Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Palaeoenvironmental Biomarkers

Einsatzort: Jena


Art der Stelle

Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Palaeoenvironmental Biomarkers

Stellenangebot vom 15.04.2019

The Department of Archaeology at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History (MPI-SHH) is a leading global centre for archaeology that combines expertise in field and laboratory methods. Our research is focused on developing and implementing cutting-edge new methods for exploring our species’ past. To do this, we work at the interface of multiple disciplines, including archaeology, ecology, biology, and evolutionary studies. We are interested in how a deep time perspective can shed new light on contemporary issues ranging from climate change and anthropogenic environmental impacts to migration, inequality, and food security.

Our community and working environment

Our student and post-doctoral community is international and diverse. We are a lively, friendly, and active department that hosts a broad variety of projects, workshops, conferences, meetings, speakers and other events. We prioritise training students and postdoctoral researchers not only in research methods and skills, but in all aspects of academic life, providing professional development training to ensure our students and postdoctoral researchers reach their best potential, and are fully prepared for the job market, for applying for funding, and for dealing with the challenges of academic life. The success of this approach is reflected in our placement rates. Although we are a young department, we have a strong record of placing postdoctoral researchers in tenure-track and other academic positions.

We are committed to encouraging diversity and actively challenging biases based on gender, nationality, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion and other components of identity.  We strive to undertake ethical research, and to foreground training and capacity building as a core part of our international research. To this end, we have established the International Application of Archaeological Science training programme, which is held annually in our Department, and welcomes scholars from around the world for intensive training in archaeological science methods.

Our working language is English.

Our facilities

We have world-leading facilities for archaeological science. These include extensive facilities for bulk and compound-specific stable isotope studies, lipid and alkane analyses, Zooarchaeology by Mass Spectrometry (ZooMS), proteomics, SEM and light microscopy, and microfossil studies, as well as laboratories for archaeobotany and zooarchaeology. We are in the process of expanding our laboratory facilities to include amino acid and metabolite capabilities, and AMS radiocarbon dating. We also have extensive equipment for digital field archaeology, as well as laboratory facilities for 3-D scanning and analysis, photography and geospatial modelling. Our work is supported by expertise in database management, statistical analysis and bioinformatics, as well as central facilities for media outreach and third party funding applications. Our institute is home to an International Max Planck Research School that supports student activities and teaching.

We have active projects around the world, particularly in Africa and Asia.

Our offer

We are currently offering a 2-year funded Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Environmental Biomarkers. The suitable candidate will develop a programme of research in collaboration with their supervisor(s), will take leadership of that programme, and will see the research through to publication. Postdoctoral Research Fellowships in the Department of Archaeology are extendable in exceptional circumstances, such as when postdoctoral researchers demonstrate significant success in terms of their research programme, publication output and commitment to the building and success of the department.

We offer a flexible start date, ideally between 1 July 1 and 1 October, 2019. The successful applicant will be provided with intellectual, technical and resource support for the development of world-leading research, and will have the opportunity to work with a multidisciplinary team of PhD students, postdoctoral researchers and group leaders. The pay scale is according to the German pay grade system for public employees (TVöD).

Our expectation

The Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History provides a research-focused environment for scholars to develop innovative, world-leading projects. We seek Postdoctoral Research Fellows with a passion for cross-disciplinary, team-oriented research, and an ability to work efficiently and complete projects in a timely manner. Postdoctoral researchers are expected to publish findings in top-tier, international research journals, and to support media interest in their research. Candidates should demonstrate an ability to finish projects to the publication stage, and to formulate research articles that fill key gaps and answer central questions in their fields of study.

The successful candidate will develop projects collaboratively with supervisors in the Department of Archaeology, and work in an interdisciplinary fashion. Research projects should address the Department’s core interests, including the anthropogenic shaping of environments and species; the impacts of past climate change on human societies; the co-evolution of humans and domesticated species; human dispersals and migration; and the effects of increasing complexity, urbanisation and globalisation on human populations and societies. Preference will be given to candidates proposing projects focused on Asia and Africa.

We expect our postdoctoral researchers to play an active role in department life, and to contribute to supporting the department in a variety of ways. Our postdoctoral researchers help teach, train and supervise students, run committees, organise research, professional development and social events, and create a supportive environment for all staff members and visitors.

