PhD Researcher (f/m/x) - Landscape-scale mapping of root-zone soil water with mobile cosmic-ray neutron detectors

Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ

The Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) with its 1,100 employees has gained an excellent reputation as an international competence centre for environmental sciences. We are part of the largest scientific organisation in Germany, the Helmholtz association. Our mission: Our research seeks to find a balance between social development and the long-term protection of our natural resources.

The DFG Research Unit “CosmicSense” (Phase II) aims at boosting hydrological and environmental science with cosmic-ray neutrons. The novel technology can be used to measure water in the soil or snow from the field to the regional scale. At the UFZ, we focus on spatial soil moisture monitoring with mobile sensors. We combine fundamental research, sensor development and data analysis with practical applications and solutions for science and society. In order to better quantify soil water as one of the key variables for hydrological and meteorological models, we offer a position for:

PhD Researcher (f/m/x) - Landscape-scale mapping of root-zone soil water with mobile cosmic-ray neutron detectors

75% work time (29,25 hours per week), limited to 3 years (36 months)


Your tasks:

  • Use mobile Cosmic-Ray Neutron Sensors (CRNS) to measure the spatial distribution of soil and snow water at the field to regional scales in Germany and Austria
  • Study the influence of various landscape features to the measurement signal with dedicated experiments as well as neutron physics simulations
  • Develop new techniques to correct for these features, e.g. using data from OpenStreetMap, remote sensing, or camera images
  • Concept development and experimentation with airborne neutron sensing, using mobile CRNS on blimps or other aircrafts
  • Support data processing and transfer to applications in agriculture, for hydrological model calibration, or remote sensing validation
  • Connect with students and scientists of the DFG Research Unit “CosmicSense” (Phase II) across Germany and Austria


Your profile:

  • General understanding of physical measurements in the environment, especially hydrogeological and geophysical methods
  • Knowledge of data processing and programming (e.g. Python)
  • Ability to organise measurement campaigns and to cooperate with other groups
  • Independent, structured way of working
  • Degree in physics, environmental sciences, earth sciences, engineering or similar
  • Interest in interdisciplinary research

Please submit the following with your application:

  • a cover letter stating your motivation for the doctorate, your interest in the announced doctoral topic and your professional experience (including applied methods)
  • a detailed curriculum vitae
  • copies of degree certificates (high school/B.Sc./M.Sc.) and a transcript of all subjects and grades covered (B.Sc./M.Sc.)


We offer:

  • Top level interdisciplinary research at a research centre which enjoys an excellent reputation within Germany as well as internationally
  • Excellent technical facilities
  • Work in inter-disciplinary and multinational teams
  • Excellent links to national and international research networks
  • Support and optimal training courses by our graduate school (HIGRADE)
  • Remuneration in accordance with the TVöD public-sector pay grade 13


The UFZ has a strong commitment to diversity and actively supports equal opportunities for all employees regardless of their origin, religion, ideology, disability, age or sexual identity. We look forward to applications from people who are open-minded and enjoy working in diverse teams.

Please submit your application via our online portal with your cover letter, CV (please omit your photo, age, or marital status) and relevant attachments.

Closing date for applications: 09.09.2022

Place of work: Leipzig

Your contact for any questions you may have about the job:

Helmholtz-Zentrum für Umweltforschung GmbH - UFZ

Permoserstr. 15, 04318 Leipzig

View job announcement at UFZ website