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Two PhD positions in Laboratory Seismology in Zürich

Studierende finden an der ETH Zürich ein Umfeld, das eigenständiges Denken fördert, Forschende ein Klima, das zu Spitzenleistungen inspiriert.


100%, Zurich, temporary

The Swiss Seismological Service (SED, ) at ETH Zurich invites applications for two PhD student positions to perform experimental and numerical research in the emerging field of laboratory seismology. The SED is part of the Department of Earth Sciences at ETH, one of the leading research intuitions in Earth Sciences worldwide. The position will be jointly supervised by Prof. S. Wiemer, Dr. C. Madonna and Dr. P. A. Selvadurai. The project aims at advancing and improving the understanding and forecasting of natural and induced earthquakes using novel laboratory experiments.

Project background

The current lack of understanding regarding natural and induced earthquakes severely limits the application of ever more precise empirical observations to enhance our earthquake forecasting abilities. It also limits the usefulness and societal acceptance of GeoEnergy applications, such as deep geothermal energy exploitation. Because anthropogenic earthquakes have emerged as the main challenge to numerous GeoEnergy related projects around the world, and because natural earthquakes remain a dominating risk for people and infrastructures, we urgently need to underpin empirical observation with enhanced quantitative understanding and modelling capabilities.

This position will start from a set of recent, exciting but in parts poorly constrained first-order observations of natural seismicity and design specific hypotheses-driven experiments at the laboratory scale to unravel the underlying principles to a much greater extent than possible today. The project will be closely coupled to unique underground experiments conducted at the decameter scale in the new Bedretto Underground Laboratory for Geosciences ()

Job description

The PhD students will focus on conducting innovative experiments using a novel triaxial machine, LabQuake, coupled with a very high-sensitivity acoustic emission monitoring system. LabQuake can be used for systematic experimental investigations of the effects of pore-fluid variation in fractured media by measuring poroelastic, mechanical, hydraulic and thermal properties, as well as acoustic emissions of intact and fractured rocks, considering various stress regimes and different fracture orientations representative of the upper crust conditions (up to 6 km depth). A specific focus of the experiments will be on understanding and modelling the environmental conditions influencing the average size distribution of earthquakes.

The position is available from September 1 onwards. The working language at the Department is English. The salary and general working conditions are internationally highly competitive and according to .

Your profile

We are seeking a highly motivated candidate with a strong interest in experimental geophysics and/or geomechanics with a Master degree in Earth Sciences / Physics / Applied Mathematics or a related discipline. Candidates should ideally be proficient in data collection using electronic sensors and have an advanced-level of signal processing capabilities, for example in Matlab or Python. Demonstrated skills in physics-based analysis and/or numerical modelling are a plus. Candidates that have completed a dissertation-style Master’s in an experimental laboratory will be favored.

As it is the key work to be performed, the candidate is expected to develop a passion for collecting and critically assessing data sets from the literature and complementary experimental and simulation work, to identify systematic trends and to cast them into coherent understanding that is relevant to the scientific community.

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.

We look forward to receiving your online application with the following documents:

  • Cover letter
  • Curriculum Vitae

Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal. Applications via email or postal services will not be considered.

Further information about Swiss Seismological Service can be found on our website: .

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