Position-specific details: Palaeoenvironmental Biomarkers

A Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Palaeoenvironmental Biomarkers is sought to provide laboratory support to several of the Department’s interdisciplinary, collaborative projects in Africa, Asia, and the Neotropics. Research will include in-depth investigation of the application of stable carbon and hydrogen isotope analytical methods to leaf wax biomarkers from archaeological and palaeoenvironmental sediments, as well as the use of faecal biomarker analysis in studying changing population dynamics. The successful applicant will have familiarity with palaeoenvironmental fieldwork, including the production of modern ecological baselines, as well as experience in correlating palaeoenvironmental proxies with stratigraphic, chronological, and archaeological contexts.

The successful candidate will have a demonstrable ability to work with and maintain Gas Chromatography and Gas Chromatography Combustion Mass Spectrometer systems in the context of leaf wax biomarker analysis. He/she is also expected to have a strong wet chemistry background, as well as expertise that can aid in protocol development and innovation of leaf wax (and other biomarker) extraction from sediments. Applicants should also be able to demonstrate competence in working alongside interdisciplinary archaeological field and laboratory teams and participating in active palaeoenvironmental and/or geoarchaeological fieldwork.

The successful applicant will work in concert with their supervisors and peers to undertake comprehensive palaeoenvironmental studies at current field sites of the Department of Archaeology. Topics addressed by the research include the relationship between climatic and environmental change and human technologies, cultures, and settlement patterns, testing the viability of leaf wax proxy analysis from archaeological sites, and determining the link between climate change and human palaeodemography and dispersal processes. The successful candidate will also provide support to other researchers and students in the department, assisting in in the planning and implementation of field and laboratory work on several projects.

Your qualifications


  • PhD in biochemistry, Earth sciences, archaeological science or a similar discipline.
  • Practical experience with analysis of n-alkane and/or faecal biomarkers from palaeoenvironmental and/or archaeological contexts.
  • Hands-on use of Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometer and Gas Chromatography Combustion Isotope Mass Spectrometer Systems.
  • Experimental knowledge of and desire to develop new biomarker proxies and approaches.
  • Absolute reliability and a strong sense of responsibility.
  • Ability to multi-task, find creative solutions to problems when necessary, and meet tight deadlines.
  • Experience in working in the laboratory for long periods of time.
  • A strong publication record.


  • Analytical or fieldwork experience in Asia, Africa, or South America.
  • Knowledge of archaeological science methodologies, including their different potentials and flaws.
  • Ability to develop new biomarker applications, protocols, and projects.
  • A demonstrated ability to attract grant funding.
  • Experience with the acquisition of palaeoenvironmental cores or samples from archaeological sections for a variety of analyses.
  • Knowledge of radiocarbon dating and modelling of palaeoenvironmental sequences.


The Max Planck Society is committed to employing more handicapped individuals and especially encourages them to apply. The Max Planck Society also seeks to increase the number of women in the sciences and therefore explicitly encourages women to apply.

To apply, please submit, by 24 May, 2019, a cover letter expressing your experience and interest in the topic, a research proposal (3 pages maximum, not including references and figures), your CV, and your undergraduate, Master’s and PhD transcripts. Three referees should also submit reports by the deadline and it is the candidate’s responsibility to request these. They should be submitted through the application portal.

Submissions will only be accepted if they are sent through the online application portal and are received in full by 24 May.

Please note that while the research proposal offers the evaluation committee an opportunity to assess the candidate’s ability to design an interdisciplinary field research project, and may feed into the final research programme, the research project undertaken by the successful applicant will be designed and decided in concert with the Postdoctoral Researcher’s supervisors in the Department of Archaeology.

Shortlisted candidates will be informed by 31 May, 2019 and should be available to attend our recruitment workshop and interviews in Jena, Germany 12-13 June, 2019.

If you have any questions about the application process, please contact For questions about the research and position, please contact Dr. Patrick Roberts (, Thomas Larsen ( and/or Dr. Jana Zech (

Other Postdoctoral Research Fellowships available in the current round

We are also offering Postdoctoral Research Fellowships in the following areas:

  • Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Pleistocene Archaeology
  • Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Zooarchaeology
  • Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Geoarchaeology
  • Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Ancient Proteins
  • Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, Global Markers of the Anthropocene Project
  • Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Radiocarbon Dating

Please see our website for further details.