Germany : PhD project Thermodynamics and the Land Surface System


Energy­ and mass exchanges govern the functioning of the land surface, and these are affected by vegetation and human activity. The second law of thermodynamics sets a direction as well as limits to these exchange processes, but the specific implications of the second law are currently hardly explored. The application of thermodynamics to land surface functioning has the potential to much better understand the emergence of land surface heterogeneity and spatial organization, the effects of life, as well as the limits to human activity at a profound level. In this project, thermodynamics is applied to a topic related to the functioning of land surface system. This can include the description of preferential flow structures in hydrology, such as macropores or channel networks, the evaluation of interactions of vegetation with land surface exchange processes or the application to human impacts related to land use change or renewable energy.

The PhD candidate will be advised by Axel Kleidon, Lee Miller and Maik Renner, all based at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry.

About the school: The International Max Planck Research School for Global Biogeochemical Cycles located in Jena, Germany, offers fellowships to outstanding students interested in research on biogeochemical cycles in the Earth system. The school provides excellent research possibilities for students to obtain a PhD degree in a 3­-years graduate program.The elements key to life such as carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen are continuously exchanged among the land, ocean and atmosphere in what are known as global biogeochemical cycles. Research in the IMPRS­gBGC discovers how these cycles function, how they are interconnected, and how they can change with climate or human activity.

In their thesis projects, students deal with various crucial aspects of global biogeochemical cycles and participate in ongoing research comprising field observations, method development, experiments, and modeling. Students will also benefit from a three­-month external research visit, specialised courses in e.g. statistics, Earth observation, modelling and analytical techniques, as well as in soft skills and will have ample opportunity to develop their personal career networks. 
The school is thus an excellent starting platform for a successful career in a field related to global biogeochemical cycles and Earth System Science.

Requirements: Applications for the program are open to well­-motivated and highly–qualified students from all countries. A prerequisite for joining the school is a diploma or master of science degree in geophysical sciences, environmental sciences, biological sciences, physics, chemistry, computer sciences or related fields, including a corresponding thesis. Proficiency in English is required since English is the official language of the program.
For this particular PhD project we seek a candidate with a strong background in physics and maths interested in developing and applying numerical simulation models to quantify thermodynamic directions and limits of the land surface system.

How to apply: We accept applications for PhD Scholarships until February 03, 2013. Top candidates will be invited to take part in our selection symposium on April 15­-16, 2013. Find out more and apply online: http://www.imprs­

After you have been selected…
The IMPRS office will happily assist you with your transition to Jena.
Successful applicants are expected to join us in spring-­summer 2013 and will be offered financial support of 1365 Euros/month to cover their basic living expenses plus a monthly lump sum of 103 € and additional support for health insurance. There are no tuition fees.
Handicapped persons with comparable qualifications receive preferential status.

Application Deadline : 3 February 2013

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