PhD position

Studying the onset of turbulence on the space station and on ground

Starting date

1 February 2019

Duration of contract

3 years


up to German TVöD 13

"Cutting-edge research requires excellent minds – particularly more females – at all levels. Launch your mission with us and send in your application now!" Prof. Pascale Ehrenfreund - Chair of the DLR Executive Board

Your mission:

In recent years, turbulence research was invigorated by the application of methods from statistical mechanics, with increasing evidence pointing to describing the transition to turbulence as a so-called directed percolation process. However, in typical experiments on this transition, tracer particles are used that make a visualization of the flow possible. We will use experiments with ‘’complex plasmas’’ to study this transition on the level of the constitutive particles. Complex plasmas consist of an ionized gas – a plasma – in which micrometer-sized particles are embedded. The microparticles acquire strong charges and interact with each other via a plasma-mediated potential. The system formed by them often can be considered a model system, showing many of the same effects as, for instance, ordinary fluids. The microparticles, however, are large and slow enough that their dynamics can be observed by recording their positions with a fast camera and tracing them from frame to frame. In the ground laboratory gravity often disturbs the system. This is why our group at the DLR Institute of Materials Physics in Space is running the complex plasma laboratory PK-4 on board the International Space Station.

Your PhD will focus on experiments on the transition to turbulence and other collective effects in a complex plasma. You will collaborate closely with a young research team that combines experiments, simulations and data analysis, and design, conduct and analyze experiments in the ISS laboratory, as well as use and extend the ground setup. Your tasks include

  • Planning, conducting and analyzing experiments in the ground laboratory
  • Participate in planning and conducting (together with the PK-4 Team), and analyze experiments in PK-4 on the space station
  • Use and extend existing data analysis routines to trace the microparticles and directly study the formation of turbulent cascades, and compare to directed percolation
  • Extend the diagnostics systems in the ground laboratory to allow following the particle trajectories in three dimensions

Please apply until 31 January 2019.

Your qualifications:

  • Very good master degree in Physics, experience in experimental work
  • Good programming skills, e.g. in Python or IDL
  • Self-motivated, creative and dedicated team-worker
  • Good English skills

Your benefits:

Look forward to a fulfilling job with an employer who appreciates your commitment and supports your personal and professional development. Our unique infrastructure offers you a working environment in which you have unparalled scope to develop your creative ideas and accomplish your professional objectives. Our human resources policy places great value on a healthy family and work-life-balance as well as equal opportunities for persons of all genders (m/f/non-binary). Individuals with disabilities will be given preferential consideration in the event their qualifications are equivalent to those of other candidates.

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Technical contact

Dr Mierk Schwabe
Institute of Materials Physics in Space

Phone: +49 8153 28-4239

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Vacancy 30805

HR department Oberpfaffenhofen

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DLR site Oberpfaffenhofen

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