Eidg. Forschungsanstalt WSL
Zürcherstrasse 111
8903 Birmensdorf
WSL-Institut für Schnee- und Lawinenforschung SLF
7260 Davos Dorf
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The Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL is part of the ETH Domain. Approximately 600 people work on the sustainable use and protection of the environment and on the handling of natural hazards.
PhD student in (Computational) Mechanics / Physics (f/m/d)

The Research Unit “Avalanches and Prevention” investigates the formation and movement of snow avalanches. Their Research Group “Avalanche Formation and Dynamics” is offering from summer or fall 2022 a position as a:
Your research is part of the SNSF funded project “The pulsing nature of powder snow avalanches”, and aims to unravel the origin of wave phenomena observed at the interface between the transitional and the dense basal layers of powder snow avalanches, to understand the factors controlling their development and, ultimately, to improve the as-sessment of avalanche pressure on obstacles to take into account the impulsive load these waves exert. This research has the potential to improve avalanche risk management in high mountain regions, as well as to be similarly relevant for granular flow and particle-laden gravity currents, such as pyroclastic flows, or turbidity currents.

To achieve this goal, you will process and interpret existing data collected at the full-scale Vallée de la Sionne avalanche test site, use and further develop a model based on the Material Point Method and finite strain elastoplasticity which will serve as a numerical laboratory for data interpretation. The same model will then be further developed to study the interaction of avalanche pressure pulses and infrastructure. The project is in collaboration with international scientists and is highly interdisciplinary, and as such you will be working in a international team. Your work place will be the WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF in Davos. The PhD thesis will be supervised by Dr. Betty Sovilla (SLF), Prof. Christophe Ancey (EPFL) and Prof. Johan Gaume (EPFL). The PhD degree will be awarded by EPFL.
You hold a Master degree in (computational) mechanics or (computational) physics and have experience with continuum numerical methods for solving partial differential equations such as the Finite Element Method and/or the Material Point Method. Knowledge on granular mechanics and computational plasticity is beneficial. You must be fluent in English. German knowledge is beneficial.

Please send your complete application to Clemens Güdel, Human Resources SLF, by uploading the requested documents through our webpage. Applications via email will not be considered. Dr. Betty Sovilla, phone +41 (0)81 417 02 63, email betty.sovilla(at), will be happy to answer any questions or offer further information. The WSL strives to increase the proportion of women in its employment, which is why qualified women are particularly called upon to apply for this position.
Flüelastrasse 11, CH-7260 Davos Dorf