PhD Position (f_m_x) "Debris flow activities in active tectonic areas under climate change”


The Helmholtz Centre Potsdam - GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences is the national centre for research into the geosphere. With around 1,650 employees, we develop a sound understanding of systems and processes of the solid Earth as well as strategies and options for action to counter global change, understand natural hazards and sustainably secure energy and raw material requirements.

For section 4.7 "Earth Surface Process Modelling" (Department 4 “Geosystems”), we are looking for a:

PhD Position (f_m_x) "Debris flow activities in active tectonic areas under climate change”

Reference Number 9586

Project: "How does anthropogenic climate change control debris flow activities in active tectonic areas”

This position is part of the EU-funded Marie Skłodowska-Curie Doctoral Network “Climate-Tectonics Interactions using Big Data informed Models” (INITIATE, We are seeking for a candidate to build a digital twin of debris flow catchments and associated debris flow early warning systems considering different climate scenarios. The objective is to assess how anthropogenic climate change controls debris flow activities in active tectonic areas. There will be two primary sites in Europe (Illgraben, Switzerland) and China (Jiangjia Ravine), and a few secondary sites in the USA.

Your responsibilities:

  • Process and analyse continuous seismic data and high-resolution topography data
  • Develop and/or improve numerical models for debris flows
  • Develop a machine learning approach for determining the controlling factors and thresholds for debris flows 
  • Discover natural patterns in geospatial and climate characteristics for debris flows
  • Correlate those parameters with debris flow frequency and magnitude  
  • Build a statistical framework for ensemble simulations derive thresholds for future climate
  • Develop of digital twins for debris flow early warning system
  • Interpretation and publication of results in peer-reviewed journals 

Your qualifications:

  • Master degree or diploma in Physics, Mathematics or Geosciences 
  • Familiarity with numerical modeling is strongly desirable
  • Knowledge in machine learning and data science is desirable
  • Programming skills in Python, C, or similar language are necessary
  • Proficiency in spoken and written English


  • Researchers recruited in a doctoral network must be early-stage researchers and not been awarded a doctoral degree
  • At the time of recruitment researchers must not have resided or carried out their main activity in Germany for more than 12 months in the 3 years prior to the reference date (EU mobility rule)

What we offer:

  • Ambitious and varied tasks in a dynamic and international research environment
  • State-of-the-art equipment
  • Public service benefits
  • Extensive training opportunities
  • Professional career advice offered by our in-house Career-Centre
  • Flexible working hours and conditions
  • Support with finding a good work-life balance offered by benefit@work
  • Institute day-care centre on site 
  • Working at the Albert Einstein science park on the Telegrafenberg in Potsdam 
  • Work place within walking distance of Potsdam main train station, or just a short ride on the shuttle bus 

Start date: Earliest start is 1st October 2024 (latest 1st February2025)
Fixed-term: 3 years
Working hours: Full-time (currently 39 h/week)
Place of work: Potsdam

Salary: Salary (subject to local taxes, social security deductions):
  • 3342 €/month gross living allowance
  • 600 €/month gross mobility allowance
  • When applicable, a family allowance may also be provided in the amount of 660 €/month
  • Other possible allowances include long-term leave and special needs     

Have we piqued your interest?

If so, we look forward to receiving your application by 15th August 2024. Please use our online application form only.
Requirements on the application (templates on:
  • Cover letter on research interests plus motivation (use template)
  • Mobility declaration including documentation (use template)
  • Names and contact information of two referees (use template)
  • CV (use template)
  • Transcripts and diplomas on master degree. If not available, a confirmation from your institution on completed degree by the application deadline (August 15th 2024)
  • Approved documentation of proficiency in English (if English is not mother tongue)
  • Scientific publication list 

Diversity and equal opportunities are integral components of our human resources policy. The GFZ actively promotes diversity and explicitly welcomes applications from all qualified individuals, regardless of ethnic and social origin, nationality, gender, sexual orientation and identity, religion/belief, age and physical characteristics. Anyone who has been recognized as severely disabled, will be given preferential consideration in the event of equal suitability and qualification in accordance with the provisions of the German Social Code IX. If you have any questions, please contact our representative for the severely disabled at sbv[at], who will be happy to assist you in the further application process. In case of further queries regarding gender equality, please do not hesitate to contact our Equal Opportunities Officer at gba[at]

Your personal data will be processed for the purpose of conducting the selection procedure on the basis of Art. 6 para. 1 b, Art. 88 GDPR in conjunction with Art. 26 of the Data Protection Act for the State of Brandenburg. After completion of the procedure, application documents will be deleted in compliance with data protection regulations.

In case of any further queries relating to the field of activity, please contact Dr. Hui Tang ( or Prof. Dr. Jean Braun ( If you have any general questions about the application process, please contact our recruiting team at our phone number +49 (0) 331-6264-28787.



Franca Buge

Human Resources

0331 6264-1676


Steffanie Gallwitz

Human Resources

Do not overlook the inclusion of Academic Europe in your application.

GFZ - Helmholtz / Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum

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Deadline: 2024-08-15
Location: Germany, Potsdam
Categories: Data Science, Geosciences, Machine Learning, Mathematics, numerical modeling, PhD, Physics, Programming,


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