University assistant predoctoral: Connecting Present-day Galaxies and their Progenitors with Stellar Population-Dynamics

Supervision: Dr. Alina Boecker and Prof. Dr. Glenn van de Ven (Department of Astrophysics)

Funding type: fully-funded

Expected starting date: ideally 15 May 2024

Duration of employment: 3 years

Working hours: 30 hours


Project outline:

The most detailed observations of galaxies come from the nearby Universe. However, in the era of big observatories like the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), these are pushed further all the way to the earliest galaxies. This PhD position aims to apply and extend state-of-the-art methods that have been employed to study the formation of present-day galaxies and to unveil the properties of their progenitors. Interested candidates with a background in astrophysics, applied mathematics or computational sciences are welcome to apply.

You will be part of the “Dynamics of Stellar Systems” research group [1] in Vienna, which develops a software for orbit-based dynamical modelling including stellar populations [2,3]. This software makes it possible to unveil a galaxy’s assembly history, as the orbits of stars and their chemical properties act as fossil records. Hence, we can infer whether a given galaxy was assembled through mergers or if it had a more quiet formation history.

For the first time, you will apply this hybrid population-dynamical modelling software to state-of-the-art spectroscopic observations of galaxies in the nearby Universe up to 7 Gyr ago, i.e., going back in time to when the Universe was half its current age. In addition, you have the opportunity to contribute to the software’s future development and/or comparison with galaxy simulations in a cosmological context. This PhD position will yield critical insights into galaxy formation and evolution across cosmic time.

[1] Research Group "Dynamics of Stellar Systems”:
[2] Dynamical modelling code DYNAMITE:
[3] Zhu L., van de Ven G., Leaman R., et al., 2020, MNRAS, 496, 1579:


Your future tasks:

You actively participate in research, teaching & administration, which means:

  • You are involved in research projects and scientific studies in the area of Astronomy.
  • We expect you to finalize your dissertation agreement within 12 months.
  • You work on your dissertation and its completion.
  • You hold courses and examinations according to the assignment and (co-)supervise students.
  • You take on administrative tasks in research and teaching.
  • You become an active team member of the “Dynamics of Stellar Systems” research group at the Department of Astrophysics.
  • You become an active PhD student member of the "Vienna International School of Earth and Space Sciences".


 This is part of your personality:

  • Completed Master's degree (or equivalent) in the field(s) of Astronomy/Astrophysics, Applied Mathematics or Computational Sciences
  • Excellent command of written and spoken English
  • Basic experience in academic writing
  • Expertise in stellar dynamical and/or population models as well as stellar spectroscopy are assets
  • Knowledge in galaxy formation and evolution and/or stellar populations and dynamics are assets
  • IT user skills: Good programming skills are required
  • Didactic competences / experience with e-learning are beneficial
  • Presentation experience in an international setting is a benefit
  • You should be a team player with high social skills


What we offer:

  • Employment duration: The employment duration is 3 years. Initially limited to 1.5 years, the employment relationship is automatically extended to 3 years if the employer does not terminate it within the first 12 months by submitting a declaration of non-extension. In exceptional, well argumented cases and on the condition that budget is available, there is the possibility of extensions to a total maximum of 4 years.
  • Work-life balance: Our employees enjoy flexible, family-friendly working hours, remote/hybrid and/or part-time work (upon agreement).
  • Inspiring working atmosphere: You are a part of an international academic team with excellent research infrastructure in a supportive, inspiring and vibrant research environment with many opportunities to connect with peers from home and abroad on a personal and professional level.
  • Good public transport connections: Your workplace in the center of beautiful Vienna is easily accessible by public transport.
  • Internal further training & Coaching: VISESS and the University of Vienna offer many opportunities for your personal and professional development, including intra- and interdisciplinary seminars, transferable skills trainings and workshops, summer schools and more.
  • Fair salary: The basic salary of EUR 3277,30 (on a full-time basis) increases if we can credit professional experience.
  • Equal opportunities for everyone: We look forward to diverse personalities in the team!


It is that easy to apply: