Two PhD student positions in Earth Sciences School of Engineering and Natural Sciences, University of Iceland

Applications are invited for two PhD student positions in Geophysics. 

The projects are in the fields of:

  • (1) measurements and modelling of glacier evolution and glacial isostatic adjustment in Iceland
  • (2): realistic volcano deformation models taking glacial isostatic adjustment into consideration.

 The positions form part of a new project investigating the effects of climate change induced Ice-retreat on Seismic and Volcanic activity (ISVOLC), funded by the Icelandic Research Fund. The ISVOLC project is led by Icelandic Meteorological Office together with the University of Iceland, where the Ph.D. students will be based.

See information about the project 

Field of work

Within ISVOLC, an international team of scientists will carry out research on evolution of glaciers and resulting glacial isostatic adjustment and its effects on the Earth's crust, in particular at four volcanic systems: Katla, Askja, Grímsvötn and Bárðarbunga along with two seismic transform zones: the South Iceland Seismic Zone and the Tjörnes Fracture Zone. The project will use new models of glacier variations in Iceland since around 1890 and a few scenarios for continued glacial retreat, to estimate the influence of glacier changes on crustal movements and new melt production and magma accumulation beneath Iceland. Current uplift due to glacial isostatic adjustment caused by glacier retreat is over 20 mm/yr over large areas near Vatnajökull ice cap and influencing all of Iceland. Models indicate more melt production at depth as a result of pressure changes due to glacier retreat. The influence of these processes on eruptive activity and earthquakes in Iceland will be evaluated within target areas, to improve understanding of natural hazards. These target areas serve as a natural laboratory for studying the effects of glacier changes on volcanism and seismicity.

ISVOLC Ph.D. position 1: Glacier evolution and glacial isostatic adjustment in Iceland 

The first part of the PhD project will be to create a unified database of volume changes of the Icelandic glaciers since the end of the Little Ice Age at high spatial and temporal resolution.  If possible, a longer record, a few hundred years or thousands will be constructed. In situ and remote sensing methods, as well as models for climate and ice flow will be applied.  The second part will focus on building a three-dimensional time-dependent glacial isostatic adjustment (GIA) model for the entirety of Iceland, considering a realistic lithospheric/mantle structure. The third part will combine the ice loading history and GIA models to improve understanding of the large-scale effect of variable ice loading. The work will include applying models of ice-flow (e.g. PISM) and climate (regional and global models) to reconstruct ice loading history as well as GIA models using the software COMSOL. 

ISVOLC Ph.D. position 2: Realistic volcano deformation models taking glacial isostatic adjustment into consideration 

The PhD student will research magmatic and seismic processes within a selection of the ISVOLC target areas with the following objectives:

  • (i) Develop new advanced 3D Finite Element models of magma plumbing beneath key volcanoes, considering magma bodies and magma mush within a magma domain, and episodic melt supply rate.
  • (ii) Combine GIA model predictions and the magma plumbing models to produce 3D models that describe effects from both deglaciation and magma influx.
  • (iii) Determine the effect of recent glacier changes on magma generation and supply to, and stability of magma bodies beneath volcanoes.
  • (iv) Determine the effect of recent glacier mass changes on seismic triggering of faults located within two major fault zones in Iceland.

The work will include components of InSAR and/or GNSS processing, and geodetic modelling with analytical and numerical (COMSOL software) approaches. 

Both Ph.D. students will be based at the Institute of Earth Sciences an independent part of the Science Institute, University of Iceland. The work will be conducted in close collaboration with the Icelandic Meteorological Office.

Qualification requirements

  • Master's degree, e.g. Geophysics, Geology, Physics, or similar fields, or completion of all essential work for Masters's degree at time of employment.
  • Proficient in English, both verbal and written.
  • Dedication and enthusiasm for scientific research and creation of new knowledge.
  • Reliability, initiative, and competence to work independently.
  • Ability, and interest, in working with an interdisciplinary and international research team.
  • Previous experience relating to the planned research is an advantage.
  • Good knowledge in physics, numerical models and programming skill is important for position 1.

Application process

The starting date for the positions is no later than 1 September 2023.

Applications should include:

  • i) a cover letter (max 2 pages), including explanation if applying for position 1 or 2, or both.
  • ii) a CV (stating relevant work experience, knowledge in computer programming and software experience, and a list of publications and presentations if applicable).
  • iii) copies of university diplomas (BS and MS), with course listings and grade information (in English or Icelandic).
  • iv) a one-page statement of research interests.
  • v) names and full contact information of two professional referees (including their relationship to the applicant).

All applications will be answered, and applicants will be informed about the appointment when a decision has been made. Applications are valid in the system for 6 months after the application deadline.

Appointments to positions at the University of Iceland are made in consideration of the Equal Rights Policy of the University of Iceland 

The University of Iceland has a special Language Policy

The University of Iceland is a flourishing community of knowledge and is a very dynamic and interesting workplace. Our values are academic freedom, professionalism and equality. The University strives to provide flexibility and encourages participation in the development of the study programs and research in all fields within the realm of the University. The School of Engineering and Natural Sciences employs approximately 390 people involved with teaching and research. The School offers an international working environment, where currently about quarter of all employees and graduate students are international, and that number is increasing each year. The school has around 2000 students and numerous graduate students. The School of Engineering and Natural Sciences is proud of its diversity and reform-minded environment where knowledge acquisition and sharing are paramount.

The Institute of Earth Sciences is an independent branch of the Science Institute at the University of Iceland and the centre of academic research in Earth sciences within Iceland. The institute provides research facilities for academic staff, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows. Scientists at the IES have strong international ties and organize and participate in a range of national and international research projects. 

The Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO) is a public institution under the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate. The institute is responsible for monitoring and research of all natural hazards in Iceland, providing warnings and forecasts of natural hazards to society, including public, national and international organizations that respond to natural hazards. IMO has an advisory role with the Icelandic Civil Defence and serves as the Icelandic state volcano observatory with regard to the International Civil Aviation Organization. IMO conducts research on earthquake and volcanic processes and hazards, glacial studies, ice-volcano interaction, meteorological and hydrological processes and climate change. The institute also focuses on research in multiparameter geophysical monitoring to develop better forecasts of natural hazard events.

Application deadline

Application deadline is 19.05.2023


For further information contact

Freysteinn Sigmundsson,
Guðfinna Th Aðalgeirsdóttir,
Halldór Geirsson,
Michelle Parks,