The Department of Earth Sciences of ETH Zurich has been consecutively ranked #1 for four years in the QS World University Rankings, Earth & Marine Sciences. The Chair of Engineering Geology consists of approximately 25 multidisciplinary scientists involved in a leading research and teaching program in quantitative engineering geology and hydrogeology. We are inviting applications for a PhD position in the area of geomechanical modelling.

PhD Position - Modelling bedrock fracturing in response
to Alpine valley formation

This project is part of collaborative effort aimed at gaining insight into the manner in which the generation of bedrock fractures due to large scale topographic changes controls groundwater flow dynamics and solute transport in a large Alpine basin (the Matter Valley, Switzerland). Mountains occupy a critical position within the water cycle. They act as “water towers” which progressively deliver water accumulated during periods of precipitation or snowmelt to surface and groundwater systems at the valley floor. However, the mechanisms of groundwater recharge, storage, and discharge remain poorly understood in such environments. This is, in part, due to a lack of knowledge into i) the distribution of bedrock fractures and aquifer compartmentalization of the mountain slopes and ii) the dearth of hydrological data available. Hydraulically conductive near-surface fractures develop in response to a redistribution of bedrock stresses as glaciers and rivers progressively erode the alpine landscape. A mechanistic description of landscape evolution - combining field observations and geomechanical modelling - can provide critical insight into the spatial distribution of fracture networks driving groundwater flow dynamics. Similarly, hydrological and geochemical observations will provide key information into the degree of bedrock fracturing and its connectivity at the watershed scale. Leveraging the complementary nature of these observations, insights into streamflow recession and groundwater chemistry derived from a parallel hydrogeological investigation will provide independent verification of assumed spatio-temporal variations in fracturing as a result of valley evolution. Information on similar projects can be found on and

The successful candidate must have an MSc in Earth Sciences, Environmental Engineering or related field and be strongly interested in research. Knowledge and experience in rock mechanics, geomorphology, and / or numerical modelling are important. Good technical and writing skills are desired. The duration of the position is 3 years. You will be tasked with constraining a 3D geomechanical model capturing bedrock fracturing in response to fluvial and glacial erosion since the mid-Pleistocene Transition (~0.94- 0.89 Ma). Characterization of selected tributary catchments will involve engineering geological mapping, evaluation of progressive fluvial and glacial erosion, and interpretation of results from (ambient vibration) seismic investigations. The candidate will be required to work in a multidisciplinary team tasked with synthesizing field observations in order to transfer geomechanical model results to hydrogeological properties (these are required inputs to a complimentary PhD project).

We look forward to receiving your online application including a cover letter, a curriculum vitae which describes your complete personal details and career history, complete course grades and transcripts, digital copies of both Bachelor and Master theses, and one representative publication (if applicable). Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal. Applications via email or postal services will not be considered.

For further information about the Department of Earth Sciences and the Chair of Engineering Geology please visit our website Questions regarding the position should be directed to Dr. Kerry Leith, Engineering Geology, by email (no applications).

posted: 03 July 2018     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.