PhD position in Geophysics: Unravelling the Interior Dynamics of Jupiter and Saturn

The Earth and Planetary Magnetism group, part of the Institute of Geophysics, seeks a Doctoral candidate to advance our understanding of the internal structure, dynamics and magnetic fields of Jupiter and Saturn. In particular, you will investigate the influence of the internal structure models of Jupiter and Saturn on their planetary magnetic fields and surface flows.The duration of the project is of 4 years, subject to a successful evaluation exam after the first year. The starting date is as soon as possible and no later than the end of August 2023.

Project background

Recent observations of Jupiter and Saturn (most notably from, respectively, the ongoing Juno and the recently terminated Cassini-Huygens missions), revealed that:

  1. The magnetic field of Jupiter presents fundamental analogies with that of Earth in terms of deviations from dipolarity and tilt angle. Saturn’s field is instead fundamentally different, being almost exclusively dipolar, with its axis almost perfectly aligned with the rotation axis.
  2. In addition to the well-known zonal winds characterising the surface of Jupiter and Saturn, a cluster of vortices has been observed in the polar regions of Jupiter, while around the North Pole of Saturn, observations revealed the existence of a hexagonal-shaped jet.

Current numerical simulations fail to fully explain these observations due to computational limitations and to the over-simplistic internal structure models they adopt. Traditionally, these models comprise a solid inner core, a dynamo region where the magnetic fields are generated and an electrically insulating outer envelope. Recent gravity observations favour a complex structure for both planets, inclusive of stratified layers around the transition regions between the insulating and dynamo envelopes and dilute inner cores.

Preliminary studies suggest that the inclusion of stable stratification can explain the highly dipolar and temporally stable magnetic field of Saturn and the vertical extension of Jupiter’s zonal jets. However, a systematic study of how the properties of stable layers influence the dynamics and observable properties of both Jupiter and Saturn is missing. Furthermore, the effect of a dilute core on the internal dynamics of gas giants has so far been poorly studied.

We aim at performing such a systematic study for both Jupiter and Saturn with use the cutting-edge numerical codes.

Job description

The goal of the proposed Doctoral project is to place constraints on the internal structure of Jupiter and Saturn. To do so, we propose to produce a suite of numerical models of Jupiter and Saturn in which their internal structures is systematically varied. Comparison of the model outputs with the available observations of magnetic fields and surface flows will provide selection criteria for the most realistic models.

You will be further required to communicate the results of the project to the wider scientific community, through attendance at international conferences and scientific publications.

In addition to the above-described scientific duties, the candidate will be expected to contribute to the teaching activities of the Institute of Geophysics (at a Bachelor and Master level).

The Doctoral project is to be undertaken in the Earth and Planetary Magnetism group of the Institute of Geophysics of ETH Zurich, under the supervision of Dr Stefano Maffei and Prof. Dr Andrew Jackson.

Your profile

Required:

  • You hold a Master’s degree (or equivalent) in Physics, Astrophysics, Applied Mathematics, Earth Sciences or other related fields
  • You have a strong interest in planetary and geophysical research, as well as in geophysical fluid-dynamics
  • You have great scientific curiosity
  • You have a solid mathematical background, as well as in geo- or astrophysics, or in fluid-dynamics
  • You have some experience in scientific programming (e.g. Python, Matlab, C/C++, Fortran) and in shell scripting (e.g. on a Unix system such as macOS or Linux)
  • You have a good command of the English language, both spoken and written

Desirable:

  • You have experience in performing multi-core numerical simulations on supercomputers
  • You have a background in geophysical fluid dynamics

We offer

ETH Zurich is a family-friendly employer with excellent working conditions. You can look forward to an exciting working environment, cultural diversity and attractive offers and benefits.

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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 look forward to receiving your online application with the following documents:

  • Your CV
  • A motivation letter
  • Your transcript of records
  • Two reference letters

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 EPM group can be found on our website. Questions regarding the position should be directed to Dr Stefano Maffei (stefano.maffei@erdw.ethz.ch).