nanoparticules in order to evaluate the ability of such nanoparticules to control the REE bioavailabilty and dissemination in the environment. For this, nanoparticules will not only synthetize in the laboratory but also collected in contrasted REE contaminated sites. The targeted field sites (Portugal, Spain, France) were selected according to both their low (wetlands) and high REE contamination (mine) level.

Presentation of the research project (cooperative aspect)
This PhD position is within the framework of a European ITN project named PANORAMAM: EuroPean trAining NetwOrk on Rare eArth elements environMental trAnsfer: from rock to human involving 15 PhD positions.
Under the supervision of Mélanie Davranche and Julien Gigault, the PhD student will investigate the binding between REE and heterogeneous synthetic and natural nanoparticles under various physico-chemical parameters. The nanoparticles were characterized following advanced characterization techniques (DLS, Zeta potential, SAXS, WAXS, SANS, A4F-UV-SLS-ICPMS, XAS spectroscopy, CryoMET, etc….) as well as the REE-nanoparticles physico-chemical interactions (A4F-UV-ICPMS, XAS spectroscopy, etc). All the produced dataset, will secondly be modelled to test various binding scenaris and determined the most relevant REE-nanoparticles complexation mecanisms in order to estimate REE bioavailabilty and potential dissemination in the environment.
The project involves a strong collaboration with several institution and private company, including required research stays (secondment) with SOLEIL (2 months) on REE-colloids interaction characterization by spectroscopy, CORDouan technology (3 months) colloids characterization, characterization tools development, EDM for field sampling and superior Institut of Technology of Lisboa ( 1 month) for support to field
The PhD student will be also involved in scientific/soft-skills meetings and in research activities conducted in other laboratories/companies from Europe and associated countries.
An important component of the training will be the participation to 3 main major training events:
WS1-(December 2020) REE as emerging contaminants: Properties, uses and dissemination –Germany-fundamental REE biogeochemistry and currently known anthropogenic REE inputs into the environment
SS1 (May 2021) – AMD and REE contamination mitigation – Portugal-Management and remediation solutions of AMD in old mining areas and Management of WEEE, recycling areas
WS2 – Colloids and nanoparticles as REE vectors France Structural characterization of colloids and nanoparticles by innovative and fine spectroscopic and scattering techniques: X-Ray absorption fluorescence and scattering, light scattering. REE interactions with bearing phases.
SS2 – (Eco)toxicology of REE –Germany- Eco)toxicological concepts and approaches, Physico-chemical properties of REE for bioavailability, ecotoxicity and environmental risk
In addition to these major milestones of the program, the PhD students will 1) continuously develop their core research skills via their own research project locally and within the network while at secondments and conferences, 2) receive a mandatory amount of hard and soft-skills training specific to their own doctoral school, along with mentoring by joint supervising bodies, 3) use conferences both as dissemination events for ESRs results and network events for progress reports and evaluations, and 4) collaborate into practical activities aimed at network-structuring legacy deliverables.
PANORAMA’s research objective is to elucidate the man-induced environmental dissemination of REE and the associated effects on the environmental health. For that purpose, interdisciplinary approaches are required combining geochemistry, ecotoxicology, hydrology, chemical analysis and coupling field monitoring, original in and ex situ experimental set-up and modelling from the element speciation to the environmental impact. PANORAMA’s key aim is to set-up an optimal scientific and non-scientific training to the understanding and forecasting of the environmental impacts of new emerging pollutants such as REE.

How to apply

How to apply
Send your complete application before June 15th to both contacts below (application will remain open until position is filled).
A single pdf file needs to be submitted including:

  • a cover letter, stating your research motivation and interests; including relevant background and career plan (max 1 A4 page)
  • a Curriculum Vitae, including academic background, previous research and/or industrial experience (max 2 A4 pages)
  • Degree transcripts (with marks)
  • English language qualification certificates (or equivalent)
    Reference letters:
  • at least 2 confidential reference letters from academics (including name, position and email address of the referee) (max 1 A4 page, with substantiated assessment of the applicant’s technical skills, creativity, innovation ability, working capacity, efficiency and level of independence) must be sent directly to the contacts below.


ESR Supervisor: mé, and

Recruitment committee: to be completed after the kick-off meeting

Project website: Created by Cordis when grant agreement will be signed