The Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) is a member of the Helmholtz Association (HGF) and funded by federal and state government. AWI focuses on polar and marine research in a variety of disciplines such as biology, oceanography, geology, geochemistry and geophysics, thus allowing multidisciplinary approaches to scientific goals.

Young Investigator Group Leader (m/f/d)


As an internationally renowned Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research, the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) is one of the very few scientific institutions in the world that are equally active in the Arctic and Antarctic. It coordinates German polar research efforts, while also conducting research in the North Sea and adjacent coastal regions in Germany. Combining outstanding research infrastructure, cutting edge field work, and innovative modelling approaches the Alfred Wegener Institute explores nearly all aspects of the Earth system and its biodiversity - from the atmosphere to the ocean floor, from the coasts to the ice-covered seas and adjacent land.

Call for Expression of Interest

The Alfred Wegener Institute seeks Expressions of Interest from outstanding talents who are two to six years past the completion of their PhD, to apply for their own Young Investigator Group (HGF call for application).

The two-step process will start with an internal selection process at AWI of up to three candidates in the thematic or open track as specified below. The final selection of candidates will be carried out by an external expert panel advising the president of the Helmholtz Association. YIGs of successful applicants will be hosted at the AWI. Funding is on the order of €300,000 per year for a period of five years, with potential access to further substantial research infrastructure depending in internal negotiation within AWI. The position is limited to five years and offers access to a tenure track procedure.


You will be eligible to apply if you have between two and six years of postdoctoral experience (academic age). For maternity, the track record considered can be extended by 18 months, or if longer by the amount of leave actually taken until the call deadline, for each child born after the PhD award. For paternity leave, the track record considered can be extended by the amount of paternity leave actually taken until the call deadline for each child born after the PhD award. When calculating the academic age, we are guided by the gender-specific clock-stopping policies of the ERC Starting Grant as well as the DFG (number of years in full-time equivalents of active research since doctorate). Periods of unavoidable downtime of scientific career due to e.g. illness or care leave can also be considered. Further requirements are international research experience as demonstrated by continuous research stay abroad for at least 6 months during the doctoral or postdoctoral studies and, of course, an exceptionally strong CV and draft proposal addressing one of the following topics for which we seek outstanding experts to strengthen our research program.

Thematic track

Up to two candidates will be selected applying to the following themes in the first step:

1) Ecology of Antarctic Benthic Habitats
The YIG conducts research in the field of Antarctic benthic community structure and function. Research interests will target habitat-building megafauna (e.g. sponges, corals), their interaction with the biotic and abiotic environment and susceptibility to multiple stressors associated with a changing environment. The applicant should be experienced in benthic community ecology using field observations with advanced optical, acoustic and geochemical in situ platforms, manipulative experiments in the field and in the laboratory and/or modelling approaches. Broad expertise from shelf to deep sea habitats is an asset.

Information on relevant research at AWI, including contact persons from the AWI scientific section, can be found here.

2) The Role of Meroplankton in sustaining benthic assemblages in a changing Arctic Ocean
The YIG investigates the role of meroplankton as a potentially important vector of carbon export to the deep sea. Main areas of research are (a) benthic recruitment processes and shelf - deepsea connectivity as well as (b) the contribution of meroplankton to the carbon flux to the seafloor. The YIG will conduct this research in the Arctic and sub-Arctic. The applicant should be experienced in benthic community ecology, state-of-the-art interdisciplinary field and laboratory methods for observational and experimental research. Broad expertise from shelf to deep sea habitats are beneficial.

Information on relevant research at AWI, including contact persons from the AWI scientific section, can be found here.

3) Statistical solutions to environmental and climate data analysis
The YIG conducts research in the field of the development and application of statistical methods for the analysis of environmental and climate data. Research interests will be the optimal use and development of advanced statistical tools to infer knowledge on the earth system from sparse, incomplete, and complex datasets. The applicant should be an expert in applied statistics (e.g. Bayesian methods), should have hands-on experience working with complex datasets including time-series and have the ability and interest to teach and consult researchers at AWI on statistical analysis.

Information on relevant research at AWI, including contact persons from the AWI scientific section, can be found here.

4) Computational solutions for Earth System Modeling
The YIG will conduct research in the field of computing with the aim of developing a new generation of efficient, performance-portable and energy efficient Earth system models and associated work flows for exascale HPC systems. Research activities should enable breakthroughs in the following areas: (i) Development and application of digital twins of the Earth system, (ii) efficient use of exascale HPC systems and heterogeneous hardware (e.g. scalability, separation of concerns, computational dwarfs, imprecise computing, novel hardware), (iii) machine learning in climate modelling and prediction (e.g., replacing model components, quality control and data assimilation), and (iv) scalable workflows and big data analytics on shared model result and observational data. The applicant should be experienced in Earth system modelling, use of HPC systems, and computing. Some experience in the use of machine learning approaches would be a distinct advantage.

Information on relevant research at AWI, including contact persons from the AWI scientific section, can be found here.

5) Ocean transport processes and pathways in the Southern Ocean climate system
The Southern Ocean (1) features the strongest horizontal circulation of the global ocean, (2) is exposed to extreme interactions with the atmosphere, sea ice and ice shelves, and (3) features ascending and descending branches of the global overturning circulation. The YIG shall conduct research in the field of physical oceanography with a focus on climate-relevant, oceanic processes in the Atlantic Sector of the Southern Ocean. An overarching aim should be to understand fluxes of heat and freshwater fluxes and their respective pathways in this changing ocean system and their couplings to the cryosphere and atmosphere. A research approach relying on long-standing observational programs of AWI such as HAFOS would be highly welcome. The applicant should be experienced in at least one of the methodological fields of Analysis of local-to-regional scale, in-situ ocean observations invoking concepts of ocean dynamics Model - observation synthesis on a regional scale Numerical ocean modeling of both wind-driven and density driven circulations on regional scales

Information on relevant research at AWI, including contact persons from the AWI scientific section, can be found here.

6) Open track: Up to one candidate will be selected in the open track in the first step: You can also apply in any field of research in which you have recently excelled if generally related to the AWI's research program. This can be demonstrated by a grand idea supported by a first own publication and a CV fit for an ERC application. You should identify a potential mentor for realizing your idea from the AWI faculty.

Selection criteria and process

The initial selection of candidates by the AWI will be based on the following selection criteria:

  1. Outstanding scientific achievements and research experience of the candidate (CV, publications, citation index, awards, etc.)
  2. Quality of the planned research project (innovation capacity, relevance, structure, coherence, feasibility)
  3. Compatibility with AWI´s research program and scientific topics listed above (for the thematic track)
  4. Strategic importance for the AWI
  5. Synergy effects resulting from the cooperation between AWI and the partner university

Draft application should include a project summary (max. 2 pages, Arial, font size 11 & singleline spacing) with information on

  • Motivation for the research project
  • General significance of the proposed project
  • Scientific objectives
  • Research strategy / Methods and Technologies
  • Strategic relevance for the research program "Changing Earth - Sustaining our Future"
  • Explanation of how own achievements are incorporated into the project
  • Research cooperation within the proposed project (within AWI, with external partners)
  • Planned group composition and required infrastructure

a full curriculum vitae and publication list. Templates for CV and draft application are provided on our AWI webpage.

Questions about the call for applications and the internal selection procedure answered

Deadline for submission of draft applications ( is 24.01.2022. Shortlisted applicants will be invited to present their projects to the AWI Scientific Council in March 2022. Successful candidates will be informed after the final decision by the AWI Board of Directors; and they will be asked to provide a full proposal until 3 May 2022.

posted: 21 December 2021     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.