PhD position for RD4 Complexity Science


The climate needs bright minds. The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) addresses crucial scientific questions in the fields of global change, climate impacts and sustainable development. It is one of the world's leading research institutions in its field and offers natural and social scientists from around the world an inspiring environment for excellent interdisciplinary research.

PIK’s Research Department 4 – Complexity Science – applies and develops methods to understand all aspects of the global climate and sustainability problem. The research ranges from physical analysis of extreme weather events to network analysis of societal phenomena.

For the EU-funded H2020 project “Tipping Points of the Earth System” (TiPES), together with the BMBF funded CHANGE project PIK is offering he following position, starting as soon as possible:

PhD position  (m/f/d): Earth system science with focus on extreme events, emergent constraints, and atmosphere-vegetation interactions

 (Position number: 04-2021-PhD position)

The position is funded until 31.08.2023, a possible extension is conditional on the approval of the funding agency. Remuneration is in accordance with the German public tariff scheme (TV-L Brandenburg), salary group E 13. This is a part-time position with a weekly working time of 26 hours per week.

The TiPES Project:

Several subsystems of the Earth may respond abruptly at critical future levels of anthropogenic forcing, which have been associated with tipping points (TPs). It is paramount to identify safe operating spaces in terms of these critical forcing levels, in order to prevent harmful transitions to alternative, undesirable states of the Earth and its subsystems. The mechanisms leading to abrupt climate transitions are only partly understood, and reliable warning signals for forthcoming transitions are urgently needed. TiPES addresses these questions in a joint effort of 18 European institutions, combining paleoclimatology, time series analysis, Earth system modelling of past and future climates, applied mathematics, and dynamical system theory.

Key responsibilities:

The successful candidate will be part of work package WP3 of the TiPES project, which focusses on the analysis and modelling of potential tipping elements (TEs) in the Earth system, as well as on the role of extreme events for the stability of these subsystems. The candidate will investigate the future development of extreme events with a focus on droughts and their ecosystem impacts. A regional example that will be studied in particular is the Amazon rainforest and its resilience to droughts. For this purpose, the candidate is expected to use data-driven methods (especially from Machine Learning) to analyze both observational data and model output from the 6th phase of Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP6). In particular, the machine-learning-based identification of suitable emergent constraints for the future evolution of the Amazon will be a key task.


  • Master Degree in physics, mathematics, computer science, meteorology, geosciences or a related field.
  • Good skills in programming and numerical / statistical analysis of simulated and observed data are required.
  • Experience in dynamical / complex system theory and in working with large data sets is of advantage.
  • Experience in working with intermediate-complexity Earth system models, and in marticular in modelling atmosphere-vegetation interactions, is of advantage.
  • Willingness to travel for work (project meetings, workshops, and longer-term research visits) and take part in further training.
  • High level of competence in oral and written English.

We expect:

  • the ability to work independently and on your own initiative
  • a methodical and systematic approach
  • structured and goal-oriented thinking
  • capacity to familiarise yourself quickly with new topics
  • creativity and openness to new approaches
  • reliability and a high level of motivation
  • capacity for teamwork.

We offer:

  • The chance to be part of a interdisciplinary collaboration of leading European research institutions
  • Participation at international workshops and conferences
  • A stimulating working environment in an internationally recognised research institute on Potsdam's beautiful, historic Telegrafenberg campus, a short commuting distance from Berlin
  • A collective pay scheme and associated benefits.

PIK seeks 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 also encourages applications by parents returning from parental leave.

Please apply by 28.02.2021 directly using our application form.

For further information or to discuss the position please contact

Dr. Niklas Boers by e-mail: