Postdoc Position
Discontinuum Modeling of Faulted Opalinus Clay Shale

The Chair of Engineering Geology at ETH Zurich invites applicants for a postdoc position on discontinuum modeling of progressive overbreaks in a nuclear waste test site. The successful candidate must have a PhD degree in Rock Mechanics, Geotechnical Engineering, Earth Sciences, or related field and be strongly interested in rock mechanical modeling. Knowledge of numerical discontinuum simulations, rock mechanics, and engineering geology are of prime importance. Experience of using Itasca’s codes UDEC/3DEC, COMSOL Multiphysics, or other discontinuum models is required. Good English writing and communication skills are essential. The duration of the position is one year starting no later than February 1st, 2021.

The position is funded by a joint research project called Progressive Failure of Structurally Controlled Overbreaks (PF) of the Engineering Geology Chair of ETH, the Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (ENSI), and the Swiss Geological Survey (swisstopo). The position’s research work is on the development of a rock mechanical model for simulating progressive failure of faulted Opalinus Clay shale and the validation of the model against in-situ experimental data.

In unfavorable situations, tectonic fault zones intersecting a nuclear waste repository may lead to deep rock mass damage and large caving/overbreak above repository drifts or caverns. The PF project explores deep structurally-controlled, excavation-induced damage zones (EDZs) and overbreaks using an in-situ experiment at about 1:5 scale located in the Mont Terri Underground Research Laboratory, St. Ursanne (Switzerland), to monitor progressive overbreak formation around a large borehole in faulted Opalinus Clay. The project applies advanced discontinuum-type numerical models to capture the underlying processes driving the progressive failure phenomenon in a controlled climatic environment. The in-situ and modelled failure evolution and damage extents will be compared. Finally, the impact of different stress states, geological and structural settings and tunnel excavation supports on the damage evolution will be assessed to evaluate fault zone hazard scenarios related to repository design and long-term safety.

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 Dr. Martin Ziegler (e-mail:, Dr. Qinghua Lei (e-mail:, or Prof. Simon Löw (e-mail:, Engineering Geology, ETH Zurich.

Your application must be submitted online via the ETH job portal by December 18th, 2020 and include the following: 1) Cover letter; 2) Curriculum vitae describing your personal details and career history; 3) Complete course grades and transcripts; 4) Digital copies of your PhD thesis and of relevant publications; 5) Contact information of two reference persons.

posted: 19 November 2020     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.