Young Investigator Groups

The junior research groups at the Alfred Wegener Institute are funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the Helmholtz Association and the European Research Council. There are currently 11 such groups at the institute.

Current call for applications for Helmholtz Young Investigator Groups

The Alfred Wegener Institute seeks Expressions of Interest from outstanding talents who are two to six years past the completion of their PhD, to apply for their own Young Investigator Group.

Helmholtz Young Investigator Groups - Call 2020

The two-step process starts with a selection process at the AWI with regard to the specific themes advertised. Note that this year, the AWI will only be able to fill up to one position in the thematic areas of:

1)     Benthic Ecology of the Southern Ocean

2)     Phytoplankton ecology and export fluxes in the Arctic

3)     Machine learning and artificial intelligence approaches in atmosphere and climate modelling

The final selection of candidates takes place by an external expert panel advising the president of the Helmholtz Association. Successfully YIGs will be hosted at the AWI, one of the world´s leading polar and marine institutes. Funding is on the order of €300,000 per year for a period of six years, with potential access to further substantial research infrastructure depending in internal negotiation within AWI. The position is limited to 5 years and offers access to a tenure track procedure.

Thematic track

You will be eligible to apply if you have between two and six years of postdoctoral experience. Parental leave periods in this phase will be taken into consideration (max two years per child under 12). Further criteria are international research experience documented by minimum six-month continuous research stay abroad during the doctoral or postdoctoral studies and, of course, an exceptionally strong CV and letter of interest addressing one of the following topics for which we seek experts to strengthen our research program. One candidate per theme will be selected in this first step and supported in answering the respective Helmholtz Call.

1) Benthic Ecology of the Southern Ocean

We invite applications for a YIG to carry out research in the field of benthic ecology with a focus on the Antarctic and Southern Ocean regions. Research should target the links between the community structure and function of mega- and macrobenthic fauna and their responses to natural disturbance and climate change from fjords and shelf seas to the deep sea. The applicant should be able to combine in situ observations with experimental and/or modelling approaches. It is anticipated that the YIG participates in the ongoing AWI activities in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean and contributes to international efforts in assessing marine biodiversity, ecosystem dynamics and ocean health.

2) Phytoplankton ecology and export fluxes in the Arctic

The YIG conducts research in the field of ocean productivity and vertical transport of organic matter in a changing Arctic with a focus on the role of diatoms. Research interests may target spatial and temporal dynamics in sea ice and phytoplankton community composition, export fluxes, pelagic-benthic coupling and climate change. The YIG contributes to a better understanding of how changing diatom and phytoplankton communities impact the efficiency of the biological carbon pump. The applicant should be experienced in phytoplankton taxonomy with a focus on diatoms, sediment trap fluxes, marine ecology and oceanography. It is anticipated that the YIG contributes to our understanding of how ecosystem structure and environmental drivers affect export efficiencies of organic matter, and to our long-term time series work in the Fram Strait and Central Arctic Ocean.

3) Machine learning and artificial intelligence approaches in atmosphere and climate modelling

The YIG conducts research in the field of machine learning and artificial intelligence approaches in climate modelling, including data science aspects. Research interests will target the further development and application of such approaches that have been pioneered at AWI. Initial areas of application will focus on atmospheric chemistry and aerosol modules, with strategic further developments in cloud/aerosol physics. The YIG contributes to our ability to include important new components in earth system models, based on artificial intelligence approaches and with that to a better understanding of the interactions between chemical and physical processes in the atmosphere, including ozone-climate interactions, in particularly in the polar regions. The applicant should be experienced in atmospheric modelling and observational techniques, optimally with some background in artificial intelligence methods like neural networks or other self learning techniques. It is anticipated that the YIG contributes to improving the quality and efficiency of fully coupled earth system models.

The initial selection of candidates by the AWI will be based on the following selection criteria:

1. Scientific excellence and focus (project description, fit with thematic call)

2. Candidate´s excellence and evidence for independence (CV and publication list)

3. Experience in teaching and partnering with a German university

Please contact before applying. Draft application should include a motivation letter and a project summary (max. 3 pages, Arial, font size 11 & single-line spacing), a full CV and publication list. Please use templates provided for CV and draft application. You can find he AWI research program here. Deadline for submission of draft application at is 12 February 2020. Candidates selected by the AWI Scientific Council will be invited to present their project at the end of March 2020. Candidates will be informed after final decision by the AWI board of directors and asked to provide a full proposal until 4 May 2020.

