PhD in geo-energies modelling and experimental work within the EU SMILE project in Zürich

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100%, Zurich, fixed-term

The Swiss Seismological Service at the Department of Earth Science is looking for a doctoral candidate to join its team for the next three years. The start date of the doctorate is negotiable, but we envision a start in spring 2023.

Project background

The doctorate is offered in the frame of the research project EU Horizon Europe Marie Skłodowska-Curie Doctoral Networks MSCA-DN Project SMILE (, Grant Agreement No. 101073281), a project conducted in cooperation with academic and industrial partners from different European countries.

Geo-energies, such as geothermal energy, CO2 storage and underground energy storage, have a great potential to contribute to meeting the Paris Agreement targets on climate change. Yet, their deployment has been hindered by a lack of a full understanding of the processes that are induced in the subsurface by large-scale fluid injection/extraction. The various processes involved (e.g., fluid flow, geomechanical, geochemical and thermal effects) imply complex interactions that cannot be predicted without considering the dominant coupled processes, which is rarely done. As a result, some early geo-energy projects have occasionally developed unpredicted consequences, such as felt and damaging induced earthquakes, gas leakage and aquifer contamination, and dampening public perception of geo-energies. SMILE aims at overcoming these challenges in developing geo-energy solutions by training a new generation of young researchers that will become experts in understanding and predicting coupled processes. Thus, they will be capable of proposing innovative solutions for the successful deployment of subsurface low-carbon energy sources while protecting groundwater and related ecosystems.

To achieve this ambitious goal, the doctoral candidates will be exposed to interdisciplinary training on experimental, mathematical and numerical modelling of coupled processes, upscaling techniques and ground deformation monitoring using field data from highly instrumented pilot tests and industrial sites. The training in SMILE has been designed by both academic and industrial partners to train competitive researchers with both technical-scientific and transferable skills to enhance their employability in academia, industry and the public sector. The outputs of the project will be largely disseminated. Outreach to society will be achieved through a conspicuous series of initiatives. SMILE will make a significant contribution to the societal challenges of securing clean and low-carbon energy sources.

Job description

Objectives: To develop an experimentally based study of the complex interaction between reactive pore fluids and rock matrix, in typical caprocks and reservoir rocks. Data will be collected both in a laboratory and in situ at ongoing pilot projects (e.g., at the and , as well as at the islandic CO2 storage facility). The aim is to provide a link between relevant mechanical/hydraulic parameters and fluid-rock interaction. Experiments will be also tailed to link the characteristics of the rocks to seismic/aseismic slip, addressing the induced seismicity issue

Expected Results: To provide a complete dataset on geomechanical parameters linked to fluid-rock interaction in caprock/reservoir rocks. The data will be input into numerical simulations

Your profile
  • We are looking for highly motivated, perseverant and creative individuals with strong analytical and problem-solving skills.
  • You should hold a Master's degree in earth or environmental sciences, environmental engineering, physics or related fields, and should have a keen interest both in numerical modelling and in laboratory experiments.
  • Researchers are required to undertake transnational mobility (i.e., move from one country to another) when taking up the appointment. At the time of selection, 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 their recruitment. Short stays, such as holidays, are not taken into account.
  • A good knowledge of geomechanics and/or geotechnical engineering, together with experience in numerical modelling and programming will be appreciated.
Your workplace
Your workplace

We offer

We are a dynamic and international research group, dedicated to the study of induced seismicity at small and large scales. We apply a multidisciplinary approach to the study of earthquake nucleation, and support our research with experimental observations at the lab scale or in underground laboratories  We value a friendly and welcoming working atmosphere and strive for excellence in all we do.

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 to find out how we ensure a fair and open environment that allows everyone to grow and flourish.
Curious? So are we.

We are looking forward to receiving your application with the following documents by January 31, 2023:

  • Letter of motivation
  • your CV
  • copies of your diplomas and transcripts
  • the contact details for two persons willing to act as a reference

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

For more information on our group and our activities, please visit . Questions regarding the position should be directed to Dr Alba Zappone (

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.

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