PhD position: "Modeling Entrainment Mechanisms in Alpine Mass Movements"

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

Erosion and entrainment strongly affect the dynamics of alpine mass movements such as rock, ice or snow avalanches and debris flows. In rock avalanches, entrainment of saturated sediments during fast and undrained loading can lead to liquefaction thus enhancing flow mobility and possibly favoring debris flow initiation. Classical depth-averaged methods used in engineering rely on conceptual physical models and back-calculation to evaluate entrainment rates. On the other hand, 3D particle-based methods can hardly be systematically applied in practical and full-scale cases, but can contribute to unravel crucial micro and mesoscale mechanisms and can help to (in)validate, and parameterize existing entrainment laws or propose new ones.

Job description

In this thesis, you will work with a coupled CFD-DEM model to investigate entrainment mechanisms in alpine mass movements. One important objective will be to decipher the influence of the saturation degree of the bed material on entrainment rates and ultimately on the flow mobility. Results will be implemented in a depth-averaged model evaluated based on the simulation of documented events. You will publish your results in scientific journals, present them at international conferences and contribute to teaching at ETH Zurich.

Your profile

  • You hold a MSc degree in Mechanical Engineering / Civil Engineering / Geomechanics / Geophysics or a related field.
  • Experience with numerical modeling are desired.
  • Ideally, you bring skills in constitutive modeling and soil mechanics with you. 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.