Two PhDs in alpine sediment research

100%, Zurich, fixed-term

The Chair of Hydrology and Water Resources Management is inviting you to join us in exploring how to improve predictions of sediment pathways and budgets in river basins. We have two PhD openings in Zurich on data-driven geomorphology and hydrology-sediment modelling.

Project background

Sediment performs several critical functions for river, coastal and marine ecosystems, it generates natural hazards like erosion, debris flows and landslides, and forms floodplains with unique functions for humans and ecosystems. However, much remains unknown about the details of where are the sediment sources and sinks in the landscape, the pathways that connect them, and when and how they are activated – especially insofar as quantitative predictions of sediment fluxes at the river basin scale are concerned. We are an interdisciplinary team consisting of a hydrology-sediment modelling group (Molnar, ETH Zurich) and a geology-geomorphology group (Schlunegger, University of Bern). We will develop a new physics-based hydro-geomorphological approach to analyze sediment pathways, combining distributed hydrology-sediment modelling and connectivity mapping, with geological and geomorphological field observations and sediment tracing in the Alpine Rhine. You can learn more about sediment research in the ETH and Uni Bern groups ETH group and the Uni Bern group.

Job description

We are looking for 3 PhD students (2 at ETH Zurich and 1 at the University of Bern) to start on 1 April 2023 on a 4-year research project funded by the SNF in the areas:

  1. PhD 1: Sediment sources and connectivity analysis. This PhD student will be mapping potential sediment sources in the Alpine Rhine, researching structural and functional connectivity metrics, and exploring relations between sediment concentrations, and basin and climatic inputs by deep learning data-driven methods. Earth sciences background, GIS, and experience working with large data sets are required.
  2. PhD 2: Process-based hydrology-sediment modelling. This PhD student will be working with our new coupled hydrology-sediment model, making fine sediment load observations in small basins to calibrate the model, adding new model components, and simulating source-to-sink pathways by tracing the sources with sediment fingerprints. Environmental engineering background, numerical methods knowledge, and excellent coding skills are required.

The team will be completed by PhD 3 in geological sediment tracing at the University of Bern. This PhD student will be collecting field data for the characterization of source signals for bedload (grain size, bulk petrography) and suspension loads (cosmogenic nuclides, bulk geochemistry and mineralogy), to develop sediment budgets, and to trace source signals through the channel network in Alpine Rhine basins. Geological field experience is required. To apply for this position contact Prof. Fritz Schlunegger (fritz.schlunegger@geo.unibe.ch).

Your profile

You have a Master of Sciences degree in environmental engineering or environmental (earth) sciences. You have a strong interest in computational methods (PhD 2) and geodata analysis (PhD 1) applied to Earth System problems, which you can demonstrate. You know how to use GIS and programming languages (e.g. Python, R, Matlab). You have some fieldwork experience and must be willing to take part in field campaigns. This is a team research effort – it is expected that you are willing and able to work with others, be creative, communicate, think critically and share your skills. Excellent command of English, oral and written, is required, and basic German is an advantage.

Your workplace

Your workplace




We offer

Zurich is a unique location for water and sediment-related research, with top scientists in Environmental Sciences, Earth Sciences, and Environmental Engineering at ETH Zurich, the University of Zurich, as well as close affiliations with experts at the aquatic research institute EAWAG (Duebendorf) and the Forest, Snow and Landscape Research Institute WSL (Birmensdorf). We offer a unique and stimulating environment and excellent infrastructure for your research and networking. ETH Zurich is a top international university, with a vibrant international student body and faculty. Zurich is an international city, easy to reach, culturally diverse, with many outdoor opportunities waiting for you.

Working, teaching and research at ETH Zurich

We value diversity

In line with our values, ETH Zurich encourages an inclusive culture. We promote equality of opportunity, value diversity and nurture a working and learning environment in which the rights and dignity of all our staff and students are respected. Visit our Equal Opportunities and Diversity website to find out how we ensure a fair and open environment that allows everyone to grow and flourish.

Curious? So are we.

We look forward to receiving your application by 23 December 2022. In your application, please express clearly which of the two PhD positions you are applying to. Your application will consist of:

- Motivation letter and research interests (max 1 pg, ca 600 words)

- Curriculum Vitae

- Academic transcripts from Bachelor and Master studies with grades

- Contact information for 2-3 potential referees (no referee letters please)

We will evaluate applications as they come in. We will only accept applications submitted through this portal. The positions will remain open until suitable candidates are found.

For further information about the positions please contact Prof. Peter Molnar (peter.molnar@ifu.baug.ethz) for PhDs 1 and 2 and Prof. Fritz Schlunegger (fritz.schlunegger@geo.unibe.ch) for PhD 3.

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.

Curious? So are we.

We look forward to receiving your application by 23 December 2022. In your application, please express clearly which of the two PhD positions you are applying to. Your application will consist of:

- Motivation letter and research interests (max 1 pg, ca 600 words)

- Curriculum Vitae

- Academic transcripts from Bachelor and Master studies with grades

- Contact information for 2-3 potential referees (no referee letters please)

We will evaluate applications as they come in. We will only accept applications submitted through this portal. The positions will remain open until suitable candidates are found.

For further information about the positions please contact Prof. Peter Molnar (peter.molnar@ifu.baug.ethz) for PhDs 1 and 2 and Prof. Fritz Schlunegger (fritz.schlunegger@geo.unibe.ch) for PhD 3.

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.