Research Assistant

Durham, United Kingdom
£26,715 - £32,817
11 May 2021
End of advertisement period
25 May 2021
Contract Type
Fixed Term
Full Time

Department of Earth Sciences

Grade 6: - £26,715 - £32,817
Fixed Term - Full Time
Contract Duration: 12 months
Contracted Hours per Week: 35
Closing Date:
 25-May-2021, 6:59:00 AM 

Durham University

Durham University is one of the world's top universities with strengths across the Arts and Humanities, Sciences and Social Sciences. We are home to some of the most talented scholars and researchers from around the world who are tackling global issues and making a difference to people's lives.

The University sits in a beautiful historic city where it shares ownership of a UNESCO World Heritage Site with Durham Cathedral, the greatest Romanesque building in Western Europe. A collegiate University, Durham recruits outstanding students from across the world and offers an unmatched wider student experience.

Less than 3 hours north of London, and an hour and a half south of Edinburgh, County Durham is a region steeped in history and natural beauty. The Durham Dales, including the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, are home to breathtaking scenery and attractions. Durham offers an excellent choice of city, suburban and rural residential locations. The University provides a range of benefits including pension and childcare benefits and the University’s Relocation Manager can assist with potential schooling requirements.

Durham University seeks to promote and maintain an inclusive and supportive environment for work and study that assists all members of our University community to reach their full potential. Diversity brings strength and we welcome applications from across the international, national and regional communities that we work with and serve.

The Department

Durham Earth Sciences is one of the best UK Earth Science departments with an outstanding reputation for excellence in teaching, research and both the satisfaction and employability of its students. It is regularly ranked in the top 5 of UK departments and is within the global top 40.

Our community is around 35 academic staff, 25 research & technical staff, and 10 professional service staff, working together to provide a vibrant atmosphere in which to teach and to undertake research. We work with around 80 postgraduate research students and 270 undergraduate students.

The Department strives for a collegial, collaborative and flexible working environment and is a member of the Athena SWAN Charter, currently holding a departmental Bronze Athena SWAN award and applying for a Silver Award later this year.

Our research covers a spectrum of Earth Science disciplines around three themes: Earth Surface Processes and Hazards; Climate, Environment and Resources; Physics and Chemistry of Earth and Planetary Processes. We recognise that we are living through a time of unprecedented change on Earth. Scientific understanding of climate change, geological hazards, sustainability, infrastructure, energy and natural resources is increasingly important to society. Our aims are therefore to help shape the future by providing the highest quality education for our students and to undertake research which is intrinsically excellent and which is relevant to society. We do this within a collegiate, collaborative and flexible working environment.

We are committed to providing the highest level of education to our students within an inclusive and supportive environment, helping them develop the knowledge, skills and confidence to contribute positively to the world after they graduate. We provide research-led teaching with a large proportion of practical classes and a deep commitment to field-based teaching. Our students are highly sought after by a diverse range of employers.

The Role

Applications are invited for a Research Assistant in the application of rhenium-osmium isotopes to paleoclimate with a particular emphasis on OAE1a and Holocene climatic change.

The successful applicant will be expected to [undertaken rhenium-osmium research on geological samples to ascertain an improved understanding of paleoclimatic change during the OAE1a and the Holocene. The research will be carried out in the Laboratory for Source Rock Geochronology and Geochemistry of the Durham Geochemistry Centre in the Department of Earth Sciences by mass spectrometry analysis of the elements rhenium and osmium.  The Lab is one of fewer than 12 facilities worldwide performing equivalent specialized analyses. The incumbent’s primary research activity is sample preparation, clean room analytical protocols and mass spectrometry analysis (e.g., for the rhenium-osmium isotope system).

Responsibilities :

  • To understand and convey information which needs careful explanation to the team or group of people through presentations, discussions and meetings which contribute to the production of research reports and publications.
  • To write up results of research work, present information on research progress and outcomes to bodies supervising research in a clear and accurate manner.
  • To analyse or undertake basic research by deciding how best to apply existing methodology according to overall context and objectives.
  • To deal with problems that may affect the achievement of research objectives and deadlines by discussing with the Principal Investigator or Grant-holder and offering creative or innovative solutions.
  • To liaise with research colleagues and make internal and external contacts to develop knowledge and understanding to form relationships for future research collaboration.
  • To contribute to the planning of research projects.
  • To assist in contributing to support student projects on the use of research methods and equipment. 
  • To contribute to fostering a collegial and respectful working environment which is inclusive and welcoming and where everyone is treated fairly with dignity and respect.
  • To engage in wider citizenship to support the department and wider discipline.
  • To engage in continuing professional development by attending relevant training and development courses.   
  • Conduct mechanical separation of samples, primarily rocks using standard and specialized crushing and milling techniques as required
  • Conduct chemical separation of elements such as Re and Os, requiring a series of specialized analytical procedures and techniques under ultra clean conditions to obtain purified elemental aliquots
  • Isotopic analysis of Re and Os separated from geological samples using negative thermal ionization mass spectrometry.

This post is fixed term for 12 months. The funding is available from 01/10/2021 for this fixed period only; the project is time limited and will end on 30/09/2022.

The post-holder is employed to work on research/a research project which will be led by another colleague. Whilst this means that the post-holder will not be carrying out independent research in his/her own right, the expectation is that they will contribute to the advancement of the project, through the development of their own research ideas/adaptation and development of research protocols.

Successful applicants will, ideally, be in post by 1/10/2021. 

How to Apply

For informal enquiries please contact Prof. David Selby via this link.  All enquiries will be treated in the strictest confidence. 

We prefer to receive applications online via the Durham University Vacancies Site. https://www.dur.ac.uk/jobs/.  

As part of the application process, you should provide details of 3 (preferably academic/research) referees and the details of your current line manager so that we may seek an employment reference.

Applications are particularly welcome from women and black and minority ethnic candidates, who are under-represented in academic posts in the University.

What to Submit

All applicants are asked to submit:

A CV and covering letter which details your experience, strengths and potential in the requirements set out above.

Next Steps

The assessment for the post will include evaluation of evidence of each of the essential criteria required for the role. Shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview and assessment. 

The Requirements 


1.    Qualifications

  • A good first degree in Earth Sciences.
  • A PhD in Earth Sciences with focus on rhenium-osmium isotope geochemistry to paleoclimate.

2.    Experience

  • Experience in conducting basic academic research or providing research assistance, including the use of standard research methods. 
  • Demonstrable ability to produce concise and well-written reports for a range of stakeholders.
  • Experience in rhenium-osmium geochemistry and mass spectrometry.

3.    Skills

  • Demonstrable ability to work cooperatively as part of a team, including participating in research meetings.
  • Ability to manage time effectively and work to strict deadlines. 
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills. 
  • Ability to liaise with a range of stakeholders. 


4.    Experience

  • Experience of conducting high quality academic research. 
  • Experience of preparing academic papers.
  • Ability to assist in the provision of support to student projects.
  • Experience in rhenium-osmium geochemistry and mass spectrometry.
  • Experience in radiocarbon dating.

5.    Skills

  • Ability to contribute to the planning and management of independent research. 

DBS Requirement: Not Applicable.