PhD Position in Planetary Magnetism
ETH Zurich Department of Earth Sciences

PhD Position in planetary magnetism

100%, Zurich, fixed-term

We are looking for a highly motivated PhD student interested in studying planetary magnetic fields and particularly that of Mars. Your research will be part of an SNSF-funded Ambizione project “Using magnetic fields to explore terrestrial bodies in our Solar System” and offers a 4-year PhD position with PI Dr Anna Mittelholz.

Project background

Crustal magnetic fields are powerful recorders of ancient global magnetic fields and their records indicate that Mars lost its global dynamo field at least 3.7 billion years ago. This has far-reaching consequences for our understanding of the interior evolution of the planet, because dynamo fields are driven by convecting fluid in a planet's core. Furthermore, it affects habitability, as the presence/absence of a dynamo field is linked to atmospheric escape processes. Mars’ crust is locally very strongly magnetized, approximately an order of magnitude larger than the terrestrial lithospheric field. Because crustal rocks can be magnetized through a variety of processes including heating, water or shock, studying the magnetic signature in the context of other data sets might also allow inferring surface conditions at the time of an active dynamo.

As such, it is indicative to study crustal magnetism, and we can do so by using the rich satellite data sets from the MAVEN and MGS orbiters.

Job description

The goal of this project is to produce a global state-of-the-art model of the crustal magnetic field at Mars using the open-source Python-driven toolbox SimPEG. The final high-resolution model will allow us to study processes that lead to magnetization, and better constrain dynamo timing. Future missions providing aerial coverage, e.g., from a helicopter, rely on crustal field maps for context and landing site selection and you will be involved in active planning efforts as they unfold.

This project is funded by SNSF and includes a travel budget to visit the University of British Columbia for close collaboration with Prof. Lindsey Heagy. You will also have multiple opportunities to travel to national and international conferences and present your work.

Your profile

  • You are an enthusiastic researcher interested in planetary sciences.
  • You enjoy programming and have experience with Python in data analysis and/or numerical modelling.
  • You hold a MSc in geophysics, geosciences, physics, planetary sciences, computer sciences, or a related field.

Your workplace

We offer

The Institute of Geophysics group at ETH Zurich is embedded in a vibrant Earth Science department, which will offer many opportunities for collaborative projects. The department itself hosts a variety of groups interested in planetary evolution and has a strong presence in the NASA InSight mission. Your research will be part of an ongoing effort to unravel related questions.

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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. Visit our Equal Opportunities and Diversity website to find out how we ensure a fair and open environment that allows everyone to grow and flourish.

Curious? So are we.

We are looking forward to receiving your online application by June 15, 2023, with the following documents:

  • motivation letter
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • transcripts and diplomas
  • names and addresses of three referees

Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal. Applications via email or postal services will not be considered. Applications will be evaluated starting from May 4 and on a rolling basis until the position is filled.

For more information on this project, you may contact, Dr Anna Mittelholz ( More information on the involved research groups can be obtained at our website

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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