ETH Zürich

PhD student position in experimental fluid dynamics, shock-wave physics and X-ray imaging for biomedical applications

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ETH Zürich is well known for its excellent education, ground-breaking fundamental research and for implementing its results directly into practice.

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PhD student position in experimental fluid dynamics, shock-wave physics and X-ray imaging for biomedical applications

This project is a collaboration between the Institute of Fluid Dynamics at ETH Zurich and the ID19 microtomography beamline at the ESRF, Grenoble, France.

The research in the newly established Multiphase Fluid Dynamics group at ETH Zurich examines both fundamental and applied questions in various small-scale multiphase fluid phenomena, such as bubble and droplet dynamics and the resulting fast flows. One of our key objectives is to control bubble oscillations to exploit their energy-focusing characteristics in biomedical applications. We also develop experimental techniques to observe and characterise high-speed multiphase fluid phenomena optically and acoustically. The group is part of the Institute of Fluid Dynamics, which pursues a broad range of experimental, numerical and theoretical research efforts in a friendly and inclusive environment with state-of-the-art infrastructure.

The ESRF, the European Synchrotron, is an international research facility based in Grenoble, France. Thanks to high-level, innovative engineering and cutting-edge vision, the ESRF is recognised as one of the top research institutions worldwide, welcoming more than 6 500 scientists every year in fields such as biology, medicine, chemistry, earth and environmental sciences, cultural heritage, materials and surface science, and physics. The ID19 beamline at the ESRF is a multi-purpose long (145 m) imaging beamline for radiography (absorption and phase contrast imaging), microtomography and laminography experiments.

Starting date: Fall 2024. Negotiable. 

Duration of appointment: Maximum 4 years. 2 years at ETHZ, 2 years at the ESRF.

Project background

Cavitation is a violent rupture of a fluid medium and often presents itself in medical treatments that apply high-intensity sound waves inside the body, such as shock wave lithotripsy in the treatment of kidney stones. It can be harmful if uncontrolled, yet beneficial for established and emerging ablation therapies such as lithotripsy and histotripsy. However, the exact contribution of cavitation and the physical mechanisms that allow precise control and optimisation of these therapies are currently unknown. Studying these phenomena experimentally presents a challenge due to the complex and dense bubble cloud physics and prohibitive spatio-temporal resolutions needed due to the ultrafast dynamics spanning orders of magnitude in scale down to the micro level.

This project aims at critically advancing our understanding of the medical cavitation ablation mechanisms actuated through different acoustic drivers, in particular with lithotripter shock waves, through cutting-edge experiments vastly beyond the state of the art. Building on our recent and planned technological developments at the associated spatio-temporal scales using a synchrotron X-ray source for ultrafast X-ray phase contrast imaging and X-ray microtomography, and on our expertise in cavitation physics, the aims are to quantify damage on objects and tissue specifically caused by cavitation activity and to achieve improved control of cavitation activity in medical therapies. By combining advanced interface-resolving imaging and advanced pressure- and stress-field measurements, this research will bridge the acoustic control and the final damage outcome by uncovering the mechanistic relations in-between. The ultimate goal is to help optimise medical technologies in lithotripsy and histotripsy and new cavitation therapies to make them more precise, more efficacious and safer.

Job description

We seek to appoint a PhD student to conduct experimental research to investigate the role of cavitation in shock wave lithotripsy. You will be part of an exciting collaboration between ETHZ and ESRF.

You will design your experimental setup by exploiting the state-of-the-art ultra-high-speed imaging, optical and acoustic facilities available in the lab at ETHZ, where you will spend 50% of the project duration. In addition to research, you will contribute to teaching and lab activities in the institute at ETH Zurich. 

At the ESRF, you will join the ID19 beamline for the other 50% of the project duration to harness the world-unique abilities of single bunch and ultra-fast in-situ X-ray imaging combining them with multiscale X-ray microtomography to study the cavitation-induced damage and identify the key role of damage promotion, decoupling the contribution of sound waves and cavitation cloud dynamics. You will work along the way on developing original imaging protocols and quantitative data processing methodologies exploiting the coherence properties of EBS source with intense narrow-bandwidth single bunch illumination allowing the detailed study of fast dynamics of cavitation at spatio-temporal microscales.


The requirements include a Master's degree in mechanical, aeronautical, or biomedical engineering, physics, material science or a related field. You should be curiosity-driven, creative, open-minded and independent, and have good communication skills, fluency in English and the willingness to fully commit yourself as a part of an international team. The ability to work with people from different areas of expertise is important. You should also have strong interests in experimental fluid mechanics, multi-phase flows, solid mechanics, shock physics, acoustics, biomedical engineering, and/or similar. Experience in experimental research is an advantage, but not necessary. However, you should be excited about the prospect of working in a lab and in a large-scale research facility.

We offer

ETH Zurich and ESRF are family-friendly employers with excellent working conditions. You can look forward to an exciting working environment, cultural diversity and attractive offers and benefits.

Working, teaching and research at ETH Zurich

We value diversity

In line with our values, ETH Zurich encourages an inclusive culture. We promote equality of opportunity, value diversity and nurture a working and learning environment in which the rights and dignity of all our staff and students are respected. Visit our Equal Opportunities and Diversity website to find out how we ensure a fair and open environment that allows everyone to grow and flourish.

Curious? So are we.

We look forward to receiving your application with the following documents: 

  • a motivation letter (max 1 page) explaining your interests
  • your CV (max 2 pages)
  • diploma transcripts (BSc/MSc) from which the grades are evident
  • and the names and addresses (including email) of three references

The deadline for the application is 5 July 2024. However, applications will be accepted until the position is filled. Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal. Applications via email or postal services will not be considered.

For more information on our group and on the Institute of Fluid Dynamics, visit the website or contact the group leader, Prof Outi Supponen via email at outis (at) (no applications). For additional information on ID19 beamline and the ESRF, visit the website or contact the beamline lead scientist Dr Alexander Rack via alexander.rack (at) (no applications).

About ETH Zürich

ETH Zurich is one of the world’s leading universities specialising in science and technology. We are renowned for our excellent education, cutting-edge fundamental research and direct transfer of new knowledge into society. Over 30,000 people from more than 120 countries find our university to be a place that promotes independent thinking and an environment that inspires excellence. Located in the heart of Europe, yet forging connections all over the world, we work together to develop solutions for the global challenges of today and tomorrow.

Om tjänsten

PhD student position in experimental fluid dynamics, shock-wave physics and X-ray imaging for biomedical applications
Rämistrasse 101 Zürich, Schweiz
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ETH Zürich is well known for its excellent education, ground-breaking fundamental research and for implementing its results directly into practice.

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