Young Investigator Groups

Current call for applications for Helmholtz Young Investigator Groups

The Alfred Wegener Institute seeks Expression of Interest from outstanding young scientists of two to six years post the completion of their PhD, to apply their own Young Investigator Group.

Helmholtz Young Investigator Groups - Call 2019

Successfully YIGs will be hosted at the AWI. 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 two-step process starts with a selection process at the AWI. The final selection of candidates takes place by an external expert panel advising the president of the Helmholtz Association.

Initial selection of candidates at the AWI (deadline 24 February 2019)

Thematic track: You will be eligible to apply if you have between two and six years of postdoctoral experience, research experience abroad 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 future research program. No more than two candidates will be selected.

1) Observational oceanography: The YIG conducts research in the field of polar physical oceanography based on in situ observations in the Southern Ocean. Research interests may target the large scale overturning circulation, water mass transformation, mesoscale and frontal dynamics or ocean-ice shelf interaction.

2) Climate dynamics: The YIG contributes to a better understanding of climate system dynamics from a polar perspective. The applicant should be experienced in climate modeling. It is anticipated that the YIG contributes to improving climate change projections and to determining the limits of predictability.

3) Physics of Interfaces in Polar Seas: The YIG studies meso- and microscale processes in the polar atmospheric boundary layer with a focus on sea ice-atmosphere-ocean interaction. The candidate has strong expertise in modeling and parametrization of interface processes, and in airborne observations and/or sea ice studies.

4) Functional benthic ecology: The YIG investigates the effect of climate, environment and human dynamics on benthic ecosystems and landscapes. The applicant should have a strong background in marine ecology with a focus on benthic community ecology of temperate and polar seas. Expertise in innovative in situ observation methods is of advantage.

5) Coastal biogeochemistry: The YIG will investigate the origin, turnover and fate of chemical substances in the transition between land and sea. Research focuses on the interplay of man-made influences and natural variability in fluxes of elements and matter. Applicants should be experienced in the coupling of pelagic-benthic processes. Knowledge in biogeochemical modeling is of advantage. 

6) Modeling of vegetation-climate interactions at northern high-latitudes: The YIG will study the response of polar vegetation to climate dynamics. The candidate has expertise in field work and numerical modeling of vegetation and climate interactions.

7) High resolution Paleoclimate studies: The YIG studies high-precision stratigraphy of environmental archives using innovative chronological methods. The candidate should have expertise in geochemical and/or physical analyses of environmental archives (ice-cores, sediments, and their chronological coupling) and in the use of environmental proxies to study climate dynamics.

Free track: You will be eligible to apply if you have an outstanding CV and a specific, novel idea for polar, coastal or marine research, in a field which you have recently excelled (e.g. high impact paper & idea for ERC application). You need between two and six years of postdoctoral experience, and research experience abroad. No more than one candidate will be selected.

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

1. Scientific excellence (project description)

2. Candidate´s Excellence (CV and publication list; please use the CV template similar to the ERC form)

3. Compatibility with topics listed above

4. Connection with a German university

Please send a letter of intent, a 2-page project summary, a full CV and publication list to by 24 February 2019

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