Scolarship code CU6.16

Element speciation in a changing environment

  • Reference person
  • Host University/Institute
    Università degli Studi dell'Insubria
  • Internship
  • Research Keywords
    Trace element speciation analysis
    Global biogeochemical cycles and global change
    High throughput analytical methods
  • Reference ERCs
    PE4_5 Analytical chemistry
    PE4_18 Environment chemistry
    PE10_9 Biogeochemistry, biogeochemical cycles, environmental chemistry
  • Reference SDGs
    GOAL 4: Good Quality Education
    GOAL 6: Clean Water and Sanitation
    GOAL 14: Life Below Water


Understanding the effects of climatic stressors on element biogeochemical cycles is a challenging task as the increase of atmospheric CO2 and its consequences modify element cycling with possible far fetching outcomes. Nevertheless, minor attention was given to the effects on the speciation of the elements, which determines their behavior in the environment (mobility, phase transfer, etc.) and their interaction with biota (bioavailability, biomagnification of pollutants, etc.). As an example, methylmercury, the most toxic form of mercury, may be increasingly produced due to several factors (permafrost thawing and rising temperatures) and accumulated at a higher rate in marine and freshwater biota, possibly increasing the health risk associated to seafood consumption. The picture may be even more complicated for elements inducing positive or negative climate feedback: iron supply limits primary productivity in oceanic waters, but may induce phytoplankton growth, CO2 sequestration and negative feedback only if it is present in a bioavailable form. The quality and the number of observations constrain at present our understanding of the links between element speciation and the changing environment: the present research aims at providing the scientific community with reliable and high throughput analytical methods to determine element species in environmental matrices. Connection to PNR: area 5.6.5, articolazione 1; connection to PNRR: misura M2C4, ambito di intervento 4.

Suggested skills:

The successful candidate is a highly motivated student with a strong background in analytical chemistry. Previous experience in the field of trace element speciation analysis is strongly suggested. Knowledge of biogeochemical cycles and their interaction with climate stressors will be positively valued. The candidate is expected to work in a multidisciplinary and international research including seconding in international institutions.

Research team and environment

The research team lead by prof. Monticelli includes postdoc fellows, PhD students and undergraduate students. It achieved a great expertise in speciation techniques and the related clean procedures. Experimental activities are supported by clean laboratories equipped with electrochemical and mass spectrometry facilities, including an ICPMS and a high-resolution mass spectrometer. The research team is a part of the analytical chemistry group at the University of Insubria. Cooperations include the Climate Change Research Center (CCRC, prof. M. Guglielmin), the Water Ecology and Ecotoxicology Lab (prof. R. Bettinetti) and the research group of prof. K. Buck at the Oregon State University, US.