National Centre of Competence in Research PlanetS
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PhD student for Planetary Imaging Group

The Planetary Imaging Group of the Space Research and Planetology Division at the University of Bern has two positions, one Postdoc and one PhD student, available for conducting experimental research within the framework of the National Centre for Competence in Research (NCCR) PlanetS (

The Planetary Imaging Group operates the Laboratory for Outflow Studies of Sublimating icy materials (LOSSy) developed to experiment with a variety of samples prepared as analogues for the surfaces of icy Solar System objects. Various properties of the samples are measured and then used to interpret remote-sensing datasets either by direct comparison of measured data or by using lab data as inputs or ground-truth for testing physical models. Extensive work has recently been performed on cometary analogues in the context of the Rosetta mission to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. In the framework of the NCCR PlanetS, we are now looking at applying our knowledge and experience with comets in the direction of protoplanetary disks observations and planetary system formation theory. Regular interactions between the various groups working on these topics within the NCCR are key for that project. The experimental work will be conducted at the University of Bern but both researchers will frequently interact with the various groups involved in the NCCR at the Universities of Bern, Zurich, ETH Zurich and Observatory of Geneva.

Ability to communicate and work with colleagues from a wide range of functional backgrounds (e.g. engineering, science, management, technical, non-technical, etc.) as part of a diverse international team is essential. The working language is English. A basic knowledge of German is desired but not required.

PhD student:

The appointed PhD student will work in the laboratory with samples made of mixed ices and dust prepared as analogues for the material present in the outer cold regions of the protoplanetary disk and found today in cometary nuclei. The intended experimental work includes:
– the preparation and characterization of samples
– the measurement of their optical reflectance properties (bidirectional reflectance, spectra, albedo, linear and circular polarization)
– the measurement of other physical properties such as dielectric permittivity, thermal conductivity or compressive strength
– the simulation of the evolution of these samples in low temperature and low pressure environments.

Because of the nature of this project, we are seeking an individual with strong interest for experimental work and laboratory experiments and good knowledge of at least some of the measurement techniques mentioned previously. Candidates with background in material science, geoscience or chemistry with previous experience in the lab would be particularly suitable for that position. Additional skills desirable but not essential include:

– Knowledge of optics and optical systems
– Data analysis with IDL, Matlab, Python…
– Use/knowledge of databases for measured properties of samples
– Computer control and programing of laboratory instruments

Starting date: 1st of September 2018.

To apply, please submit electronically the following documents:

– Letter of motivation
– Curriculum vitae with description of previous research experiences (internships, Master thesis…)
– Contact details of people who could provide a letter of reference

to: Antoine Pommerol (
Complete applications received by June 1st, 2018, will receive full consideration. After this date, applications will be considered depending on availability.


Postdoc for Planetary Imaging Group
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