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Freie Uni­ver­si­tät Ber­lin - Fachbereich Math­em­atik und Inform­atik - Insti­tut für Math­em­atik

1 PhD Fel­low Pos­i­tion

Full-time Job
Lim­ited to 3 years
außer­tarif­liches Fest­ge­halt: 3771,90 EUR (brutto)
Ref­er­ence code: PhD Fel­low­ship Earth Sys­tem Ana­lysis

Work­ing field:

1 PhD Fel­low Pos­i­tions (3-year) avail­able in the field of Earth Sys­tem Ana­lysis at the FU Ber­lin and UCLouv­ain as part of the Crit­icalEarth pro­ject – a Hori­zon 2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, Innov­at­ive Train­ing Net­work (ITN).

The Depart­ment of Math­em­at­ics and Com­puter Sci­ence at the Free Uni­versity of Ber­lin offers one PhD Fel­low­ship in Earth Sys­tem Ana­lysis referred to as early-stage research­ers (ESR), start­ing between 01.03.2021 and 30.09.2021. The pos­i­tion is pos­ted as part of the Crit­icalEarth pro­ject - “Multiscale Crit­ical Trans­itions in the Earth Sys­tem” - fun­ded through the Hori­zon 2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions pro­gramme under Grant num­ber 956170.
Upon suc­cess­ful com­ple­tion of the PhD pro­gramme, a double degree from both the Depart­ment of Math­em­at­ics and Com­puter Sci­ence at the Free Uni­versity of Ber­lin and the Sec­tor of Sci­ences and Tech­no­lo­gies of the Uni­versite cath­olique de Louv­ain will be awar­ded. 

We would like to encour­age applic­a­tions from can­did­ates world­wide wish­ing to pur­sue a PhD degree in the field of Earth Sys­tem Ana­lysis with an interest in the fol­low­ing research areas: Applied Math­em­at­ics, Cli­mate Phys­ics, Paleo­cli­mato­logy, Cli­mate-Eco­sys­tem inter­ac­tions, Data-driven Cli­mate Mod­el­ling, and Abrupt Cli­mate and Eco­sys­tem Trans­itions. 

Sci­entific envir­on­ment

You will be part of inter­con­nec­ted research groups invest­ig­at­ing abrupt trans­itions in Earth sys­tem dynam­ics on dif­fer­ent time scales, at the Depart­ment of Math­em­at­ics and Com­puter Sci­ence at Ber­lin’s Free Uni­versity, the Pots­dam Insti­tute for Cli­mate Impact Research, and the Earth and Life Insti­tute of the UCLouv­ain, where second­ments for one year will provide you with detailed know­ledge of the­or­et­ical paleo­cli­mato­logy and Bayesian infer­ence. You will join an inter­na­tional net­work of 15 PhD Fel­lows (ESRs), trained to research new meth­ods for assess­ing the mech­an­isms under­ly­ing crit­ical trans­itions in the Earth sys­tem. 

The pos­i­tion will offer you an excel­lent back­ground, work­ing within a strong, cross-dis­cip­lin­ary net­work among lead­ing Uni­versit­ies and research insti­tu­tions across Europe and with con­tacts to industry, gov­ern­mental- and non-gov­ern­mental insti­tu­tions.

Pro­ject Descrip­tion

Prin­cipal super­visor: Dr. Nik­las Boers, group leader at the Depart­ment of Math­em­at­ics and Com­puter Sci­ence of Ber­lin’s Free Uni­versity and the Pots­dam Insti­tute for Cli­mate Impact Research. 

Second super­visor: Prof. Michel Cru­ci­fix, head of the School of Phys­ics and group leader of the group of the­or­et­ical cli­ma­to­logy at the UCLouv­ain, Bel­gium. 

The pro­ject will focus on a data-driven invest­ig­a­tion of abrupt trans­itions of poten­tially unstable com­pon­ents of the Earth sys­tem, such as the Green­land ice sheet, the Atlantic Meri­di­onal Over­turn­ing Cir­cu­la­tion, and the Amazon rain­forest, their inter­ac­tions and pos­sible trans­ition cas­cades, as well as their eco­lo­gical impacts. The empir­ical data basis will come from paleo­cli­mate recon­struc­tions evid­en­cing past abrupt trans­itions, as well as more recent time series of the vari­ab­il­ity of the Earth sys­tem com­pon­ents in ques­tion. Meth­od­o­lo­gic­ally, the emphasis will be on a com­bin­a­tion of tech­niques from non­lin­ear time series ana­lysis, caus­al­ity detec­tion, Bayesian infer­ence, machine learn­ing, and stochastic dynam­ical sys­tems. The focus of your work will be on invest­ig­at­ing how these tech­niques can be used to under­stand and pre­dict abrupt trans­itions in the afore­men­tioned Earth sys­tem com­pon­ents and to assess their eco­lo­gical impacts, includ­ing assess­ments of con­sequences of past abrupt cli­mate trans­itions on ancient civil­iz­a­tions.

