he Chair of Engineering Geology at ETH Zurich invites applicants for a postdoc position on discontinuum modeling of progressive overbreaks in a nuclear waste test site. The Engineering Geology group consists of approximately 25 multidisciplinary scientists involved in a leading research and teaching program in quantitative engineering geology and hydrogeology.

Project background

In unfavorable situations, tectonic fault zones intersecting a nuclear waste repository may lead to deep rock mass damage and large caving/overbreak above repository drifts or caverns. The Progressive Failure of Structurally Controlled Overbreaks (PF) project explores deep structurally-controlled, excavation-induced damage zones (EDZs) and overbreaks using an in-situ experiment at about 1:5 scale located in the Mont Terri Underground Research Laboratory, St. Ursanne (Switzerland), to monitor progressive overbreak formation around a large borehole in faulted Opalinus Clay. The project applies advanced discontinuum-type numerical models to capture the underlying processes driving the progressive failure phenomenon in a controlled climatic environment.

Job description

The position’s research work is on the development of a rock mechanical model for simulating progressive failure of faulted Opalinus Clay shale and the validation of the model against in-situ experimental data. You will assess the impact of different stress states, geological and structural settings and tunnel excavation supports on the damage evolution to evaluate fault zone hazard scenarios related to repository design and long-term safety.

The position is funded by a joint research project of the Engineering Geology Chair of ETH Zurich, the Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (ENSI), and the Swiss Geological Survey (swisstopo). The duration of the position is one year starting no later than February 1st, 2021.

Your profile

You must have a PhD degree in Rock Mechanics, Geotechnical Engineering, Earth Sciences, or a related field and be strongly interested in rock mechanical modeling. Knowledge of numerical discontinuum simulators, rock mechanics, and engineering geology are of prime importance. Experience with using Itasca’s codes UDEC/3DEC, COMSOL Multiphysics, or other discontinuum models is required. Good English writing and communication skills are essential.

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.


We look forward to receiving your online application by December 18th, 2020 with the following documents:

  • Cover letter
  • Curriculum vitae describing your personal details and career history
  • Complete course grades and transcripts
  • Digital copies of your PhD thesis and of relevant publications
  • Contact information of two reference persons

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

Further information about the Earth Science Department and the Chair of Engineering Geology is available on the web: www.engineering-geology.ethz.ch. Questions regarding the position (no applications) should be directed to Dr. Martin Ziegler (martin.ziegler@erdw.ethz.ch), Dr. Qinghua Lei (qinghua.lei@erdw.ethz.ch), or Prof. Simon Löw (simon.loew@erdw.ethz.ch), Engineering Geology, ETH Zurich.



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