PhD position on sensitivity of past warm climates to CO2

WorkplaceZurich, Zurich region, Switzerland

100%, Zurich, fixed-term

The Climate Geology group is looking for a curious and motivated PhD candidate interested in combining careful laboratory analyses and model-data comparison to understand Earth’s climate sensitivity in past warm time periods.

Project background

This PhD project focuses on the relationship between atmospheric CO2 and the surface ocean temperature during key time windows of the Miocene period, in order to better understand the processes contributing to warm climates during periods of higher than preindustrial greenhouse gas conditions. For this project, ETH has partnered with a research group at Purdue University in the USA, where general circulation models of Miocene climate will be run. Together with the Purdue team, our research team will develop new proxy system models and employ them to more robustly compare the geochemical proxy records with climate model simulations. The project is funded by an SNF grant for four years.

Job description

In this PhD project, you will develop new records of atmospheric CO2 and of changes in the surface ocean temperature. CO2 records will be produced from carbon isotopic fractionation in alkenone biomarkers. New temperature records will be developed from the clumped isotopic composition of coccoliths, calcite plates produced by a family of phytoplankton. Within the project, the PhD candidate will conduct several short mobility research stays with our project partners at Purdue University in the USA, in order to develop and refine proxy system models and compare the new data with results from climate models, and become familiar with climate modeling. In addition to the research project, you will gain experience in teaching, broader science communication, and/or laboratory management by contributing to departmental teaching, outreach and laboratory tasks constituting up to 10% of the work time.


  • MSc in Earth Science, in some cases a MSc in Environmental or Atmospheric Science would be considered if there is appropriate background in geology and chemistry.
  • Prior work such as MSc thesis should demonstrate a strong interest in paleoclimate and/or organic geochemistry or clumped isotope thermometry.
  • Demonstrated experience in careful laboratory work, ideally in the field of geochemistry. Additionally, we require evidence of solid quantitative and data management skills, including experience in or willingness to learn Python or MATLAB.
  • Strong skills in scientific writing are required, as are solid English communication skills.
  • Ability to work productively in a multidisciplinary, international team, and able and willing to travel for short research stays in the US with our collaborators.

The PhD project may start on October 1 2024 or on a mutually agreed upon date thereafter.


We offer

Our research group and the department feature world-class laboratory facilities and excellent analytical support from professional technical staff. Our group provides a wide exposure to paleoclimate science problems and methods, including the development of new and refinement of existing "proxy" indicators, and field and laboratory culture calibration studies.

We cultivate a collegial and collaborative work environment. We stimulate personal initiative and a progressive increase in PhD autonomy over the course of the PhD project. We employ modern group management software platform to facilitate organization, integrate periods of flexible or home-office work, and to enable prompt and effective feedback between early career researchers and supervisors. Weekly group meetings provide a forum to share work in progress and obtain broad feedback. English is our groups primary language. Like our group, the department is a very international and promotes networking among PhD candidates and the department through weekly social events and a multi-day annual PhD retreat organized by and for PhD candidates.

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.

Please submit the following application documents using the ETH online portal:

A single merged PDF document, titled with your last name and initial and application date e:g: 20240630_StollH_application, containing, in the following order

  • A motivation letter of no more than 2 single spaced pages which (1) describes your motivation for applying to this PhD project at ETH Zurich, (2) presents the most important specific examples of why you believe your prior academic and research preparation has made you an ideal fit for this project, (3) comments one aspect in which you feel less prepared and how you might deal with this in the course of the project, and (4) details with an example one outstanding personal attribute which you believe would strongly contribute to your success in a PhD program.
  • Detailed CV.
  • Transcripts of all previous degrees.
  • Names and contact information of at least two references and your relationship to them.

You are also welcome to upload any representative research work you wish to provide (manuscripts for publications with a statement on your contribution to them, or BSc or MSc thesis)

Review of applications will begin on 20th of June 2024 and continue until a candidate is hired.

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

Questions regarding the position should be directed to Prof. Heather Stoll, (no applications by email)

Further information on the department is available at our website.

Apply online now

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.

In your application, please refer to and reference JobID 64655.

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