Postdoctoral Research Associate in Department of Earth Sciences

Durham, United Kingdom
£33,797 - £40,322 per annum
Friday, 26 March 2021
End of advertisement period
Friday, 23 April 2021
Contract Type
Fixed Term
Full Time

Department of Earth Sciences

Grade 7: - £33,797 - £40,322 per annum
Fixed Term - Full Time
Contracted Hours per Week: 35
Closing Date : 23-Apr-2021, 6:59:00 AM 

Durham University

Durham University is one of the world's top universities with strengths across the Arts and Humanities, Sciences and Social Sciences. We are home to some of the most talented scholars and researchers from around the world who are tackling global issues and making a difference to people's lives.

The University sits in a beautiful historic city where it shares ownership of a UNESCO World Heritage Site with Durham Cathedral, the greatest Romanesque building in Western Europe. A collegiate University, Durham recruits outstanding students from across the world and offers an unmatched wider student experience.

Less than 3 hours north of London and an hour and a half south of Edinburgh, County Durham is a region steeped in history and natural beauty. The Durham Dales, including the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, are home to breath-taking scenery and attractions. Durham offers an excellent choice of city, suburban and rural residential locations. The University provides a range of benefits including pension and childcare benefits and the University’s Relocation Manager can assist with potential schooling requirements.

Durham University seeks to promote and maintain an inclusive and supportive environment for work and study that assists all members of our University community to reach their full potential. Diversity brings strength and we welcome applications from across the international, national and regional communities that we work with and serve.

The Department

Durham Earth Sciences is one of the very best UK Earth Science departments with an outstanding reputation for excellence in teaching, research and both the satisfaction and employability of its students. It is regularly ranked in the top 5 of UK departments and is within the global top 30.

The department has around 35 academic staff, 30 research staff, 90 PhD students and 250 undergraduate students. Its research covers a spectrum of Earth Science disciplines around four broad themes: Solid Earth; Climate and Environmental Change; Geoenergy, Resources and Waste; Geohazards. The themes reflect our aim to not only undertake fundamental and intrinsically excellent research, but also research that is relevant to and impacts society. We collaborate widely, and within Durham we work closely with both the Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience (link to https://www.dur.ac.uk/ihrr/) and the Durham Energy Institute (link to https://www.dur.ac.uk/dei/).

The Department is committed to providing the highest level of education to its students, giving them the knowledge, skills and confidence to contribute positively to the world beyond Durham. We provide research-led teaching with a large proportion of practical classes and a deep commitment to field-based teaching. We regularly receive > 90% satisfaction scores on the annual National Student Survey and our students are highly sought after by a range of employers.

The Department of Earth Sciences holds a departmental Bronze Athena SWAN award in recognition of its efforts to promote gender equality and address challenges particular to the earth sciences

More information on the department, its research and its facilities can be found at https://www.dur.ac.uk/earth.sciences/.

The Role

We invite applications for a Post-Doctoral Research Associate (PDRA) to join the Department of Earth Sciences, working with Dr Madeleine Humphreys on a project funded by the European Research Council, “Storage and Eruption of Mushy Magma Systems (STEMMS)”. The position is fixed term for 48 months, with a start date for this position in spring 2021. Wider collaborators associated with this project include Dr Richard Brooker (Bristol) and Prof Colin Macpherson (Durham).

The aim of the project is to combine apatite geochemistry with crystal textures in order to understand the genesis and remobilisation of crystal mushes. The project will use volatiles in apatite, together with numerical modelling, to understand the timing of volatile saturation during magma storage and crystal mush formation. This will be linked with independent textural constraints on the conditions of major phase (e.g. feldspar) crystallisation, to help define the crystallisation timescales and remobilisation conditions of mushy magmatic systems. The project will also investigate activity of carbonate in apatite, with the aim of understanding the impact of carbonate assimilation on magma storage, gas exsolution and mush remobilisation. Target case studies are anticipated to include Santorini (Greece), Sumbing (Indonesia) and possibly Mt Vesuvius (Italy).

The successful applicant will be expected to sample, prepare and analyse suites of apatite crystals using a variety of microanalytical approaches; to perform and interpret numerical modelling of the volatile data; and to undertake quantitative textural and geochemical characterization of the natural host materials to be integrated with the apatite data. The PDRA will work with the PI to interpret the results and produce high-impact publications based on the findings. The PDRA will benefit from close interaction with a wide range of expertise within the broader project collaboration network, and will be expected to attend conferences to present their work. The PDRA will join the vibrant volcanology group at Durham University, and will further benefit from the Department’s mentoring programme for Early Career Researchers. PDRAs are also encouraged to co-supervise MSc and undergraduate research projects.

The successful candidate will be expected to contribute to the general activities of the volcanology group and participate actively in the intellectual life of the department. There may be opportunities to teach/demonstrate in labs and field classes depending on the interests of the successful candidate.


