PhD position: Superstructures in thermal convection

Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization, Göttingen

Type of Job

Young Researchers

PhD position: Superstructures in thermal convection

Job offer from June 19, 2019

Job description

Are you fascinated by physics and interested in developing state-of-the-art fluid dynamics computer simulations to better understand real world problems? Are you ambitious and dynamic? Do you strive for excellence? We are looking for a PhD student to carry out state-of-the-art research on turbulent convection. Thermal convection plays a crucial role in natural and industrial settings, from astrophysical and geophysical flows to process engineering. The paradigmatic representation of thermal convection is Rayleigh–Bénard flow; a layer of fluid heated from below and cooled from above. According to the traditional view on turbulence advocated by Kolmogorov, the flow characteristics in very turbulent flows should become independent of the system geometry for high enough Rayleigh (dimensionless temperature difference between the plates). However, interestingly, we observe large-scale horizontal flow organization in, for example, satellite pictures of clouds in the Earth’s atmosphere and convection patterns in the Sun. In contrast to predictions by classic theories, we recently found that these large-scale flow structures, referred to as superstructures, survive at high Rayleigh. In this PhD project, funded by an ERC starting grant, you will further develop and use state-of-the-art direct numerical simulations to investigate these thermal superstructures in detail. Your goal is to figure out whether thermal superstructures, which create a very strong turbulence, can trigger the onset to the so-called ultimate regime at relatively low Rayleigh by making the boundary layers fully turbulent. Additional mechanics such as added wind shear can also be considered.


This research project will be embedded in the Max Planck Center For Complex Fluid Dynamics ( The center is composed by two research groups from the University of Twente in the Netherlands and four groups from two different Max Planck Institutes. Research on thermal convection is performed in the Max Planck for Dynamics and Self-Organization in Göttingen and in the Physics of Fluids group at the University of Twente in the Netherlands, where you will be stationed. For the project you will have access to several top supercomputers in the world. For further information, you are encouraged to view and to read our recent publications on the topic.

Your profile

You have a background in applied physics or mechanical engineering, or in a closely related discipline. You have strong communication skills, including fluency in written and spoken English. You are enthusiastic, and highly motivated to do a PhD. Programming experience in C or Fortran is a plus.

Our offer

We want you to play a key role in an ambitious project in an inspiring and stimulating international work environment.

  • We provide excellent mentorship and a stimulating, modern research environment with world-class research facilities.
  • You will have an employment contract for a fulltime position for the duration of 4 years and can participate in all employee benefits offered by the University of Twente.
  • You will be embedded in a dynamic research group with colleagues working on similar topics.
  • You will follow a high-quality personalized educational program.
  • The research will result in a PhD thesis at the end of the employment period.
  • We strive for diversity and fairness in hiring.

How to apply

Potential applicants are encouraged to apply to Dr. Richard Stevens (

Applications should include the following documents:

  • A motivation letter describing why you want to apply for this position.
  • Description of your research interests.
  • A detailed CV.
  • Academic transcripts from your Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees.
  • Email addresses of at least two references who are willing to send a letter of recommendation on your behalf.
  • An interview with a scientific presentation will be part of the interview process.
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