PhD Position Computational Mechanics for Crack Propagation and Snow Avalanche Release

EPFL has an opening PhD position in computer science. Applications will be evaluated on a continuous basis.

The new group of Dr. J. Gaume at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology of Lausanne (EPFL, Switzerland) invites applications by highly motivated, committed, and talented students/researchers for a PhD position in the field of computational mechanics for snow and avalanche modeling.

This group was created in the framework of the SNSF Eccellenza project “Unified modeling of snow and avalanche mechanics using the Material Point Method”. The group focuses on the development of new mechanical models to simulate and improve our understanding of snow and avalanche mechanics using a multi-scale framework. Simulations of snow microstructure deformation and failure will allow to define homogenized elastoplastic constitutive models which will be used to study crack nucleation and propagation, avalanche release and flow dynamics at the slope scale. Our simulations are based on the Material Point Method (MPM), a hybrid Eulerian-Lagrangian method particularly well suited to simulate large deformations, fractures, collisions and solid-fluid transitions. It was successfully used to model snow in the Disney movie “Frozen” (Stomakhin et al. 2015, SIGGRAPH) and complex processes involved in avalanche mechanics (Gaume et al. 2018, Nature Communications).

You will investigate crack propagation in snow in view of predicting snow slab avalanche release size. The work will mainly consist in performing numerical simulations based on finite strain elastoplasticity and the Material Point Method. Simulations of 2D and 3D ideal slopes will be performed to study the effect of snowpack stratigraphy, mechanics (constitutive model parameters), topography (angle, curvature) and triggering mode (skier or bombing) on dynamic crack propagation and on the size and shape of the avalanche release zone, information which is currently missing in engineering approaches for avalanche hazard assessment. The final goal will be to relate the avalanche release size to field measurable quantities by relating output from the numerical simulations with results from small scale fracture mechanical experiments (critical crack length, propagation speed and distance), avalanche observations and terrain parameters. Simplified physically-based parametrizations will be developed to reproduce simulation results in view of introducing an avalanche release size index in the snow cover model SNOWPACK to improve avalanche forecasting. You will publish your results in renowned scientific journals, present them at international conferences and promote their transfer into practice.

Candidates should hold a Master's degree in (computational) mechanics, (computational) physics or computer science (or equivalent). Background/experience in solid mechanics, numerical modeling and c++ is mandatory. Additional experience with continuum numerical methods for solving partial differential equations such as the Finite Element Method and/or the Material Point Method is an advantage. The candidate should have very good English skills and excellent communication capabilities as most tasks will be done in collaboration with the other students and researchers of the group as well as with several external collaborations through exchange visits (SLF, UCLA, UPenn).

Contact : For additional information please contact Johan Gaume by e-mail

Please send your application (cover letter, detailed resume, copies of certificates and grades, names of 2 references and a one page summary of your MSc thesis) by e-mail to :


Get latest scholarships via your email! It's free!
Remember to check your email and active the subscription.
You can unsubscribe any time.
Copyright © 2015 All Right Reserved.