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PhD position

Delayed response of the upper atmosphere to solar radiation variations

Starting date

1 October 2021

Duration of contract

3 years


up to German TVöD 13

Type of employment


Sporadic and massive eruptions of very high-energy matter and radiation from the Sun can have a pronounced impact for example on the aeronautical ability to aviate, navigate and communicate.
The department for Space Weather Impact develops and investigates methods to measure, evaluate and predict physical as well as technical quantities, which describe the effects of space weather on technical systems. Results help to improve our understanding of space weather effects on (humans and) technical systems and to contribute to potential countermeasures in cooperation with scientific, industrial or governmental partners.
In this context, the response of the upper atmosphere (thermosphere and ionosphere) to variations of the solar extreme ultraviolet (EUV) radiation is also studied. EUV radiation, which is a driving force for processes in this region, heats and ionizes the thermospheric gases, creating the ionospheric plasma, whose composition and characteristics vary continuously in complex interaction with other processes. Therefore, a major focus is on the time delay between changes of the solar EUV radiation and ionospheric plasma. First results could already contribute to an improved understanding of different processes in the upper atmosphere and could be simulated with upper atmosphere models.
In the scope of the proposed PhD thesis, the analysis of the delayed response of the ionosphere will be continued and extended with further scientific aspects and extensive simulations. For this purpose, new measurement data (e.g. from the NASA missions GOLD, ICON or SDO) will be used. Studies will be extended to a variety of ionospheric and thermospheric parameters (e.g. electron density profiles and wind velocities) to realize a global and high-resolution characterization of the processes. Analyses and modeling will also be performed together with the University of Leipzig - Institute of Meteorology (LIM). The cooperation of LIM and DLR in this topic over several years will provide you with the necessary support and expertise for a quick start of the planned research.
Your work will be done in an amount of 19.25 hours per week. The compensation is 75% of the pay group 13 TVöD.
Your research will be based on the following steps:
  • literature review on the current state of knowledge regarding the correlation of ionospheric variations with solar EUV radiation.
  • comparison of different satellite measurements of solar EUV radiation (GOLD and SDO) 
  • analysis of relevant ionospheric and thermospheric parameters with observational data (electron density profiles, O2 profiles, O/N2 ratio, temperature, wind speeds) and models (TIE-GCM and CTIPe)
  • three-dimensional characterization of the delayed response
  • extension of existing empirical models of the ionospher

Your qualifications:

  • master's degree or diploma in physics, geophysics, meteorology, mathematics or a comparable discipline
  • knowledge in the physics of the upper atmosphere
  • experience in the analysis measurement data and the application of methods from data science to large data sets (preferably with Python)
  • experience in the application of statistical methods
  • good self-organization and a high degree of initiative in tackling complex technical and scientific problems
  • proficiency in English, both spoken and written

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 unparalleled 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 (f/m/x). 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. Erik Schmölter
Institute for Solar-Terrestrial Physics

Phone: +49 3981 480-193

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Vacancy 56644

HR department Berlin

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DLR site Neustrelitz

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Institute for Solar-Terrestrial Physics

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