Postdoctoral Research Associate

Durham University

Postdoctoral Research Associate (
Job Number:
Department of Earth Sciences
Grade 7:  £37,099 – £44,263 per annum
Fixed Term  Full Time
Contract Duration: 12 months
Contracted Hours per Week: 35
Closing Date
: 18-Apr-2024, 6:59:00 PM
Disclosure and Barring Service Requirement: Not Applicable. 

Working at Durham University  

A globally outstanding centre of teaching and research excellence, a warm and friendly place to work, a unique and historic setting – Durham is a university like no other.

As one of the UK’s leading universities, Durham is an incredible place to define your career. The University is located within a beautiful historic city, home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and surrounded by stunning countryside. Our talented scholars and researchers from around the world are tackling global issues and making a difference to people’s lives.  

We believe that inspiring our people to do outstanding things at Durham enables Durham people to do outstanding things in the world. Being a part of Durham is about more than just the success of the University, it’s also about contributing to the success of the city, county and community.

Our University Strategy is built on three pillars of research, education and wider student experience, but also on our keen sense of community and of inspiring others to achieve their potential. 

Our Purpose and Values

We want our University to be a place where people can be free to be themselves, no matter what their identity or background. Together, we celebrate difference, value one another and are each responsible for creating an inclusive community that is respectful and fair for all.

Find out more about the benefits of working at the University and what it is like to live and work in the Durham area on our Why Durham? information page.   

The Role and 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, 15 research staff, 50 postgraduate 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 which is relevant to and which impacts society. We collaborate widely, and within Durham we work closely with both the Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience and the Durham Energy Institute.

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

The Role

We invite applications for a Post-doctoral research associate (PDRA) to join the Department of Earth Sciences at Durham university. The role is to work with Prof Madeleine Humphreys (Durham) and Dr Kate Dobson (Strathclyde) on a project funded by the European Research Council, “Storage and Eruption of Mushy Magma Systems” (STEMMS). The position is fixed term for 12 months.

The aim of the overall project is to explore the links between crystal mush textures, magmatic volatiles and the mobility of stored magmas within the crust. This position will use 3D image processing of numerically simulated  to examine how crystal shape changes during impingement and progressive overgrowth of a crystal mush. The results will be compared to natural examples of crystal mush textures and used to help interpret crystal shape and crystallisation environment in natural settings. The PDRA will be based at Durham University but will also spend periods of time at Strathclyde. The PDRA will work with the PI and wider partners to interpret the results and produce high-impact publications based on their findings. 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. 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.

Key responsibilities:

  • To conduct individual and collaborative research projects under the direction of the Principal Investigator or Grant-holder. In particular:
    • To develop or refine numerical algorithms to simulate crystal overgrowth.
    • To analyse incremental shape development during impingement and progressive overgrowth under different simulated conditions
    • To synthesise and analyse results and compare with characteristics of natural systems
  • To understand and convey material of a specialist or highly technical nature to the team or group of people through presentations and discussions that leads 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 at conferences and workshops under the direction of the Principal Investigator or Grant-holder.
  • To assist with the development of research objectives and proposals.
  • 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 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.   

The post is fixed term for 12 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 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 his/her 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 be in post as soon as possible.

Working at Durham 

A competitive salary is only one part of the many fantastic benefits you will receive if you join the University: you will also receive access to the following fantastic benefits:

  • 30 Days annual leave per year in addition to 8 public holidays and 4 customary days per year – a total of 42 days per year. 
  • The University closes between Christmas and New Year.
  • We offer a generous pension scheme, As a new member of staff you will be automatically enrolled  into the University Superannuation Scheme (USS).
  • No matter how you travel to work, we have you covered.  We have parking across campus, a cycle to work scheme which helps you to buy a bike and discount with local bus and train companies.
  • There is a genuine commitment to developing our colleagues professionally and personally.  There is a comprehensive range of development courses, apprenticeships and access to qualifications and routes to develop your career in the University.  All staff have dedicated annual time to concentrate on their personal development opportunities.
  • Lots of support for health and wellbeing including discounted membership for our state-of-the-art sport and gym facilities and access to a 24-7 Employee Assistance Programme.
  • On site nursery is available and children’s clubs in the summer holidays.
  • Family friendly policies, including maternity and adoption leave, which are among the most generous in the higher education sector (and likely above and beyond many employers).
  • The opportunity to take part in staff volunteering activities to make a difference in the local community.
  • Discounts are available via our benefits portal including; money off at supermarkets, high street retailers, IT products such as Apple, the cinema and days out at various attractions.
  • A salary sacrifice scheme is also available to help you take advantage of tax savings on benefits.
  • If you are moving to Durham, we can help with removal costs and we have a dedicated team who can help you with the practicalities such as house hunting and schools.  If you need a visa, we cover most visa costs and offer an interest free loan scheme to pay for dependant visas.

