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 6 such groups at the institute.

Current call for applications for Helmholtz Young Investigator Groups is open

The Alfred Wegener Institute seeks Expressions of Interest from outstanding talents to apply for their own Young Investigator Group (HGF call for application)

The two-step process will start with an internal selection process at AWI of up to three candidates in the thematic or open track as specified below. The final selection of candidates will be carried out by an external expert panel advising the president of the Helmholtz Association. YIGs of successful applicants will be hosted at the AWI. Funding is on the order of €300,000 per year for a period of five years, with potential access to further substantial research infrastructure depending in internal negotiation within AWI. The position is limited to five years and offers access to a tenure track procedure.


You will be eligible to apply if you have between two and six years of postdoctoral experience (academic age). For maternity / parental leave of the birth giving parent, the track record considered can be extended by 18 months, or if longer by the amount of leave actually taken until the call deadline, for each child born after the PhD award. For parental leave of the parent not giving birth, the track record considered can be extended by the amount of parental leave actually taken until the call deadline for each child born after the PhD award. Parental leave times include periods of part-time work (no more than 25 % paid work), in which you took over the main share of family work. When calculating the academic age, we are guided by the gender-specific clock-stopping policies of the ERC Starting Grant as well as the DFG (number of years of active research after receiving the doctoral degree). Periods of unavoidable downtime of scientific career due to e.g. illness or care leave can also be considered. Further requirements are international research experience as demonstrated by continuous research stay abroad for at least 6 months during the doctoral or postdoctoral studies and, of course, an exceptionally strong CV and draft proposal addressing one of the following topics for which we seek outstanding experts to strengthen our research program.

Thematic track: Up to two candidates will be selected applying to the following themes in the first step:

1) Ecology of Antarctic benthic habitats

The YIG conducts research in the field of Antarctic benthic community function. Research interests will target habitat-building megafauna (e.g. sponges, corals), their metabolism and interaction with the biotic and abiotic environment as well as their susceptibility to multiple stressors and climate change. The applicant should be experienced in benthic ecology using field observations with advanced optical, acoustic and geochemical in situ platforms, manipulative experiments in the field and in the laboratory and/or modelling approaches. Broad expertise from shelf to deep sea habitats is an asset.

Information on relevant research at AWI, including contact persons from the AWI scientific section, can be found here.

2) Phytoplankton ecology

The YIG conducts research in the field of phytoplankton ecology, with a clear focus of the central role of phytoplankton in the food web, with strong links to nutrients, microbes and higher tropic levels. The aim of this position is to connect the long-term data, available from the LTER of Helgoland and Sylt to ecological experiments of many different scales with selected phytoplankton species and communities. The applicant should use modern methods in phytoplankton ecology, have experience in experimental phytoplankton ecology and/or physiology of temperate phytoplankton, and form the nucleus of research on phytoplankton on the coastal stations of the AWI.

Information on relevant research at AWI, including contact persons from the AWI scientific section, can be found here.

3) Structure, function and biogeochemistry of marine organic compounds

The YIG support our effort to understand the function of marine organic compounds, both, as diagnostic markers to decode biogeochemical processes and as drivers of chemical interactions between species. Research should be based on excellent marine chemistry expertise and analytics of biological compounds and organic matter. The candidate should contribute to a profound understanding of the role of organic molecules in the marine carbon cycle and the interactions between chemical and biological processes in the pelagic polar ocean. The applicant should be profound experience in analytical organic chemistry and structure elucidation (e.g. via gas and liquid chromatography, and mass spectrometry (IRMS, HR-MS, triple-quad MS)).

Information on relevant research at AWI, including contact persons from the AWI scientific section, can be found here.

4) Marine chronobiology

The YIG conducts research at the intersection of marine zooplankton biology and the molecular basis of its rhythmic physiology and behavior. Research interests should include the development of a suitable lab model system with the perspective to be amenable to forward genetic functional techniques. By the same time, the chosen possible model needs to be of high ecological relevance, such as Calanus finmarchicus. The research interests also include work on the putative core circadian clock machinery on the level of cell culture and biochemistry, as well as the localization of its gene products in tissues via immunohistochemistry, HCR-based in situ hybridsation or spatial -omics approaches. The YIG will contribute to a growing focus on the area of organismal rhythms. While the focus of this particular call will be on diel rhythms and circadian clocks, the work will interconnect to rhythms of other period length in other organisms and by this help to unravel the fundamental principles that drive the rhythms of life in the oceans. The applicant should be experienced in marine ecology, ideally with expertise on copepod biology, but also have a solid training in molecular biology and genetics on marine invertebrates.

