National Centre of Competence in Research PlanetS
Gesellschaftsstrasse 6 | 3012 Bern | Switzerland
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PhD position: Geochemical and isotopic investigations of interplanetary dust particles and micrometeorites

The Isotope Geochemistry and Cosmochemistry group ( is a vibrant, international group within the Institute of Geochemistry and Petrology, Department of Earth Sciences. We use chemical and isotopic techniques to understand natural processes on a range of temporal and spatial scales. This includes the formation of the solar system and its planets as well as the evolution of ocean chemistry. We are currently accepting applications for a doctoral student position. The position includes geochemical and isotopic analyses on extraterrestrial matter with a focus on interplanetary dust particles and micrometeorites and utilizes the state-of-the-art geochemistry facilities of the group.

Project background

One of the big questions in planetary science is the origin of volatile elements and formation of atmospheres on terrestrial planets. Several different sources have been suggested for H, C, N and noble gases found in Earth. How Earth acquired its volatiles has implications for its formation, our understanding of the evolution of the early solar system, and the origin of life. In this project, we will evaluate interplanetary dust particles and micrometeorites as potential sources of volatiles on Earth.

Job description

This is a four-year doctoral research position funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation’s Ambizione program. It will principally consist of laboratory work at ETH Zurich and at collaborating laboratories. An array of state-of-the-art analytical methods will be used to characterize the samples: noble gas mass spectrometry, NanoSIMS isotopic mapping, Raman spectroscopy, and scanning electron microscopy. In addition, specialized sample preparation methods will be used to prepare the small dust samples, mainly micromanipulation and ultramicrotomy.

The research is expected to result in publications in major scientific journals of the field and presentations at research conferences. A few weeks of traveling per year is expected. The development, set up, or application of new instrumental methods or development of data processing procedures will be part of the tasks. Small potential contributions to scientific collaborations, laboratory maintenance, supervision of undergraduates or teaching are expected.

The salary and general working conditions are offered according to ETH standards. The group works at ETH Zurich’s Zentrum campus, which offers convenient access to local and national public transit networks and is adjacent to Zurich’s historical city center. The Zentrum campus also hosts a large sports facility, several student lunch restaurants, and access to an extensive language study center.

Your profile

You are a self-motivated, team-oriented, and independent worker with an interest in planetary science. You have an aptitude for laboratory work and excellent communication proficiency (written and spoken) in English. A Masters or comparable degree in a subject related to the PhD project, e.g., in Earth Sciences, Mineralogy, Astronomy, Physics or Chemistry is required by the time of appointment. Research experience in analytical geo- or cosmochemistry is advantageous, especially in mass spectrometry, Raman spectroscopy, SEM/EMPA, or small sample handling.

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 including the following:

  • Your CV, including a list of publications if available
  • Transcripts and diplomas
  • A brief letter of motivation, outlining your interest in and suitability for the position, relevant experiences, as well as your earliest and preferred start date
  • The names and contact information for two to four references

Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal. Applications via email or postal services will not be considered. The selection process starts on March 15, 2021 and will continue until the position is filled. The expected starting date is 1 August 2021.

We currently have two open PhD positions in cosmochemistry. Please indicate in your application if you are also interested in in our other position PhD position in Noble Gas Cosmochemistry.

Further information about the group can be found on our website Questions regarding the position should be directed to Dr. My Riebe at (no applications).

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