Durham University is committed to equality, diversity and inclusion

Equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) are a key component of the University’s Strategy and a central part of everything we do.  We also live by our Purpose and Values  and our Staff Code of Conduct.   At Durham we actively work towards providing an environment where our staff and students can study, work and live in a community which is supportive and inclusive. It’s important to us that all colleagues undertake activities that are aligned to both our values and commitment to EDI. 

We welcome and encourage applications from those who are currently under-represented in our work force, including people with disabilities and from racially minoritised ethnic groups.

If you have taken a career break or periods of leave that may have impacted on the volume and recency of your research outputs and other activities, such as maternity, adoption or parental leave, you may wish to disclose this in your application. The selection committee will take this into account when evaluating your application.

The University has been awarded the Disability Confident Employer status. If you are a candidate with a disability, we are committed to ensuring fair treatment throughout the recruitment process. We will make adjustments to support the interview process wherever it is reasonable to do so and, where successful, reasonable adjustments will be made to support people within their role. 

Contact Information 

Department contact for academic-related enquiries 

For informal enquiries please contact Prof Madeleine Humphreys ([email protected] ). All enquiries will be treated in the strictest confidence. 

Contact information for technical difficulties when submitting your application 

If you encounter technical difficulties when using the online application form, we prefer you send enquiries by email.  Please send your name along with a brief description of the problem you’re experiencing to [email protected]  

Alternatively, you may call 0191 334 6801 from the UK, or +44 191 334 6801 from outside the UK. This number operates during the hours of 09.00 and 17.00 Monday to Friday, UK time.  We will normally respond within one working day (Monday to Friday, excluding UK public holidays).  

How to Apply  

To progress to the assessment stage, candidates must evidence each of the essential criteria required for the role in the person specification below. It will be at the discretion of the recruiting panel as to whether they will also consider any desirable criteria, but we would urge candidates to provide evidence for all criteria.  

While some criteria will be considered at the shortlisting stage, other criteria may be considered later in the assessment process, such as questions at interview.  

Submitting your application 

We prefer to receive applications online.   We will update you about your application at various points throughout the selection process, via automated emails from our e-recruitment system. Please check your spam/junk folder periodically to make sure you have not missed any of our updates.

What to Submit 

All applicants are asked to submit: 

1.     A CV and;

2.     A cover letter which details explicitly how your experience, skills, and achievements in meeting (or have the potential to meet) each of the criteria set out below. 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 

Short-listed candidates will be invited to a virtual interview, likely during early April 2024.

In the event that you are unable to attend in person on the date offered, it may not be possible to offer you an interview on an alternative date. 

Please note that in submitting your application Durham University will be processing your data. We would ask you to consider the relevant University Privacy Statement which provides information on the collation, storing and use of data.   

When appointing to this role the University must ensure that it meets any applicable immigration requirements, including salary thresholds which are applicable to some visas.

Person Specification 

Essential Criteria:


1.     A good first degree in Earth Sciences, Engineering, Physics or a related subject.

2.     A PhD (or be close to submission) in Earth Sciences, Engineering, Physics or a related subject.


3.     Experience with 3D image processing using Avizo or equivalent software .

4.     An interest in Earth Science related problems, associated with (for example) grain packings and/or magmatism.

5.     Demonstrable ability to write material of a quality commensurate with publication in highly ranked journals.

6.     A track record of presenting research at conferences, symposia, or meetings, commensurate with career stage, and ability to communicate complex information to specialists and within the wider academic community. 


7.     Demonstrable ability to work cooperatively as part of a team, including participating in research meetings.

8.     Ability to work independently on own initiative and to strict deadlines.

9.     Excellent interpersonal and communication skills, including written and spoken English.

10.  Enthusiasm and personal initiative for research.

Desirable Criteria 


11.  Strong publication record in peer-reviewed journals, commensurate with stage of career.

12.  Experience in optical or SEM microscopy, working with igneous rocks or rock textures.


13.  Ability to write or develop algorithms within Avizo.

14.  Understanding of development of igneous rock textures or cumulate processes.

15.  Demonstrable ability to plan and manage independent research. 

View or Apply
To help us track our recruitment effort, please indicate in your cover/motivation letter where ( you saw this job posting.

Job Location