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 10 such groups at the institute.

Current call for applications for Helmholtz Young Investigator Groups

Current Call for applications for Helmholtz Young Investigator Groups 2021 is open.

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 (HGF call for application)

The two-step process will start with an internal selection process at AWI. 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.

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 years). 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. No more than two candidates will be selected from the thematic track in the first step.

1) Atmospheric boundary-layer coupling and Arctic amplification

The YIG observes and investigates the processes that mediate the exchange of heat, moisture, tracers and momentum between the atmosphere and ocean, sea ice or land surfaces. The proposed group contributes to understanding, quantifying and projecting Arctic amplification of climate change and to understanding and predicting high-latitude extreme events and their future changes. The applicant should be experienced in boundary-layer meteorology and show the capacity to develop novel approaches to gain process-level understanding related to fundamental questions in climate research.

2) Sources and sinks of marine micro- and nanoplastics

The YIG conducts research in the field of plastic pollution in marine environments. Using state-of-the-art techniques, the group will investigate distributions of plastic pollutants in all compartments of the marine realm, link these to potential sources and pathways of transport, and assess potential impacts on ecosystem function. The applicant should be experienced in modern techniques of the measurement of chemicals and particles in the environment, and/or the investigation of impacts of pollutants on organisms. Affinity to modelling, and the analysis of pathways of distribution is beneficial.

3) Plankton Ecology of Coastal Seas

The YIG conducts research in the field of plankton ecology, with a focus of the central role of phytoplankton in the coastal food web and its interactions with nutrients, microbes and higher tropic levels. The aim of this position is to connect ecological experiments of many different scales on selected plankton species and communities with field observations and long-term studies, including bioarchives. The applicant should have experience in experimental plankton ecology and/or physiology of temperate phytoplankton and enthusiasm for a future focus on the North Sea and the coastal stations of the AWI.

4) Polar Lipidomics

The YIG conducts research in the field of marine chemistry and molecular bio(geo)chemistry with a focus on lipidomics. The group leader will address the role of chemical compounds for the interaction, productivity and energy budgets of organisms in the pelagic environment and the connection to biogeochemical cycles. The research is regionally focused on polar pelagic and sea-ice ecosystems and will target dissolved and particulate organic compounds in cells, organisms, ice and water. The applicant should be experienced in the field of marine chemistry, biochemistry or organic geochemistry. Ideally, the applicant has some background in working with chemical biomarkers, marine carbon cycling and/or species adaptation strategies.

5) Molecular biodiversity of intertidal ecosystems

The YIG investigates gradients and shifts of biodiversity across important environmental interfaces (e.g., pelagic/benthic, subtidal/intertidal/supratidal, present/past) in the Wadden Sea using eDNA approaches. The group will help to define benchmarks and success criteria for ecosystem restoration and long-term renaturation strategies for the Wadden Sea until the end of this century and beyond, and will contribute to long-term time series on invasive species. The applicant should be a strong background in marine biodiversity and ecosystem functionality with a focus on modern techniques of DNA sequencing (environmental genomics, metagenomics, metabarcoding).

6) Ecology of Antarctic Benthic Habitats

The YIG conducts research in the field of Antarctic benthic community structure and function. Research interests will target habitat-building megafauna (sponges, corals, echinoderms), their interaction with the biotic and abiotic environment and susceptibility to multiple stressors associated with a changing environment. The applicant should be experienced in benthic community ecology, state-of-the-art interdisciplinary field and laboratory methods for observational and experimental research. Broad expertise from shelf to deep sea habitats are beneficial.

7) Transport Processes in the Southern Ocean

The YIG conducts research in the field of physical oceanography in the Southern Ocean, in order to study the role of the Southern Ocean in the climate system. Research will focus on oceanic processes in the Atlantic Sector of the Southern Ocean, in order to understand heat and freshwater fluxes and pathways in the changing ocean system with relevance for carbon budgets. The YIG will contribute to and profit from the long-standing observational programs of AWI and should be experienced in regional-scale ocean data analysis, data-model integration, numerical ocean modelling.

Open track:

You will be eligible to apply in a field in which you have recently excelled (demonstrated by e.g. high impact paper / CV fit for an ERC application). You need between two and six years of independent postdoctoral experience with high productivity. Periods of parental leave in this phase will be taken into consideration. Further requirements are international research experience as demonstrated by continuous research stay abroad for at least 6 months during the doctoral or postdoctoral studies. Max. one candidate will be selected for the open track in this first step.


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 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


Please contact before applying. Draft application should include a project summary (max. 2 pages, Arial, font size 11 & single-line spacing), a full CV and publication list.

Please use the templates available here:

Curriculum vitae template

Helmholtz YIG_application template AWI 2021

Information on the new research programme Changing Earth - Sustaining our Future. AWI is involved in the research topics 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7.

Deadline for submission of draft applications ( is 14.02.2021. Short-listed applicants will be invited to present their projects to the AWI Scientific Council at the end of March 2021. 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 3 May 2021.

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.


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 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


FluxWin focuses on how carbon and nitrogen cycling and resulting greenhouse gas emissions change between the growing season, when plants and scientists are active, and outside of the growing season, when plants are not active and many fewer measurements are collected.

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