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We are inviting applications for a PhD position in the Geo-environmental Engineering and Clay Mineralogy research group within the Institute for Geotechnical Engineering (IGT) at the ETH Zurich. The position is advertised by Dr. Michael Plötze and Prof Alexander Puzrin.


Primary areas of research of the group are in the characterization of fundamental properties of different kind of materials and minerals, especially clay minerals with respect to various applications in environmental geotechnics in part. in the interactions between geotechnical failures and environmental pollution and mitigation. Interests include (clay) mineral – organic matter interactions and the mineral-fluid reactions, e.g. in soil stability and transport processes in porous adsorbing media. For more information about the group and the institute, please visit here: claylab.ethz.ch and igt.ethz.ch.

Project background

Natural sediments represent a dynamic environment where several reactions may occur, many of them related to the oxidation and mineralisation of organic matter. Despite the increase in knowledge and techniques, the mitigation strategies for polluted sites/sediments often tend to give limited attention to the biogeochemical coupling processes and their effect on contaminant fate and transport. The coupling processes between clays and organics affect the environmental properties of soils and their characterisation. In sites where pollution mitigation actions are required, the organic compounds and their degradation products may also impact the selection of the strategies to be applied, both because they are related to the geotechnical properties of the soils to be treated, and because additives can in turn have unexpected performance when mixed with organic soils.

The project faces such important questions as: How, and to what extent, does mineralogy control the amount and composition of organic matter stabilized in soils and preserved in sediments? What are the adsorption mechanisms of organic matter on different (clay) mineral surfaces and what are the mechanisms through which (clay) minerals stabilize organic carbon in soils and sediments? How does organic matter affect contaminant uptake and dissolution from mineral surfaces (stabilization/degradation/fractionation)? How does organic matter and pollutants affect the soil mechanical properties of (clay) soils?

Job description

This PhD project will address critical remaining knowledge gaps that relate to on the influence of organic matter/pollutants and their degradation products on soil mechanical properties and pollution mitigation strategies. In addition, a focus will be on the investigation of transformation processes and migration behaviour of such substances in soils and sediments. The position has a strong experimental and analytical component.

The group maintains a research laboratory (ClayLab) with state-of-the-art instruments and techniques for determining fundamental parameters (mineralogy, chemistry, physical properties) e.g. of soils and sediments. The laboratory experiments will be complemented by field experiments when needed.


Your profile

We seek for a talented and highly motivated individual who enjoys working in an interdisciplinary group of geotechnical engineers, chemists and geoscientists. You have a MSc degree (or equivalent) in environmental engineering, geoscience or related with strong research interest in environmental chemistry/mineralogy. You have some experience with fluid and mineral surface interaction, with clay mineralogy, and analytical geochemistry. Good communication skills in English (written and spoken), preferably also in German are requested.

ETH Zurich

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.Working, teaching and research at ETH ZurichGet connected

Interested?

We look forward to receiving your online application including a letter of motivation, your CV, a brief (one page) research statement (what do you think would be relevant in the context of the open position and how would you approach the topic), one publication (e.g., your thesis or a conference or journal publication), transcripts of all obtained degrees (in English with individual courses and grades).

Only complete applications containing all the required documents will be considered. Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal. Applications via E-Mail or postal services will not be considered.


This position will be available as soon as possible and upon agreement. Employment will be according to standard regulations at ETH. The planned project duration is four years.

Questions (no applications) regarding the position should be directed to Dr. Michael Plötze by email ploetzel@ethz.ch.

Apply online now

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