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)


Background 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. 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.

Thematic track:

You will be eligible to apply if you have between two and six years of postdoctoral experience. Parental leave periods in this phase will be taken into consideration (max. two years per child under 12 years). 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. No more than two candidates will be selected from the thematic track in the first step.

1) Atmospheric Boundary-Layer Coupling and Arctic Amplification

The YIG observes and investigates the processes that mediate the exchange of heat, moisture, tracers and momentum between the atmosphere and ocean, sea ice or land surfaces. The proposed group contributes to understanding, quantifying and projecting Arctic amplification of climate change and to understanding and predicting high-latitude extreme events and their future changes. The applicant should be experienced in boundary-layer meteorology and show the capacity to develop novel approaches to gain process-level understanding related to fundamental questions in climate research.

2) Sources and Sinks of Marine Micro- and Nanoplastics

The YIG conducts research in the field of plastic pollution in marine environments. Using stateof- the-art techniques, the group will investigate distributions of plastic pollutants in all compartments of the marine realm, link these to potential sources and pathways of transport, and assess potential impacts on ecosystem function. The applicant should be experienced in modern techniques of the measurement of chemicals and particles in the environment, and/or the investigation of impacts of pollutants on organisms. Affinity to modelling, and the analysis of pathways of distribution is beneficial.

3) Plankton Ecology of Coastal Seas

The YIG conducts research in the field of plankton ecology, with a focus of the central role of phytoplankton in the coastal food web and its interactions with nutrients, microbes and higher tropic levels. The aim of this position is to connect ecological experiments of many different scales on selected plankton species and communities with field observations and long-term studies, including bioarchives. The applicant should have experience in experimental plankton ecology and/or physiology of temperate phytoplankton and enthusiasm for a future focus on the North Sea and the coastal stations of the AWI.

4) Polar Lipidomics

The YIG conducts research in the field of marine chemistry and molecular bio(geo)chemistry with a focus on lipidomics. The group leader will address the role of chemical compounds for the interaction, productivity and energy budgets of organisms in the pelagic environment and the connection to biogeochemical cycles. The research is regionally focused on polar pelagic and sea-ice ecosystems and will target dissolved and particulate organic compounds in cells, organisms, ice and water. The applicant should be experienced in the field of marine chemistry, biochemistry or organic geochemistry. Ideally, the applicant has some background in working with chemical biomarkers, marine carbon cycling and/or species adaptation strategies.

5) Molecular Biodiversity of Intertidal Ecosystems

The YIG investigates gradients and shifts of biodiversity across important environmental interfaces (e.g., pelagic/benthic, subtidal/intertidal/supratidal, present/past) in the Wadden Sea using eDNA approaches. The group will help to define benchmarks and success criteria for ecosystem restoration and long-term renaturation strategies for the Wadden Sea until the end of this century and beyond, and will contribute to long-term time series on invasive species. The applicant should be a strong background in marine biodiversity and ecosystem functionality with a focus on modern techniques of DNA sequencing (environmental genomics, metagenomics, metabarcoding).

6) 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 (sponges, corals, echinoderms), 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, state-of-the-art interdisciplinary field and laboratory methods for observational and experimental research. Broad expertise from shelf to deep sea habitats are beneficial.

7) Transport Processes in the Southern Ocean

The YIG conducts research in the field of physical oceanography in the Southern Ocean, in order to study the role of the Southern Ocean in the climate system. Research will focus on oceanic processes in the Atlantic Sector of the Southern Ocean, in order to understand heat and freshwater fluxes and pathways in the changing ocean system with relevance for carbon budgets. The YIG will contribute to and profit from the long-standing observational programs of AWI and should be experienced in regional-scale ocean data analysis, data-model integration, numerical ocean modelling.

Open track:

You will be eligible to apply in a field in which you have recently excelled (demonstrated by e.g. high impact paper / CV fit for an ERC application). You need between two and six years of independent postdoctoral experience with high productivity. Periods of parental leave in this phase will be taken into consideration. Further requirements are international research experience as demonstrated by continuous research stay abroad for at least 6 months during the doctoral or postdoctoral studies. Max. one candidate will be selected for the open track in this first step.

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 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

Please contact before applying. Draft application should include a motivation letter (max. 1 page, Arial, font size 11 & single-line spacing) and a project summary (max. 2 pages, Arial, font size 11 & single-line spacing), a full CV and publication list.

Templates for a curriculum vitae and draft application are provided on our AWI webpage.

Deadline for submission of draft applications ( is 14.02.2021. Shortlisted applicants will be invited to present their projects to the AWI Scientific Council at the end of March 2021. 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 2021.

posted: 18 January 2021     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.