PhD position in computational and theoretical earthquake physics with emphasis on induced seismicity and fluid-fault interactions

100%, Zurich, fixed-term

The Swiss Seismological Service (SED, at the Department of Earth Sciences is the agency responsible for earthquake monitoring as well as hazard and risk assessment in Switzerland. The SED conducts a broad range of fundamental and applied research in earthquake science and specifically has been and is a leading partner in several European and international projects in the field of induced seismicity risk and multi-risk. In addition, the project interfaces with the Bedretto Underground Laboratory for Geosciences and Geonergies (, as we address modeling challenges in field-scale earthquake experiments. 

Project background

Fluid injection into the Earth's crust has become increasingly important in many applications, such as geothermal exploration, carbon capture and storage, and waste-water disposal. Thus understanding how such fluid injection may interact with preexisting and potentially seismogenic faults is critical for the viability of such projects. Further, native fluids inside and surrounding faults have been found to play a critical role in earthquake nucleation, stability, and shear localization.

The project goals are twofold:

- Developing a computational approach to understand fluid fault interactions in new novel ways both during injection and under natural conditions.

- Applying the new computational methods to field experiments from the Bedretto lab. 

The position is in the Group of Dr. Elías Rafn Heimisson, an SNSF Ambizione Fellow and group leader at SED - ETH Zurich. The PhD student will be co-supervised by Prof. Stefan Wiemer, head of SED, and offers an interdisciplinary collaboration with Prof. David Kammer in the Dept. of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering. 

Job description

You will be responsible for developing a novel code that simulates fault shear localization coupled to a poroelastic bulk. This involves implementing and developing a spectral boundary integral method to obtain a dimensionally reduced representation of the bulk and coupling to an inner domain. You will also apply codes that have already been developed to understand data from field-scale earthquake experiments in the Bedretto lab.

Your profile

We are seeking a highly motivated individual with a strong interest in numerical modelling of coupled fluid flow and solid mechanics: 

  • A Master's degree in Earth Sciences/ Geophysics / Physics / Applied Mathematics / Engineering or a related discipline.
  • Basic coding skills in common scientific language/s such as Matlab, Python, Fortran, C, C++, and Julia.  Candidates with advanced abilities will be preferred.
  • Basic knowledge of Fourier analysis in the context of partial differential equations is preferred
  • The position requires excellent communication skills (spoken and written English).
  • Knowledge of solid mechanics and/or fluid flow in fractured and porous media is beneficial.

Your workplace

We offer

ETH Zurich is a family-friendly employer with excellent working conditions. You can look forward to an exciting working environment, cultural diversity and attractive offers and benefits.

Working, teaching and research at ETH Zurich

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Curious? So are we.

Application review will start immediately, but full consideration is given to those who apply by Oct 31, 2022. with the following documents:

  • Motivation Letter (max 2 pages)
  • Full CV
  • Copy of transcripts (BSc/MSc) with grades
  • Contact details of two referees that may be contacted at a later stage

Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal. The start date for the position is around Feb 1 2023, but with some flexibility. Applications via email or postal services will not be considered.

Further information about the Swiss Seismological Service can be found on our website Questions regarding the position should be directed to Dr. Elías Rafn Heimisson, email: (no applications).

About ETH Zürich

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.