Aims & Concepts

The aim of the PhD school Water Earth Systems (WES) is to provide a stimulating research environment for students working on the water-related topics in various earth systems.

The PhD school is intended for students that investigate the role and behavior of water in Earth systems and its chemical and microbial quality at a wide range of spatial scales reaching from hillslopes within catchments, shallow aquifers, deep geothermal reservoirs to large regional flow systems. The PhD school aims at training highly-qualified researchers that master cutting edge research approaches, are capable of carrying out innovative research in a multidisciplinary context, acquire a broader understanding of the role of water in earths systems, and have a strong set of general research and communication skills.

The PhD school brings together research groups with complementary expertise from several institutions across Switzerland. A specific emphasis is given to advanced methods for characterizing the geological and geomorphological framework that governs water flows and transport of substances, interactions among environmental systems (e.g. groundwater-surface water, groundwater-ecosystems), and improved understanding of coupled processes (e.g. thermal-hydro-mechanical-chemical coupling). 

Different types of activities are offered :​

  • General research and communication skill courses: PhD students are introduced to general research and communication skills such as project management, scientific writing skills, presentation skills or proposal writing.
  • Courses: Courses that foster process understanding and introduce advanced methods are organized each year. A special emphasis is given to quantitative methods applicable in different fields (e.g. (geo)statistical methods, inverse methods), methods that integrate different types of processes (e.g. coupled hydro-mechanical-chemical processes), courses that integrate experimental approaches with advanced theory (e.g. use of isotope effects for process elucidation) or courses on feedbacks and interactions between different natural systems (e.g. groundwater and surface water). Courses typically include a part with hands-on exercises (e.g. computer labs) and activities/discussions on how the course content relates to the PhD projects of the participants. The courses will be taught in collaboration between researchers of partner institutions with guest lecturers.
  • Field camps: PhD students will learn new field methodologies bridging across disciplines such as soil physics, hydrogeology and hydrology as well as methods for geophysical and sedimentological characterization of the subsurface. The courses typically include hands-on activities at the research sites of the participating institutions.
  • Workshops: In these workshops senior researchers from participating and external institutions meet with PhD students to debate a specific broader topic within the domain of the PhD school. Workshops can have a different orientation e.g. reviewing the state of the art in a certain research area or may focus on ‘hot topics’ from a societal point of view to debate how science can contribute to resolving them. An important objective is thereby to foster the ability of PhD students to put their research in a larger scientific or societal context.  Workshops are also intended to favor integration among the participating institutions. They may be combined with the PhD student conference.
  • PhD student conference: In the one day PhD student conference all participating PhD student present their work in form of oral or poster presentations. The PhD school will be self-organized by the PhD students in collaboration with the PhD school coordinator. The goal is to increase exchange and interdisciplinary collaboration between the PhD students during a more informal context, and to receive feedback from PhD students of different disciplines and institutions.
  • Seminars: PhD students will organize and attend regularly seminars at UNINE where they present and discuss their research. Apart from practicing presentation skills, they foster informal exchange among PhD students. The seminars are also attended by professors and senior scientists, which provide students feedback. The PhD student presentations (typically weekly) are completed with guest seminars (typically monthly).

The courses are open for external PhD students which have however to pay a course fee that reflects the effective costs per participant. The students participating in the PhD school also have the possibility to follow courses elsewhere.