PhD Position
Swelling processes of Opalinus clay shale

The Chair of Engineering Geology at ETH Zurich invites applications for a PhD position in the area of clay shale mechanics. The successful candidate must have an MSc in Earth Sciences or related field and be strongly interested in research. Knowledge and experience in engineering geology, rock mechanics, clay mineralogy and analytics, as well as laboratory testing and in-situ data analyses are of prime importance. Good technical and writing skills are desired. The duration of the position is about 3-4 years.

The Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate ENSI funds the first year of the position. For the subsequent 2-3 years we will seek for further third-party support. The research work is based on in-situ data analyses and laboratory characterization and experiments.

The objective of this project is to improve our understanding of the swelling processes of clay shales, in particular Opalinus Clay shale. On one side swelling of clay shales can lead to undesired high pressures on underground excavation support measures, while on the other side swelling could be an important process in the self-sealing of so-called excavation damage zone (EDZ) structures. Self-sealing is very relevant for the long-term safety of nuclear waste repositories in clay shales. However, the details of clay shale swelling processes at the tunnel scale are still poorly understood, and in-situ and laboratory swelling data do often not conform well or are very difficult to interpret.

The Chair of Engineering Geology has installed different sensors in a section of Opalinus Clay shale in the new Belchen highway tunnel between Eptingen and Hägendorf, crossing the cantonal borders of Basel Landschaft and Solothurn. These sensors include extensometers, pore pressure, total radial pressure on the support tubbing segment lining, in-situ formation water content, and borehole packer systems for active hydraulic tests and pore water extraction. In addition, cores from the Opalinus Clay shale have been extracted for laboratory tests.

The Engineering Geology group consists of approximately 25 multidisciplinary scientists involved in a leading research and teaching program in quantitative engineering geology and hydrogeology. Detailed information about the Earth Science Department and the Chair of Engineering Geology is available on the web: For further information regarding the advertised position please contact Prof. Simon Löw, Engineering Geology, ETH Zurich (e-mail: or Dr. Martin Ziegler, Engineering Geology, ETH Zurich (e-mail:

Complete applications should be sent until July 31st by regular mail or e-mail to Prof. Dr. Simon Löw, Engineering Geology, ETH Zürich, Sonneggstrasse 5, 8092 Zürich, Switzerland, and must include the following: 1) Cover letter; 2) Curriculum vitae which describes your complete personal details and career history; 3) Complete course grades and transcripts; 4) Digital copies of both BSc and MSc theses.

posted: 04 July 2017     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.