The Surface Earth Evolution (SEE) group in the Department of Earth Sciences at ETHZ is seeking a PhD student to study how the global sulfur cycle regulates Earth’s long-term habitability. Our group is committed to investigating the processes that drive global environmental changes over human to geologic timescales.

We effectively integrate field-based sample collection with lab-based geochemical measurements and numerical models. Combined, our work intersects several traditional Earth-science fields to holistically study the drivers and impacts of global biogeochemical cycles throughout Earth’s history.

Project background

This position is part of the ERC-funded project “Respires: Reconstructing the Effect of Sulfide Respiration on Global Redox State”. The project strives to resolve the controls on—and reconstruct past changes in—pyrite mineral weathering, a major process that governs atmospheric oxygen and carbon dioxide levels. Specifically, we will study this process using innovative “triple” oxygen isotope compositions of sulfate—the main product of pyrite weathering—from a suite of global rivers.

We will determine how these signals relate to geologic and climatic factors such as bedrock type, erosion rate, and precipitation amount. Our ultimate goal is to better interpret how pyrite weathering has changed in the geologic past, including its role in the evolution of life and the rise of atmospheric oxygen.

Job description

You will be responsible for the modern global weathering aspects, with the specific duties:

  • Collect water and dissolved sulfate samples from several major global rivers (some from archived material, others during new fieldwork campaigns)
  • Extract sulfate from these samples to analyze their sulfur- and oxygen-isotope signatures (17O and 18O)
  • Elucidate how geology, geomorphology, and climate regulate pyrite weathering within these river basins
  • Determine the global pyrite weathering isotope signal and reconstruct how this process has evolved through time
  • Communicate these findings, write scientific papers, and participate in international conferences and workshops

This position is integral to the “sulfur-cycle” research team—which includes 2 PhD students and 1 postdoctoral researcher—within the larger SEE group. You will therefore lead these tasks but will be supported by the PI and postdoc. This multidisciplinary team offers the opportunity to learn, develop, and apply scientific skills beyond traditional isotope geochemistry!

Your profile

Required experience, skills, and characteristics:

  • MSc degree
  • Isotope geochemistry background
  • Experience with field sampling and chemical laboratory analyses
  • Proficiency in English
  • Excellent teamwork and communication in a cross-cultural environment
  • Ability to work independently with flexibility, critical thinking, and a willingness to learn new skills!

Desirable criteria:

  • Experience with Geographic Information System (GIS) software
  • Scientific programming abilities
  • Curiosity to develop, update, and optimize mass-spectrometry methods and tools in a “hands-on” way!

We offer

We offer excellent, inclusive working conditions and an internationally competitive salary (paid according to ETH standards). Our laboratories are located in downtown Zurich and the working language is English. The start date will ideally be between 1 September and 1 November 2022. The position is temporary for 4 years. chevron_right 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.

Curious? So are we.

We look forward to receiving your online application by June 1st 2022 with the documents:

  • Curriculum Vitae including educational history, any publications, awards, etc.
  • BSc and MSc transcripts (in English or German)
  • Motivation letter (~2 pages) describing your interests, goals, and how they relate to this project
  • Names and contact details of three references

Shortlisted applicants will be invited for an interview by 15.06.2022.

We exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal. Applications via email or post will not be considered. For more information, please contact Prof. Jordon Hemingway (, Department of Earth Sciences.

Apply online now

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.

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