  • To understand and convey material of a specialist or highly technical nature to the team or to groups of people through presentations and discussions leading to the presentation of research papers in conferences and publications.
  • To prepare and deliver presentations on research outputs/activities to audiences which may include research sponsors, academic and non-academic audiences.
  • To publish high quality outputs, including papers for submission to peer reviewed journals and papers for presentation for national and international conferences and workshops under the direction of the Principal Investigator or Grant-holder. In particular:
    • To assist with the development of research objectives and proposals.
  • To conduct individual and collaborative research under the direction of the Principal Investigator or Grant-holder. In particular;
    • To incorporate the effects of varying temperature and the presence of CO2 into existing models of apatite fractionation and volatile evolution.
    • To sample, prepare and analyse apatite major, trace and volatile element geochemistry for target volcanic systems identified for study.
    • To perform numerical modelling on new and existing geochemical datasets in order to explore the timing of exsolution, and amount and salinity of exsolved fluids.
    • To undertake quantitative textural characterisation and major/ trace element analysis of host rocks and natural minerals, in order to constrain magma storage conditions and interpret textural constraints on the crystallisation environment.
  • To work with the Principal Investigator or Grant-holder and other colleagues in the research group, as appropriate, to identify areas for research, develop new research methods and extend the research portfolio.
  • To deal with problems that may affect the achievement of research objectives and deadlines by discussing with the Principal Investigator or Grant-holder and offering creative or innovative solutions.
  • To liaise with research colleagues and make internal and external contacts to develop knowledge and understanding to form relationships for future research collaboration.
  • To plan and manage own research activity, research resources in collaboration with others and contribute to the planning of research projects.
  • To deliver training in research techniques/approaches to peers, visitors and students as appropriate.
  • To contribute to fostering a collegial and respectful working environment which is inclusive and welcoming and where everyone is treated fairly with dignity and respect.
  • To engage in wider citizenship to support the department and wider discipline.
  • To engage in continuing professional development by participation in the undergraduate or postgraduate teaching programmes or by membership of departmental committees, etc. and by attending relevant training and development courses.
  • To engage with appropriate outreach and impact activities.

This post is fixed term for 48 months. The research project funding is from ERC and is available for the fixed-term period only.

The post-holder is employed to work on research/a research project which will be led by another colleague. Whilst this means that the post-holder will not be carrying out independent research in their own right, the expectation is that they will contribute to the advancement of the project, through the development of their own research ideas/adaptation and development of research protocols.

Successful applicants will, ideally, be in post by summer 2021.

How to Apply

For informal enquiries, please contact Dr Madeleine Humphreys (madeleine.humphreys@durham.ac.uk). All enquiries will be treated in the strictest confidence.

We prefer to receive applications online via the Durham University Vacancies Site. https://www.dur.ac.uk/jobs/. As part of the application process, you should provide details of 3 (preferably academic/research) referees and the details of your current line manager so that we may seek an employment reference.

Applications are particularly welcome from women and black and minority ethnic candidates, who are under-represented in academic posts in the University.

What to Submit

All applicants are asked to submit:

  • A CV and covering letter that details your experience, strengths and potential in the requirements set out here; candidates will not be shortlisted if they cannot demonstrate that they meet all essential criteria (i.e. these are mandatory for the post).

Next Steps

The assessment for the post will include an interview and a task related to the project. Shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview and assessment.

The Requirements



  • A PhD (or be close to submission by the time of application) in Earth Sciences, Geochemistry or a related subject.


  • Experience in conducting high quality academic research.
  • Demonstrable ability to write material of a quality commensurate with publication in highly-ranked journals.
  • Demonstrable ability to present research papers at conferences, symposia or meetings commensurate with stage of career and ability to communicate complex information to specialists and within the wider academic community.
  •  A strong understanding of mineral geochemistry and textures, and their significance in petrology.  
  •  A strong understanding of the varying roles of volatiles in magmatic systems


  • Strong analytical ability with micro-analytical techniques including SEM and electron microprobe (EPMA), and one or more other methods such as ion microprobe (SIMS) or laser ablation ICP-MS.
  • Ability to interpret volatile element datasets in the context of petrologic processes
  • Organised and meticulous approach to laboratory work.
  • Demonstrable ability to work cooperatively as part of a team
  • Ability to work independently on own initiative and to strict deadlines.
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills including written and spoken English.
  •  Ability to work and solve problems independently.
  • Enthusiasm and personal initiative for research.



  • Experience of working with microanalysis of apatite
  • Experience with mineral separation techniques for accessory mineral phases
  • Experience of working on interdisciplinary and collaborative projects
  • A record of publication in peer-reviewed journals, commensurate with stage of career.


  • Ability to use numerical computing software such as MATLAB both to develop and to implement models for interpretation of natural geochemical data.
  • Demonstrable ability to plan and manage independent research.
  • Strong petrographic and microscopy skills

DBS Requirement: Not Applicable.