PhD Candidate in Flash Flood Mechanistics and Modelling (M/F)

Reference: ERIN-2016-040
Type: PhD Student
Contract type: Fixed term contract
Duration: 14 months (+22 months + potentially 12 months extension)
Place: Belvaux


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 is 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 flash flood mechanistics and modelling. The position is envisaged to start between November 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 the Karlsruhe Institut für Technologie (D) (supervision by Prof. Dr.-Ing. Erwin Zehe, Institut für Wasser und Gewässerentwicklung).


In the context of global change and non-stationarity of hydrological systems, Luxembourg is increasingly facing convective meteorological events of unprecedented intensity. The recent catastrophic hydrological events that have occurred in the Mullerthal area (central-eastern Luxembourg) in summer 2016 and 2018 are examples of an increase in extreme hydro-meteorological events. A pressing research need in this respect stems from the fact that while climate change is now clearly observed, it has not been properly assessed and quantified. Moreover, with most hydrological forecasting models having been developed under the assumption of stationarity of environmental systems, they are increasingly applied close to or even beyond their design limits.

We intend to rely on the dense hydro-meteorological monitoring network of the Sûre River basin in Luxembourg, operated by public authorities (e.g. ‘Administration de la Gestion de l’Eau) and LIST for several decades for investigating the following issues:

  • First, we propose to rely on the historical hydro-meteorological database (spanning up to 180 years of observations) for a thorough statistical investigation of past (flash) flood events. Flood shape descriptions are commonly used in this context to characterize the constant/stationary hydrological properties of a catchment. However, flood events can be viewed as well as being an integrated representation of the rainfall events. Here we propose to carry out the flood analysis by extracting evolving properties of the hydrographs that could eventually be related to climate change.
  • Second, we will relate the identified hydrograph properties to meteorological forcing properties with a view to propose new and simpler hydrological models – capable of reproducing the rainfall-discharge relationship in a non-stationary context. This part of the proposed research will be closely linked to an ongoing public-private partnership project on ‘Low-Power Wide-Area Networks enabled flash-flood monitoring and forecasting’ (in collaboration with the ‘Administration de la Gestion de l’Eau’ and ‘POST Luxembourg’). The main goal will be to significantly reduce uncertainties in rainfall measurements and to subsequently improve flash-flood forecasting capacities.

An important objective for the selected candidate is to publish in highly ranked international peer-reviewed journals. The candidate will be encouraged to present his/her results at conferences and to attend workshops. Research visits at the KIT and other project partners are foreseen.

Ideally, the candidate holds a Master degree in applied mathematics or environmental engineering, preferably with a focus on hydraulics/meteorology. She/he has a good knowledge of statistics and programming (preferably with R). She/he is highly motivated to perform rigorous research and is willing to join a very dynamic and international team.


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

Place of employment and main place of work:

  • Primary supervisor at LIST: Prof. Laurent Pfister
  • Primary work location: Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST), Belvaux, Luxembourg
  • Degree awarding institution: Karlsruhe Institut für Technologie (D)
  • Duration and location of secondment: Regular stays at KIT (up to 25% of total project duration)



Master Degree in applied mathematics or environmental engineering, preferably with a focus on hydraulics/meteorology


  • Strong background in statistics / time series analysis
  • Programming skills for data analysis (preferably with R)
  • Excellent skills in scientific writing and presenting


  • The work language is English
  • English skills in speaking, listening, reading and writing


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

Application deadline is September 30th. Yet, 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.

posted: 21 August 2018     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.