PhD Position in RESPONSE (ESR 03): Developing a source-to-sink value chain for Swiss industrial carbon dioxide via a holistic approach

100%, Zurich, temporary

Within the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 847585, ETH Zurich is offering a 36-month PhD position for an early-stage researchers (ESR) in in the area of sustainable energy systems.

We are looking for doctoral students interested to work on the project described below. The ideal candidate is an engineer (Chemical, Process, Mechanical, Environmental Engineer) or a system scientist (Earth Sciences, Environmental Systems), interested in developing skills in Economics, Social Sciences, and Political Sciences; or else a graduate in one of the disciplines in the latter group, interested to become familiar with the science and technology around Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage (CCS).

Project background

CCS is projected to play a decisive role in mitigating climate change in the next decades, both by avoiding emissions from point sources and by enabling CO2 extraction from the atmosphere and permanent storage. However, there is a disconnect between the clear success of all demonstration and commercial CCS operations carried out worldwide in the past twenty years and more and the lack of widespread deployment, which would be needed in large scale and very soon.

The working hypotheses behind this project is (i) that certain Swiss industrial sectors are mandated to avoid their CO2 emissions via CCS, and (ii) that CO2 storage space in the subsurface becomes available in a CO2 storage hub outside of Switzerland. None of these is in fact unrealistic. The latter is bound to become reality through the Norwegian project Northern Lights, which is now in its final phase of governmental and corporate approval. The former might become a fact in the case of early movers such as the association of the Swiss waste-to-energy operators, which is indeed studying how CCS can fit in their technical framework and business model.

Job description

In this context, the proposed project aims at tackling this question: Is the vision of a source-to-sink value chain for Swiss industrial CO2 feasible, what are the hurdles to make this vision real, from a technical, economic, regulatory, political, social perspective, and how can these be tackled? One ESR will work on this project, and will be supported by the main PI (with long-term experience in CCS) and by his strong ETH network of CCS-interested colleagues. Moreover, the ESR will take two secondments (=internships, six months each) at the GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam and at Bellona Europa, i.e. two of the most active and prestigious foundations working on different aspects of the CO2 value chain. Interacting with such a pool of experts the ESR will address the question above, subdivided in four sub-questions (about techno-economic feasibility, public engagement, regulatory viability, and the Swiss chain specifically) in the three phases of the project: 1. Broad interdisciplinary learning about CCS; 2. In depth learning by doing during the secondments; 3. Design of the source-to-sink value chain for Swiss industrial CO2.

We are offering an interesting position at the interface of science and policy. While working in an international, interdisciplinary and innovative research environment at ETH Zurich, the ESR will be supervised by Prof. Dr. Marco Mazzotti (ETH Zurich), and will be further mentored by Dr. rer. nat. Cornelia Schmidt-Hattenberger (GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam) and by Dr. Dr. Jan-Justus Andreas (Bellona Europe).

The successful candidate will be matriculated and will have a working contract at ETH Zurich. He/she will work in Switzerland. The secondments will take place at Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum GFZ Potsdam, Germany and at Bellona Europa, Brussels, Belgium.

The complete 36 months will be under 100% working contracts.

Expected starting date of the working contract: 01.03.2020

This program offers a three-year full-time position according to the PhD salary regulations of ETH Zurich and according to EU regulations for Marie Skłodowska-Curie Early Stage Researchers. The gross salary will not be lower than CHF 3920.

RESPONSE Doctoral Programme (DP) «RESPONSE - to society and policy needs through plant, food and energy sciences» is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Grant Agreement No 847585. RESPONSE DP builds on the academic expertise of three world-leading institutions - ETH Zurich, University of Zurich and University of Basel. The successful candidate will be integrated in the research network and infrastructure of the internationally renowned competence center Energy Science Center.

All RESPONSE ESRs will follow the PSC PhD Program Science and Policy that is unique in its kind. Through the curriculum of this program, ESR will be trained in the communication of scientific evidence to policy-makers and the public; the involvement of different stakeholder groups as well as in policy development and endorsement in Europe and at global scale.

Your profile

RESPONSE is open to applicants of any nationality.

Language requirement: English, German or French or Italian / Excellent oral and written English skills are expected.

Main Research Field: Either engineering/system sciences or social sciences

Sub Research Field: Either social sciences or engineering/system sciences

Eligibility: Early stage researcher in the first 4 years (full-time equivalent) of their research careers, including the period of research training, starting at the date of obtaining the degree which would formally entitle them to embark on a doctorate either in the country in which the degree was obtained or in the country in which the initial training activities are provided.

At the time of recruitment (for call 1 = December 1, 2019) by the host organisation, researchers must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in Switzerland for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately before the reference date. Compulsory national service and/or short stays such as holidays are not taken into account.

ETH Zurich

ETH Zurich is one of the world’s leading universities specialising in science and technology. We are renowned for our excellent education, cutting-edge fundamental research and direct transfer of new knowledge into society. Over 30,000 people from more than 120 countries find our university to be a place that promotes independent thinking and an environment that inspires excellence. Located in the heart of Europe, yet forging connections all over the world, we work together to develop solutions for the global challenges of today and tomorrow.
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For submitting your online application, select PhD program Science and Policy. The online application should contain all information as indicated by the application portal. Moreover, the following documents have to be uploaded under “further documents”: 1) a letter of motivation to join a) RESPONSE DP and b) to apply for a specific positon (Project title), 2) a comprehensive CV, and 3) transcripts of records. Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal. Applications via email or postal services will not be considered.

For project, programme and application details visit For questions and further information on the position, please contact Prof. Dr. Marco Mazzotti (no applications).

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