Helmholtz Junior Research Groups

With the Helmholtz Junior Research Groups, the Helmholtz Association supports the early independence of young scientists and offers them a reliable career perspective. This programme is designed to provide outstanding working conditions in a research-oriented environment for the best foreign and domestic junior researchers. It is aimed at junior employees who have completed their doctorates within the past two to six years.

Further information about this programme can be found on the pages of the Helmholtz Association

BMBF FONA Programme

Within the framework of the BMBF-FONA-Programme (Research for Sustainable Development), decision bases for future-oriented action will be developed and innovative solutions for a sustainable society will be delivered. With the third framework programme (FONA³), this sustainability research in Germany is supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The funding programme "Junior Research Groups on Global Change - 4+1" enables young scientists to meet the challenges of global change with exceptional and innovative research ideas and to find feasible solutions. 

For further information, please visit the website of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)

ERC Starting Grant Junior Research Groups

ERC Starting Grants support aspiring research group leaders who want to establish a well-equipped research team and conduct independent research in Europe. The programme is aimed at promising researchers with proven potential to become independent leaders of a new and excellent research team. It is aimed at junior employees who have completed their doctorates within the past two to seven years.

For more information, visit the European Research Council website.


ECUS determines the intensity of natural climate fluctuations by systematically analysing natural climate archives such as ice and sediment cores.

Link to the project page


MarESys aims to better understand the current and future CO2 uptake by the ocean and its drivers. To this end, we further develop the marine ecosystem compartment of the Earth System model and apply this in simulations of the last decades and of the future.

Link to the project page


The decline in sea ice is one of the most prominent features of climate change. In addition to the ecological and socio-economic effects of ice loss, the associated changes in the global climate system are becoming increasingly important. Sea ice is not only sensitive to climate change, it also influences it. The aim of the Helmholtz Junior Research Group PALICE is to investigate the interactions between changes in sea ice cover and oceanic and atmospheric circulation during past climate fluctuations.

Link to the project page


The research focus of the EcoTrace Group is to gain a better understanding of the role of trace metals in the ecology of Antarctic microalgae and to clarify the effects of global climate change on microalgae in the Southern Ocean.

Link to the project page


The research focus of the SEAPUMP group is on understanding the role of the ocean and the biological pump in the global carbon cycle. In order to assess the current and future absorption of carbon dioxide by the biological pump, a quantitative understanding of the structure and function of marine food webs and their interaction with export processes is necessary. This is the only way to predict changes in carbon exports.

Link to the project page

The effect of deformation mechanisms for ice sheet dynamics

The large ice masses, stored in the polar ice sheets, are the Earth's main freshwater reservoirs and therefore have a potentially enormous effect on the development of sea level. In particular, the role and development of ice flows such as NEGIS are still highly controversial. IPCC showed that the ice flow dynamics and thus the physical processes of ice movement towards the ocean and estimations are insufficiently understood. The ice flow dynamics must therefore be seen as the main source of error for sea level predictions. We study one of two main components controlling the dynamic flow: the internal deformation of the ice body.

Link to the project page


PermaRisk deals with the simulation of erosion processes in permafrost landscapes against the background of climate change and includes a risk assessment for ecosystems and infrastructure in the Arctic.

Link to the project page


PlanktoSERV assesses the effects of simultaneous changes in temperature, pH, nutrients and salinity on plankton communities, thus contributing to a reliable understanding of future changes in ecosystem services.

Link to the project page


The overarching goal of SSIP (Seamless Sea Ice Prediction) is to advance sea-ice prediction capacity on timescales from hours to years and beyond. Numerous research avenues will be taken towards this goal, along the way how we observe the sea ice as well as the atmosphere and the ocean, how we feed these observations into our forecast models in a process called data assimilation, and how our models simulate the physics that determine how the sea ice ecolves in the future.

Link to the project page


In the PETA-CARB project we are investigating the size, quality and dynamics of carbon repositories in Arctic permafrost soils and deep sediments and combine this with remote sensing studies to make quantitative statements about the landscape dynamics of fast permafrost thawing and its influence on the global carbon cycle.

Link to the project page


SPACE (Space-time structure of climate change) determines the spatial and temporal structure of climate change on time scales from years to millennia. This structure allows us to test climate models, improve our understanding of climate variability and provide a more solid basis for climate reconstruction.

Link to the project page