PhD on hydro-geochemical modeling (M/F)

Reference : ERIN-2018-008

Type: PhD Student
Contract type: Fixed term contract
Duration: 14 months + 22 months fixed-term contract
Place: Belvaux



The Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology offers an outstanding opportunity for joining its newly created doctoral training unit (DTU) in hydrological sciences: ”HYDRO-CSI: Towards a holistic understanding of river systems: Innovative methodologies for unraveling hydrological, chemical and biological interactions across multiple scales”. The total number of positions in this DTU is 14 – embracing four complementary thematic clusters on (1) high frequency monitoring of hydrological processes, (2) new hydrological tracers, (3) remote sensing applied to hydrology, and (4) hydrological forecasts and predictions under change. Academic partners are the TU Vienna (Austria), University of Luxembourg, Wageningen University (The Netherlands) and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (Germany). The DTU HYDRO-CSI is funded in the framework of the PRIDE scheme of the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR), and coordinated by Prof. Laurent Pfister.

The main objective of the DTU HYDRO-CSI is to train a new generation of highly skilled experts with a view to contribute to solving some of the most pressing challenges related to water resources research and management: hydrological system complexity, non-stationarity of boundary conditions, high-frequency monitoring of environmental processes, global change impact assessment.

The offered fully paid PhD position is embedded in cluster (4) of the DTU and focuses on the interactions between event and pre-event water in the soil, water mixing, and associated travel times of the water in the critical zone. The position is envisaged to start between September 1st 2018 and December 1st 2018 and will extend over a maximum duration of 4 years. The PhD candidate will be part of the Environmental Sensing and Modelling Unit at the Department of Environmental Research and Innovation (ERIN) and will work in the Catchment and eco-hydrology research group. Furthermore, the PhD candidate will be affiliated with the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT).




We propose an interdisciplinary research project that will focus at a better understanding of processes controlling water mixing and travel times in soil systems developing on contrasted geological substrates in Luxembourg. To this end the candidate will make use of a novel Lagrangian model approach. The specific objectives of this work are: 1) to include transport of natural tracers such as stable isotopes, including their optional fractionation and diffusive mixing, as well as mixing of water and traces between slow and rapid preferential flow paths; 2) to advance and optimise the entire framework for long term simulations of flow and transport in the critical zone. These advancements will be tested based on available artificial and natural tracer data. The verified model will ultimately be used to simulate real geochemical patterns to explore residence times of water in different compartments of soil and the critical zone and the role of the underlying structural and climatological controls.

Geochemical tracers are of primary importance to validate mixing hypotheses by comparing simulated and observed concentrations, since water flow measurements alone do not allow to discriminate event from pre-event water. This will allow a further extension of the model to a stage where it can be used to calculate travel time distributions of water through larger control volumes, up to small catchments.

One of the main pillars of this PhD project consists in the combination of quantitative (hydrological modelling) and qualitative (geochemical dataset) approaches to estimate the processes of water mixing and travel times in soils. More specifically, the candidate will be in charge of:

  • making a state-of-the-art analysis relative to the general objectives of the project and the elaboration of the working hypotheses
  • elaborate and test a Lagrangian model approach, which already includes a preferential flow domain and transport of conservative tracers by extending the model to account for transport of multitracer datasets and allow for long term simulations
  • proposing relevant approaches using multi-tracer datasets for improving the existing hydrological/geochemical concepts of water mixing and travel times in the soil
  • rigorously processing and analyzing collected data for publication in highly ranked international peer-reviewed journals


  • No restrictions apply as to the nationality of the candidates
  • Candidates shall be available for starting their position between September 1st 2018 and December 1st 2018
  • Driving licence class B

Place of employment and main place of work

  • Primary supervisor at LIST: Dr Christophe Hissler
  • Primary work location:  Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST), Belvaux, Luxembourg
  • Duration and location of secondment/s: Regular stays at the KIT are foreseen (up to a maximum of 50% of total project duration)

Application procedure

The application can be submitted via LIST’s job portal: If there are any questions regarding the procedure please contact our HR office ( The application must include:

  • A motivation letter oriented towards the position and research field and experience
  • A current scientific CV, which includes full contact details
  • Two reference letters or full contact details of two referees
  • A copy of master (or similar) degree that allows for the enrolment on a doctorate degree
  • Transcript of courses and grades

Application deadline is 15th July. Yet, applications will be reviewed on-going until the position is filled. An assessment committee will be appointed to review the applications and candidates selected based on Network-wide guidelines, which aim to ensure equal opportunities. Shortlisted candidates will be invited to interview either in person or by Skype.

The main criterion for selection will be the existing skills, knowledge, and research career potential of the applicant, match with the project, and fulfilment of the above mentioned qualifications. Candidates from all backgrounds are encouraged to apply.

The LIST is committed with equality of opportunities and gender balance.





  • Master (or similar) degree in Hydrology, Geoecology, Geochemistry
  • Excellent skills in speaking, reading and writing English
  • Excellent programming skills and background in numerical modelling
  • High motivation to be part of an international DTU and to perform high quality research
  • Any experience with geochemical data will be an asset
  • Class B driving license

Required seniority

  • Master degree


  • Strong background in hydrology and hydrochemistry
  • Solid statistical and mathematical background
  • Programming: e.g. Matlab, Python, R


  • English (Fluent: written and oral)
  • Knowledge of any of Luxembourg’s official language (Luxembourgish, French, German) will be an asset


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Dr Christophe HISSLER
Prof. Dr Lucien HOFFMANN