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PhD: Novel Biosignatures for Microfossil Interpretation

Project Title

Novel Biosignatures for Microfossil Interpretation


Dublin City University

Supervisors and Institutions

Dr. Sean Jordan, Dublin City University, Dublin, Ireland.

Funding Status

Funding is in place for this project

Project Description

About Us:

The ProtoSigns Lab led by Dr. Seán Jordan in the School of Chemical Sciences at Dublin City University is at the forefront of pioneering research in the fields of Geobiology and Astrobiology. We are excited to announce a unique opportunity for a highly motivated and talented individual to join our cutting-edge team funded by Science Foundation Ireland. Our mission is to expand the experimental space for protocells, further our understanding of the origin of life on Earth, and develop innovative biosignatures for microfossil interpretation from Earth and beyond.

Position Overview:

This project aims to create a semi-automated microfluidic system, allowing for the rapid study of protocell formation, stability, and silicification under various environmental conditions. The resulting microstructures will undergo a suite of state-of-the-art analyses to generate a database of physical and chemical control data which will be statistically interrogated to identify novel biosignatures. The biosignatures will then be verified by applying them to geological microstructures from early Archean (ca. 3.5 billion years old) and Devonian (ca. 400 million years old) deposits. The successful candidate will contribute to the development of novel biosignatures and their application to microfossils from the early Earth and potentially elsewhere in our Solar System.

Key Responsibilities:

- Collaborate with a multidisciplinary team on the design, fabrication, and validation of a microfluidic device for protocell experiments.
- Contribute to the formation, silicification, diagenesis, and analysis of protocell biomorphs, generating essential data for determining the biogenicity of fossilised microstructures.
- Participate in compiling a database of analytical data and the development of novel biosignatures based on biogenic and abiogenic chemical and physical parameters.
- Collect, prepare, and analyse ancient rock samples applying the newly identified biosignatures to further the interpretation of microstructures in the rock record.
- Present research findings at conferences and seminars, and publish results in reputable scientific journals.
- Participate in outreach activities to present research findings to the general public.
- Carry out routine administrative tasks associated with the research project to ensure that project is completed on time and within budget.
- Carry out occasional undergraduate supervision, demonstrating or teaching duties.
- Plan for specific aspects of research programmes including the use of research resources, laboratories and workshops where appropriate.
- Plan own day-to day activity within framework of the agreed research programme to allow for deadlines to be met.
- Coordinate and liaise with other members of the research group over work progress and ensure research resources are used effectively.
- Liaise on a regular basis with colleagues and students and build contacts and participate in internal networks for the exchange of information and to form relationships for future collaboration. Join external networks to share information and ideas.


- A bachelor’s (with honours) or master's degree in a relevant field (or equivalent) is required.
- Strong research skills with a background in microfluidics, geology, chemistry, or related disciplines.
- Strong analytical and problem-solving abilities.
- Excellent written and oral communication skills.
- Enthusiasm for interdisciplinary research and a desire to advance the fields of astrobiology and geobiology.
- Willingness to travel nationally and internationally for conferences and/or field work.

What We Offer:

- A fully-funded four-year PhD position with a tax-free stipend of €19,000 p.a.
- Access to state-of-the-art research facilities and resources.
- Mentorship from leading experts in the field.
- Opportunities for international collaborations.
- A supportive and collaborative research environment.

Application Process:

Interested candidates are invited to submit the following application materials by email to Dr. Seán Jordan:

- Curriculum Vitae (CV) detailing academic and research experience.
- A cover letter describing research interests and motivation for applying to this project and the ProtoSigns Lab.
- Contact information for at least two academic or professional references.

Application Deadline: 20th November 2023

Start Date: 8th January 2024 (or as soon as possible thereafter)

Contact Information:

For inquiries and to submit your application, please contact Dr. Seán Jordan at

Dublin City University is an equal opportunities employer, and we welcome applications from individuals of all backgrounds. Given the scope and interdisciplinarity of this project, all team members will be exposed to and receive training in a wide range of expertise which will benefit their careers going forward. All members of the ProtoSigns Lab will receive training, guidance, and mentorship to ensure that they are prepared for their future. This will include provision of an academic mentor outside the research group who will provide independent advice and guidance. There will also be regular meetings (group and individual) with Dr. Jordan to monitor scientific progress and individual yearly reviews to ensure that the team member is progressing in their desired career trajectory. The student will receive full support to complete their PhD programme including assistance and guidance with time management, experimental work, and thesis writing. Dr. Jordan is deeply involved in early career researcher efforts within the origin of life, geobiology, and astrobiology communities – particularly as a member of the Origin of Life Early-career Network (OoLEN) – and will use this understanding to provide the best possible academic experience for the team, both scientifically and personally including a positive work/life balance. A key aim of the group beyond successful completion of the research will be the training and development of the next generation of scientists. All team members will be expected to work together and support one another.

Contact Name

Sean Jordan

Contact Email

Link to More Information

Closing Date

Monday, November 20, 2023

Expiry Date

Tuesday, November 21, 2023
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