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PhD position in computational modelling of asteroid collisions

PhD position in computational modelling of asteroid collisions

Asteroids, along with comets, are direct remnants from Solar System formation. They contain a relatively pristine record of the initial conditions present in the solar nebula, 4.6 billion years ago. These objects represent a unique opportunity to study the building blocks of planets and the role of impact processes during the formation and evolution of the Solar System. In addition, asteroids may pose a future threat of colliding with Earth. A good understanding of asteroids and how they respond to impacts can help us prevent such events.

The aim of this project is to study the origin and collisional evolution of asteroids and their precursors – the planetesimals – using realistic rheological models based on advanced laboratory and space mission impact experiments. Data from the upcoming NASA DART mission impact will be used for the validation and calibration of the numerical models. The second part of the project will investigate ≈ 100 km sized objects to determine the merging criteria and fragmentation threshold as a function of their properties. These studies will be the basis for a general framework of collision outcomes, as required in planet formation models. These studies will also include investigations of possible formation scenarios of asteroid (16) Psyche, target of NASA’s ‘Psyche’ mission (scheduled to launch in August 2022). The studies will be conducted using sophisticated Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics (SPH) simulations. The successful candidate is expected to develop a new module to model the post-impact re-accumulation process, to be included in the Bern SPH code.

The successful candidate will join a vibrant research group with extensive expertise in modelling impact processes and small Solar System bodies, and will conduct the research at the Space Research and Planetology Division of the University of Bern (Switzerland), under the supervision of PD Dr. Martin Jutzi and postdoctoral researcher Dr. Sabina Raducan. They will be trained in state-of-the-art computer modelling techniques, impact physics and analysis tools. The candidate will have the opportunity to develop their career and profile by presenting at international conferences and publishing in high impact journals.

Requirements: Candidates for the PhD position should have a good physics and/or mathematical background and a good MSc degree/diploma or equivalent in an appropriate field, such as physics, astronomy, earth science, mathematics or computer science. A research interest in asteroids and other small celestial bodies of the Solar System is beneficial. Experience in programming (C++) and numerical modelling is highly desirable. Fluency in written and spoken English is required.

Position: PhD
Duration: 4-years
Stipend: 47’040 to 50’040 CHF/year

How to apply:

Please include the following documents:

The application shall be sent to Dr. Martin Jutzi (

Start date: September 1st, 2022

Deadline: Complete application received by May 15th, 2022 will receive full consideration. After this date, applications will be considered depending on availability.



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