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PhD Position in aerOsol cloud interactions: the Role of orgAnic compounds in CLoud droplEt activation (ORACLE): Experimental Work in Zürich

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


100%, Zurich, fixed-term

The Institute of Atmospheric and Climate Science (IAC) at the Department of Environmental System Sciences is one of the world's leading venue for research in atmospheric sciences. The institute offers a comprehensive infrastructure, IT and technical support pertaining to research at all levels. 

The Atmospheric Physics group at the Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Sciences invites applications for a 3-year PhD position integrated into a Binational Swiss-French project “AerOsol cloud interactions: the Role of orgAnic compounds in CLoud droplEt activation (ORACLE), funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and French Research National Agency (ANR).

Project background

Cloud droplets in the Earth’s atmosphere form on ubiquitous aerosol particles. Presently, predictions of cloud droplet size and number concentration derived from aerosol properties are still poor, leading to large uncertainties in the radiation budget and climate projections. Cloud droplet activation is conventionally described by Köhler theory. Yet, classical Köhler curves do not include dynamically evolving surface tension and co-condensation of semi-volatile organic compounds during cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) activation. ORACLE aims to fundamentally improve the understanding of the role organics play in CCN activation through combined experimental and modelling work. For this project, the Atmospheric Physics group seeks two PhD students that will collaborate with each other and with the French partners. Two CCN counters with different working principles will be used to test cloud formation on aerosol sampled from a large tank with special emphasis on the role of the organic components and the dynamic equilibrium between gas phase and condensed phase during humidity variations. In addition, instrumentation to analyse the gas phase (CHARON-PTR-MS) and the condensed phase (high-resolution time-of-flight aerosol mass spectrometer (HR-ToF-AMS), filter sampling) will be jointly operated with the French partners.

Job description
  • Taking lectures on relevant topics such as cloud microphysics, data analysis and statistical methods, atmopsheric physics and chemistry, and aerosols.
  • Doc Jobs (Teaching Assistant and institute duties for PhD students).
  • Constructing, building and validating a continuous-flow thermal-gradient diffusion chamber based on the design of ice nucleation chambers deployed in the Atmospheric Physics group. 
  • Operation of the tank experiment and equipment involved in it (differential mobility analyzer (DMA), hygroscopic growth differential mobility analyser (HTDMA), and CCN counters).
  • Close collaboration with the French partners and organization of joint measurement campaigns.
  • Analysing the experimental results in close interaction with the modelling PhD at ETH and publishing in peer-reviewed journals.
  • Creative direction of research in senior PhD year.
Your profile

The successful candidate in addition to holding a MSc (or equivalent) in chemistry, physics, engineering, atmospheric/environmental sciences, or a related field should be interested in aerosol experimental and field observations. Knowledge of oral and written English is required. Data analysis in Igor, Origin, MATLAB, Python or similar software is highly desired, and some knowledge of LabVIEW and aerosol measurement techniques would be an asset, but not necessary.

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 that includes:

  • CV,
  • academic transcripts,
  • work certificates (if any),
  • 1-page motivation letter stating research experiences and interests,
  • contact information of at least two referees.

Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal. Applications via email or postal services will not be considered. The project started in February 2021. Due to the pandemic the first call of applicants did not result in a hire. As such we are re-advertising the posion for a start date as soon as possible. Applications will be considered immediately until position is filled. 

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