PhD position in Experimental Geochemistry/Thermodynamics at ETH Zürich

The Institute of Geochemistry and Petrology invites applications to undertake a PhD on the vaporisation behaviour of elements from magmatic liquids and their relevance for the formation of rocky planets.

The terrestrial planets (such as Earth and Mars) are depleted in volatile elements with respect to the meteorites that are thought to comprise their building blocks. This depletion has historically been attributed to incomplete condensation of gas from planet-forming regions in the solar nebula. However, planetary bodies likely underwent several heating events (e.g., impacts) during their accretion, leading to melting and vaporisation of components from silicate liquids that can result in volatile loss. Therefore, determining the causes and conditions under which volatile depletion occurred is crucial to our understanding of how planets form.

The successful candidate will perform high-temperature experiments under controlled conditions to simulate the evaporation of planetary bodies. The project involves determining the distribution of key elements between the liquid- and gas phases and quantifying their behaviour using the classical 'kinetic theory of gases'. During vaporisation, the isotopes of these elements are expected to fractionate, and the candidate will determine isotopic fractionation factors of these elements between liquid and gas. The aim is to understand the contribution of high temperature evaporation processes to the observed chemical and isotopic variations in planetary materials.

Prospective applicants should hold an MSc in the broad field of physical sciences; such as high-temperature geochemistry/experimental petrology, materials science, thermodynamics, physical chemistry or related disciplines. Although some experimental and/or analytical experience is desirable, a keen interest in applying physical mechanics and thermodynamics to characterise petrologic and geochemical processes is most important. The successful candidate is expected to fulfil some laboratory and/or teaching duties. The position is available in early 2019, the annual salary is 47'040 CHF.

At ETH, PhD completion is expected within 3½ years. Inquiries or applications in the form of a single .pdf file (including a CV with contact details of two referees, an academic transcript/list of courses completed and a brief statement of research interests) should be addressed to Paolo Sossi ( or Max Schmidt (

posted: 26 September 2018     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.