Job descrip­tion:

The pos­i­tion is avail­able for a 3-year period and your key task as a PhD stu­dent will be:

  • To work inde­pend­ently, develop and carry through your research pro­ject

  • Attend PhD courses to learn addi­tional skills 

  • Write sci­entific art­icles and your PhD thesis with sup­port from your super­visors.

  • Teach and dis­sem­in­ate your research, par­ti­cip­ate in net­work-related and inter­na­tional con­fer­ences and work­shops

  • To stay at a part­ner research insti­tu­tion for 12 months to develop new skills

  • Con­trib­ute to the every­day activ­it­ies at the depart­ment


Applic­ants should hold an MSc degree in applied math­em­at­ics, phys­ics, or sim­ilar.

Good Eng­lish skills and pro­gram­ming skills in python or a sim­ilar lan­guage are expec­ted. Pre­vi­ous know­ledge of (paleo-)cli­mate dynam­ics is of advant­age. 


Because the aim of EU ITN pro­jects is to attract can­did­ates from world­wide loc­a­tions, applic­ants must not have resided and not have car­ried out their main activ­ity (work, stud­ies, etc.) in the coun­try of the recruit­ing bene­fi­ciary (i.e., Ger­many) for more than 12 months in the 3 years imme­di­ately before the recruit­ment date — unless as part of a pro­ced­ure for obtain­ing refugee status under the Geneva Con­ven­tion . If you are apply­ing from a loc­a­tion that requires a visa or per­mit, then we will be able to provide sup­port and advice throughout the pro­cess of relo­ca­tion for you and your fam­ily. Feel free to ask us ques­tions in advance if you need more inform­a­tion and reas­sur­ance.

The applic­ant must be an Early Stage Researcher (ESR) i.e. at the time of recruit­ment she/he must be in the first 4 years (full-time equi­val­ent research exper­i­ence) of her/his research careers and must not have been awar­ded a doc­toral degree. 

How to ap­ply:

Applic­a­tion doc­u­ments
  • Cover Let­ter detail­ing your enthu­si­asm and back­ground for apply­ing for the spe­cific PhD pro­ject
  • CV with rel­ev­ant work exper­i­ence (if any)

  • Tran­scripts of records (BSc and MSc)
  • Other inform­a­tion for con­sid­er­a­tion, e.g. list of pub­lic­a­tions (if any)
  • Names of two poten­tial ref­er­ees

For fur­ther inform­a­tion about Crit­ical Earth please con­sult the pro­ject web­site or con­tact the super­visors at and

Please send your applic­a­tion (in Eng­lish) by Feb­ru­ary 28th, 2021, 23:59 GMT +1 as a single PDF to or postal to:

Freie Uni­versität Ber­lin
Fachbereich Math­em­atik und Inform­atik
Insti­tut für Math­em­atik
Mr. Dr. Nik­las Boers
Arn­im­al­lee 3
14195 Ber­lin (Dah­lem)

The Free Uni­versity of Ber­lin and UCLouv­ain both seek to increase the share of women in sci­entific pos­i­tions and there­fore expli­citly encour­ages women to apply. In cases of equal qual­i­fic­a­tion and within the given legal scope, women will be given pref­er­ence. Applic­a­tions by per­sons with a migra­tion back­ground are expressly encour­aged. Applic­a­tions of dis­abled per­sons with equal qual­i­fic­a­tions will be regarded favour­ably. PIK and UCLouv­ain also encour­ages applic­a­tions by par­ents return­ing from par­ental leave.

With an elec­tronic applic­a­tion, you acknow­ledge that FU Ber­lin saves and pro­cesses your data. FU Ber­lin can­not guar­an­tee the secur­ity of your per­sonal data if you send your applic­a­tion over an unen­cryp­ted con­nec­tion.

Freie Uni­versität Ber­lin is an equal oppor­tun­ity employer.