PhD position: "Multiphase Modeling of Alpine Mass Movements and Process Cascades"

100%, fixed-term

The Chair of Alpine Mass Movements is part of the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering (D-BAUG) at ETH Zurich and the WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF which is part of the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL and thus of the ETH Domain. In our group, we develop numerical models and experimental facilities to better understand the initiation and dynamics of alpine mass movements such as snow avalanches, debris flows and rockfalls. Our research contributes to improve risk assessment and management procedures related to gravitational mass movements in alpine regions and mitigate their impacts.

Project background

Instabilities in glaciers and rock walls can trigger complex process chains involving rock, ice and snow avalanches and outburst floods. Global warming could contribute to an increase in the frequency and magnitude of such catastrophic events. Their anticipation is thus of utmost importance to evaluate the resilience of existing protection procedures and define adaptation strategies. In modeling, one major difficulty is the combined numerical description of processes such as multi-phase interactions, heat transfer, phase changes, and  liquefaction during the flow.

Job description

In this PhD work, you develop a multi-phase material point method (MPM) for alpine mass movements and cascading processes. In a first step, you implement of a two-phase hydromechanical MPM in which solid and fluid phases. Then, a heat energy balance equation will be introduced including friction heat dissipation and phase changes. The model will be evaluated based on benchmark tests and then applied to real-case scenarios such as the 2017 Piz Cengalo rockslide or the 2021 Chamoli disaster. You will publish your results in scientific journals, present them at international conferences and contribute to teaching at ETH Zurich.

Your profile

  • You hold an MSc degree in Computational Mechanics / Computational Science and Engineering / Applied Mathematics or a related field.
  • You have experience in using and developing numerical models.
  • Ideally, you bring some skills in soil mechanics and natural hazards applications. We encourage applications from enthusiastic and dedicated individuals who have very good oral and written communication skills in English. German or French knowledge is beneficial.
  • You are motivated to work in an interdisciplinary and international working environment and you would enjoy living in a beautiful and varied mountain environment.

Your workplace

Your workplace




We offer

ETH Zurich is a family-friendly employer with excellent working conditions. You can look forward to an exciting working environment, cultural diversity and attractive offers and benefits.

Working, teaching and research at ETH Zurich

We value diversity

In line with our values, ETH Zurich encourages an inclusive culture. We promote equality of opportunity, value diversity and nurture a working and learning environment in which the rights and dignity of all our staff and students are respected. Visit our Equal Opportunities and Diversity website to find out how we ensure a fair and open environment that allows everyone to grow and flourish.

Curious? So are we.

We look forward to receiving your online application with the following documents:

  • Application letter
  • CV / Resume
  • Certificate / Reference
  • Diploma
  • Additional documents

Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal. Applications via email or postal services will not be considered.

Further information about D-BAUG can be found on our website baug.ethz.ch. Information about the SLF can be found on slf.ch. Questions regarding the position should be directed to Prof. Dr. Johan Gaume, email jgaume@ethz.ch (no applications). ETH Zürich and WSL strive to increase the proportion of women in their employment, which is why qualified women are particularly called upon to apply for this position.

About ETH Zürich

ETH Zurich is one of the world’s leading universities specialising in science and technology. We are renowned for our excellent education, cutting-edge fundamental research and direct transfer of new knowledge into society. Over 30,000 people from more than 120 countries find our university to be a place that promotes independent thinking and an environment that inspires excellence. Located in the heart of Europe, yet forging connections all over the world, we work together to develop solutions for the global challenges of today and tomorrow.

Curious? So are we.

We look forward to receiving your online application with the following documents:

  • Application letter
  • CV / Resume
  • Certificate / Reference
  • Diploma
  • Additional documents

Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal. Applications via email or postal services will not be considered.

Further information about D-BAUG can be found on our website baug.ethz.ch. Information about the SLF can be found on slf.ch. Questions regarding the position should be directed to Prof. Dr. Johan Gaume, email jgaume@ethz.ch (no applications). ETH Zürich and WSL strive to increase the proportion of women in their employment, which is why qualified women are particularly called upon to apply for this position.

About ETH Zürich

ETH Zurich is one of the world’s leading universities specialising in science and technology. We are renowned for our excellent education, cutting-edge fundamental research and direct transfer of new knowledge into society. Over 30,000 people from more than 120 countries find our university to be a place that promotes independent thinking and an environment that inspires excellence. Located in the heart of Europe, yet forging connections all over the world, we work together to develop solutions for the global challenges of today and tomorrow.