Student Research Projects

Student Research Projects

The Ecotox Centre offers students the possibility of serving internships or working on bachelor or master projects on practice-relevant topics from applied ecotoxicology for a duration of 3 to 6 months. Four jobs are available in Dübendorf and Lausanne for these projects. Currently possible topics are listed below. If you are interested, please send the following information and documents to Brigitte Bracken.

  • Date and duration
  • Preferred topic
  • CV
  • References

Possible Topics

Master thesis: Determination of estrogens and photosynthesis II inhibitors in Swiss lake and river sediments
The Goal of the master project is to use in vitro bioassays to quantify estrogenicity and herbicidal activity in sediments from Lake Geneva (project SedLem15) and five small rivers (project NAWA SPEZ17).The sediments will be extracted by means of accelerated solvent extraction (ASE). Subsequently, estrogens will be determined using the yeast estrogen screen and the combined algae test will be used to determine herbicidal activity (endpoints are the inhibition of photosystem II and algal growth). Preliminary work has shown that sulphur is a potential confounding factor, at least in ASE extracts from lake sediments. Therefore, part of the thesis will be dedicated to establishing a desulphurisation method that is compatible with both bioassays.
Responsible for the project: Etiënne Vermeirssen (, Eszter Simon (
more information

Risk Assessment of Environmental Chemicals
The objective of ecotoxicological risk assessments is to determine the risk potential of existing or new environmental chemicals for the ecosystem. Based on various ecotoxicological effects such as acute toxicity, chronic toxicity, and bioaccumulation, the hazard of substances is assessed to be able to determine potentially harmless concentrations. An internship is possible either in the field of assessment of micropollutants in surface waters and/or the evaluation of mixture toxicity.
Responsible for the project: Marion Junghans (

Master Thesis: Online measurement of gammarid behaviour
To capture diffuse pollutants, e.g. from agricultural sources and after rain events, an online measurement system of gammarid behaviour will be tested. In a first step, the influence of biological factors will be evaluated, such as food availability and temperature. Subsequently, the effects of selected individual substances and contaminant mixtures on the behaviour of the amphipods will be tested in the laboratory. If the measuring system works a field trial is possible.
Responsible for the project: Miriam Langer (, Cornelia Kienle

Internship: Literature review on the sensitivity of various aquatic bioassays
Worldwide more than 100 000 different chemicals are used. In order to assess their impact on water organisms a multitude of aquatic bioassays is available. Due to the various test designs and the use of various aquatic organisms, the sensitivity and applicability of these bioassays are very different. In a literature review, the sensitivity of the various bioassays for detecting selected micropollutants will be evaluated with a focus on diffuse sources of pollution. The work will serve as a basis for recommending suitable ecotoxicological bioassays for detecting diffuse pollution.
Responsible for the project: Cornelia Kienle (, Miriam Langer

Bachelor Project: Technical aspects of water analysis
At the Ecotox Centre several bioanalytical methods for the monitoring of water quality are applied. In these bioassays, either native water samples (without sample preparation) or concentrated water samples are tested for their toxicity. To improve the analysis, the following questions should be examined:
What is the best extraction method? Can we accumulate all toxic substances in a water sample with the same mechanism of action?
How long can chemical substances be detected in water samples?
Project leader: Eszter Simon (, Etiënne Vermeirssen

Optimisation and Evaluation of the Acetylcholinesterase Inhibition Test
Environmental toxins that inhibit the enzyme acetycholinesterase cause the accumulation of the transmitter substance acetylcholine in organisms. This leads to permanent muscle and nerve excitation and, consequently, to damage of the organisms. Inhibition of the enzyme is determined after exposure to the substances or environmental samples to be analysed. This inhibition can be measured in both entire organisms and the isolated enzyme.
It has not been possible to date to determine in isolated enzyme measurements whether the enzyme is inhibited or destroyed (which may happen, for example, if the concentration of dissolved organic carbon is high). Therefore, the tests are intended to be optimised within the scope of a master thesis. A conceivable approach would be to introduce a viability parameter for the enzyme or test environmental samples on entire organisms (e.g. daphnids, fish embryos) and subsequently measure the enzyme inhibition.


Brigitte Bracken
Brigitte Bracken Send mail Tel. +41 (0) 58 765 5562