PhD position in Astrophysics/Astrochemistry/Astrobiology

A position for a PhD candidate in connection with the OREOcube International Space Station (ISS) project is available within the “Experimental molecular biophysics” group (host: Prof. J. Heberle, supervision Dr. A. Elsaesser) at Freie University of Berlin, Germany. OREOcube will investigate the photochemical interactions of organic molecules (e.g. amino acids, porphyrins, quinones and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) under space conditions and with inorganic surfaces (e.g. metal oxides), which are relevant in the context of the origin and evolution of life, planetary sciences and space exploration. OREOcube is a next-generation space exposure platform based on miniaturised cube-sat technology and designed to perform in situ (in space on the ISS) UV-Vis-NIR spectroscopy to study the photochemistry of organics as thin films in contact with inorganic substrates, while being exposed to the space environment on the outside of the ISS. Over the duration of the up to 18 months long mission, miniaturised UV-Vis-NIR spectrometers on-board of OREOcube will collect daily spectra from the samples in order to monitor their photo-degradation profile. A special focus is laid on the photochemical evolution and distribution of organic compounds relevant for the emergence and detection of life on Earth and other planets, such as Mars. With samples consisting of the organic molecules of interest deposited as UV-transparent thin films onto inorganic substrates, structural changes and organic-inorganic interactions can be examined in order to understand the role that solid mineral surfaces play in the (photo)chemical alteration of organics in the interstellar medium, comets, meteorites, and other bodies in space. Main tasks will involve the preparation and characterisation of organics/inorganics thin-films via deposition techniques, exposure to simulated solar radiations, analysis by spectroscopic methods (mainly UV-Vis and FTIR) and also the preparation and analysis of samples for the actual exposure in space on the ISS; collaborations with the German Space Agency (DLR), the European Space and Technology Centre (ESTEC/ESA) in Noordwijk (The Netherlands) and NASA Ames Research Center.

Contact detail

How to apply:
Please send your application quoting the reference code OREOcube by 31st of October 2016 using the online application form or directly to
Applications should include the CV of the applicant, a summary of the MSc Thesis, a letter of motivation and research interests and two reference letters.
Send application to
Dr. Andreas Elsaesser
Experimental Molecular Biophysics
Free University of Berlin
Arnimallee 14
14195 Berlin

Tel: +49 30 838 59199

Job profile

Working hours
Contract duration
Type of job
PhD Project
Work experience
job experience is not required
Germany (Berlin)
Working place
14195 Berlin
Area of expertise
Physics, Biology & Life Sciences, Chemistry

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