National Centre of Competence in Research PlanetS
Gesellschaftsstrasse 6 | 3012 Bern | Switzerland
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Postdoc position in planetary science – cosmic dust / heliosphere

The Astrophysical dust group at the ETH Zürich focuses on the science of cosmic dust nearby and inside the solar system. The main methods used are computer simulations for studying the dust dynamics, and in situ measurements by spacecraft that carry a dust detector on board. We collaborate with researchers in Switzerland and abroad, in astronomy, planetary science, meteor observations, and also with scientists performing laboratory experiments for calibration of the cosmic dust instruments.

Project background

Interstellar dust moves through the solar system at about 26 km/s due to the relative motion between the solar system and its immediate interstellar surroundings. We can measure these dust particles’ mass, composition and flow direction inside the solar system, but part of these dust particles are “filtered” out of the heliopshere (the bubble of plasma around the Solar System that originates from the solar wind) by electromagnetic forces. We simulate the motion of these dust particles and make predictions for fluxes for future and past missions, and compare these to available data in order to constrain particle and heliosphere characteristics. This way, we contribute to the exploration of our immediate interstellar surroundings, the distant heliosphere, and of the pristine interstellar matter in our cosmic “backyard”.

Job description

The goals of the project are to constrain the interstellar dust and (dynamic) heliosphere properties, using in situ data and computer simulations. The candidate will focus on one or more of the following sub-projects: dust data analysis, constructing an empirical toy model of the heliopshere, and using – besides the toy model – the output of an MHD model of the heliosphere to feed into an interstellar dust trajectory simulator. The computation tools will be used to study the effect of the heliosphere’s dynamic environment on the interstellar dust transport (including dust charging), and the model output and spacecraft data analysis will be used for inferring constraints on the dust and the heliosphere characteristics. Predictions of fluxes for future spacecraft missions are also one of the tasks. Finally, the models will be used for other stars with astrospheres or for the solar system in the past.

Your profile

Skills and knowledge we are looking for are:

  • Data analysis (especially working with low statistics)
  • Parallel processing (CPU/GPU), numerical modeling/Monte Carlo simulations
  • Parameter estimation / Bayesian inference
  • Heliosphere / plasma science, cosmic dust science, astrodynamics
  • Strong English speaking and writing skills, knowledge of German is an asset
  • Visualisation skills are an asset
  • Experience in programming languages like Python, IDL and C is a plus

Candidates from underrepresented groups are strongly encouraged to apply. Also candidates who do not completely fulfil the mentioned skills sought for, are encouraged to apply. The prefered starting date is August or September 2021, or by agreement.

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.

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We look forward to receiving your online application with the following documents (in 1 pdf), before March 31st:

  • Cover letter (1 page)
    • Explaining your background, your interest in this position, and career goals
    • Proposed starting date and contact information of 2-3 potential referees
  • Research interest and experience (1 page)
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Publication list
  • A copy of your or PhD certificate
  • Python / C code sample / Github account / any other relevant information you may wish to share

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 the Astrodust Research Group can be found on our website Questions regarding the position should be directed to Dr. Veerle Sterken, vsterken *at* (no applications).

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