PhD in hydrological modeling of catchment
travel times (M/F)

The Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology offers an outstanding opportunity for joining its newly created doctoral training unit (DTU) in hydrological sciences: "HYDRO-CSI: Towards a holistic understanding of river systems: Innovative methodologies for unraveling hydrological, chemical and biological interactions across multiple scales". The total number of positions in this DTU is 14 - embracing four complementary thematic clusters on (1) high frequency monitoring of hydrological processes, (2) new hydrological tracers, (3) remote sensing applied to hydrology, and (4) hydrological forecasts and predictions under change. Academic partners are the TU Vienna (Austria), University of Luxembourg, Wageningen University (The Netherlands) and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (Germany). The DTU HYDRO-CSI is funded in the framework of the PRIDE scheme of the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR), and coordinated by Prof. Laurent Pfister. The main objective of the DTU HYDRO-CSI is to train a new generation of highly skilled experts with a view to contribute to solving some of the most pressing challenges related to water resources research and management: hydrological system complexity, non-stationarity of boundary conditions, high-frequency monitoring of environmental processes, global change impact assessment. The offered fully paid PhD position is embedded in cluster (4) of the DTU and focuses on the spatial and temporal variability of isotopic signatures in stream water and precipitation. The position is envisaged to start between June 1st 2018 and December 1st 2018 and will extend over a maximum duration of 4 years. The PhD candidate will be part of the Catchment and Eco-hydrology research group (CAT) at the Department of Environmental Research and Innovation (ERIN) at LIST. Furthermore, the PhD candidate will be affiliated with KIT (Karlsruhe Institut für Technologie, Prof. Erwin Zehe).


The influence of landscape structure on runoff generation processes is crucial for sustainable management of water resources in a changing environment. Catchment travel times, which is the time a parcel of water spends within a catchment, from input until it leaves the catchment, have been shown to be a fundamental descriptor of hydrological response and transport in catchments. Studying catchment travel time offers the opportunity for better understanding the underlying controls on how catchments store, mix, and release water. In recent years, Storage Selection (SAS) functions have gained attention that describe efficiently how water ages in the catchments are mobilized to contribute to streamflow and evapotranspiration fluxes, by relating catchment travel times to residence times. In this PhD project physically based bottom-up and conceptual top-down approaches to determine travel times and runoff sources should be tested and benchmarked. In a second step, these approaches will be applied in various landscapes in Luxembourg. Eventually, the first order controls on catchment travel times and runoff sources shall be determined, and the effect of a non-stationary climate on hydrological response and transport should be evaluated. For this, long term hydro-chemical and stable isotope data of precipitation and streamflow are available in various sub-catchments of the Attert and Alzette River basins in Luxembourg. You will evolve in an international team of experts with multiple and complementary expertise and skills in environmental sciences. The DTU provides a unique framework for training and career development geared to building up the next generation of experts in water resources research and management.

As the successful appointee you will:

  • Design, craft, and implement your research proposal, based on a thorough analysis of the current state-of-the art in runoff generation and catchment travel times
  • Carry out modeling and theoretical work related to understand first other controls on catchment travel times and SAS functions
  • Use this as a foundation for linking landscape properties, runoff generation, and catchment travel times in a process based framework the nested Attert and Alzette River basins with contrasting geology and land use

With a view on navigating your future career as an expert in water resources research and management, you will:

  • Advance hydrology science through an ambitious research project
  • Be trained to pursue a successful career in the private or public sector, or in research
  • Be introduced to an international network of leading experts in catchment hydrology
  • Sustain scientific recognition via publications in leading peer-reviewed journals and communications in international conferences

This PhD Project is part of the doctoral training unit (DTU) HYDRO-CSI at LIST. The PhD student will be jointly supervised by Drs. Julian Klaus and Laurent Pfister (LIST) and Prof. Erwin Zehe (KIT); secondments to KIT are foreseen for research and course work. Ideally, this position will be filled with someone who has a strong background in hydrology and hydrological modeling, and who is confident in statistical and mathematical applications in hydrology. Experience with hydrological tracer and/or statistics is an asset. The formal requirement will be Master degree in Hydrology, Environmental science, Civil or Environmental engineering (or similar).


  • No restrictions apply as to the nationality of the candidates
  • Candidates shall be available for starting their position between June 1st 2018 and December 1st 2017
  • Driving licence class B

Place of employment and main place of work

  • Primary supervisors at LIST: Dr. Julian Klaus and Dr. Laurent Pfister
  • Primary work location: Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST), Belvaux, Luxembourg
  • Duration and location of secondment/s: Regular stays at the KIT are foreseen (up to a maximum of 50% of total project duration)

Application procedure

The application can be submitted via LIST's job portal: If there are any questions regarding the procedure please contact our HR office ( The application must include:

  • A motivation letter oriented towards the position and research field and experience
  • A current scientific CV, which includes full contact details
  • Two reference letters or full contact details of two referees
  • A copy of master (or similar) degree that allows for the enrolment on a doctorate degree
  • Transcript of courses and grades

Applications will be reviewed on-going until the position is filled. An assessment committee will be appointed to review the applications and candidates selected based on Network-wide guidelines, which aim to ensure equal opportunities. Shortlisted candidates will be invited to interview either in person or by Skype.

The main criterion for selection will be the existing skills, knowledge, and research career potential of the applicant, match with the project, and fulfilment of the above mentioned qualifications. Candidates from all backgrounds are encouraged to apply.

The LIST is committed with equality of opportunities and gender balance.



  • Master (or similar) degree in Hydrology, Environmental Science, Environmental or Civil Engineering, and related disciplines


  • Highly motivated to be part of an international DTU and to perform high quality research in hydrological modeling and isotope hydrology
  • Programming (e.g. Matlab, Python, R or similar)
  • Strong background in hydrology
  • Experience in hydrological modeling
  • Solid statistical and mathematical background


  • Fluent in English (spoken and written) is mandatory
  • Knowledge of any of Luxembourg's official language (Luxembourgish, French, German) is an asset

posted: 01 May 2018     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.