For questions and information about relevant research at AWI, please contact

5) Marine polar climate reconstruction from microfossils - mass spectrometry-based analytics on fossil diatoms (δ18O, δ30Si) or on foraminifers (Mg/Ca, δ11B)

The YIG will conduct research in the field of marine polar climate reconstructions with the help of micro fossils and paleo proxys. The aim is to reconstruct and quantify ocean-atmosphere-cryosphere interactions with their effects on atmospheric CO2 levels (δ11B), heat exchange (Mg/Ca) and nutrient distribution in the ocean (δ30Si). The physico-chemical processes in the oceanic surface are driven by temperature (Mg/Ca) and salinity (δ18O) and are key to understanding these interactions. Successful applicants should have expert knowledge in mass spectrometry-based analytics, high-quality of achievements (e.g. publications), excellent scientific literacy and outstanding scientific vision in the above fields.

Information on relevant research at AWI, including contact persons from the AWI scientific section, can be found here.

6) Polar geophysics with focus on seismic methods

The scientific focus of the YIG is on studying climate-related geological processes in the polar regions and their impact for the future development of the Earth’s climate and related geohazards. Regionally, land/ice-sheet to sea linkages, for instance in northeast Greenland and selected regions in Antarctica such as the Ronne Ice Shelf and Weddell Sea, will play a strong role in this strategy. Particular research themes can comprise ice-sheet dynamics, paleo ocean-currents, sedimentation processes in glaciated and other polar continental margins and shelf areas, and related geohazards such as gas hydrate/permafrost destabilization, methane degassing and landslides. The applicant should have comprehensive knowledge of and interest in conducting marine data-based geophysical studies of polar climate dynamics on all time scales. This would ideally be a scientist with main interest in collecting, analysing and interpreting marine seismic reflection and refraction data, potentially with linkages to scientific drilling, e.g. the future IODP program, but can also include an interest in other methods such as geothermal heat flow.

Information on relevant research at AWI, including contact persons from the AWI scientific section, can be found here.

7) The role of the stratosphere in the climate system

The YIG conducts research in the field of stratospheric chemistry and dynamics and their interaction with climate change and other players in the climate system such as the troposphere. Research interests will target the stratospheric ozone layer with its interactions in the coupled stratosphere/troposphere system. The YIG contributes to research in the field of stratospheric ozone chemistry and dynamics and the stratosphere/troposphere interactions and how it is affected by climate change. As such it will contribute to the strategic development of the section Atmospheric Physics at AWI. The applicant should be experienced with stratospheric ozone research, and stratosphere/troposphere interactions. The applicant should be able to continue the ozone measurement program at AWI’s Arctic, Antarctic and tropical stations and to synthesize these observations with modelling activities.

Information on relevant research at AWI, including contact persons from the AWI scientific section, can be found here.

8) Airborne measurements in the polar boundary layer

The YIG conducts research in the field of measurements of polar boundary layer processes with a focus on turbulence and aerosol. Research interests will target airborne high-resolution measurements of meteorological variables using a new towed sonde equipped with turbulence and aerosol probes. The main task of the expected YIG is to investigate turbulent transport of energy, momentum and aerosol using T-Bird over the different surface types in the Arctic. Finally, process parameterizations based on these measurements need to be verified and further developed. The YIG contributes to research in the Section Atmospheric Physics of AWI. There should be close cooperation especially with research from AWI groups in the framework of the Arctic Amplification project AC3 coordinated by University Leipzig. The applicant should be experienced in boundary layer meteorology with a focus on airborne measurements of turbulence. He/she should be familiar also with aerosol physics.

Information on relevant research at AWI, including contact persons from the AWI scientific section, can be found here.

Before applying for one of these topics at the AWI, please contact the respective section leaders named!

Open track: Up to one candidate will be selected in the open track in the first step:

You can also apply in any field of research in which you have recently excelled if generally related to the AWI's research program. This can be demonstrated by a grand idea supported by a first own publication and a CV fit for an ERC application. You should identify a potential mentor for realizing your idea from the AWI faculty.


Selection criteria and process

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

1. Outstanding scientific achievements and research experience of the candidate (CV, publications, citation index, awards, etc.)

2. Quality of the planned research project (innovation capacity, relevance, structure, coherence, feasibility)

3. Compatibility with AWI´s research program and scientific topics listed above (for the thematic track)

4. Strategic importance for the AWI

5. Synergy effects resulting from the cooperation between AWI and the partner university


Draft application should include a project summary with information on

  • Motivation for the research project
  • General significance of the proposed project
  • Scientific objectives
  • Strategic relevance for the research programChanging Earth - Sustaining our Future

A template is available for the draft proposal. Using this template is a formal prerequisite for application submission. Please provide in addition a full curriculum vitae and publication list.

Curriculum vitae template

Helmholtz YIG_application template AWI

Questions about the call for applications and the internal selection procedure answered

Deadline for submission of draft applications ( is 23 January 2023. Short-listed applicants will be invited to present their projects to the AWI Scientific Council in March 2023. Successful candidates will be informed after the final decision by the AWI Board of Directors; and they will be asked to provide a full proposal until 28 April 2023.

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.