Postdoctoral research position, Univ. Oxford/FoaLab (RIFT-O-MAT)

Outstanding applicants are sought for a postdoctoral research associate position that is part of the project: Magma-Assisted Tectonics — Two-phase Dynamics of Oceanic and Continental Rifts (RIFT-O-MAT), funded by the European Research Council from March 2019. To learn more and apply: Please see below and contact me (by email or at EGU) with any questions.

The position:

Based at the Department of Earth Sciences, University of Oxford, the position carries four years of salary with generous support for conference attendance and computing. The start date is negotiable: no sooner than 1 June 2019 but could be delayed by up to one year.

The project and role:

There is widespread recognition of the central role of magma at divergent plate boundaries. In tectonic models, however, magmatism is treated as a by-product and is typically excluded from the dynamics. A thorough understanding of continental rifts and mid-ocean ridges requires consistent models of magma intrusion into the lithosphere and crust. The RIFT-O-MAT project will analyse models in which magmatism is an integral thermal, chemical, and mechanical component. Hence it will lead to a better understanding of the dynamics that underlies plate tectonics. The postdoc will contribute to the development of one simulation code that combines the canonical framework for two-phase dynamics of partially molten rocks [1] with an visco-elastic-plastic rheology appropriate for lithospheric deformation [2]. This will enable an internally consistent study of dikes, faults, and their interaction with ductile deformation.

The team:

The project is lead by Prof Richard Katz and Dr Dave May. One postdoctoral researcher has already signed on, to begin work in June 2019. A PhD student will join the team in 2020. The project will host 1–2 MSc students per year.

The scientific objectives:

Continental rifting: the thermo-mechanical role of magmatism in continental rifting. In particular, we address the question of if/when magmatism is essential for the initiation and completion of rifting [3]. Idealised models will be developed to address each stage of the rifting process, from inception to break-up. The East African Rift system will be the primary geographic focus for validating models and interpreting observations. Project partners Ian Bastow (Imperial College London) and David Ferguson (Leeds) will collaborate on the comparison with seismic, geodetic and petrological observations.

Mid-ocean ridges: the interaction of faults and dikes at mid-ocean ridges with two main objectives: the first is to re-examine the bathymetric profile of the ridge axis; the second is to re-examine the mechanics of abyssal hills. This project will address the question of whether variations in sea-level and magma supply can influence the spacing of abyssal hills, following from a debate in the recent literature [4,5]. Project partners Peter Huybers and Charles Langmuir (Harvard) and Suzanne Carbotte (LDEO) will collaborate on the comparison with marine geophysical observations.


Applicants should have a background in geodynamics, theoretical and/or applied mechanics, applied mathematics, fluid dynamics or physics. Please see the Job Descriptions, linked above, for essential and desirable criteria.

Other information:

The successful applicant will join the FoaLab research group at the University of Oxford . Cohesion and collaboration within the group are encouraged by weekly group meetings, annual group retreats and shared office space. The Department of Earth Sciences is housed in a new building, custom built in 2012. The University of Oxford consistently ranks in the top five Universities in the world. From Oxford it is a one hour by bus to London Heathrow Airport. Other information about the Department and University are provided in the Job Description document (linked above).

Posted on behalf of: Richard Katz


[1] McKenzie (1984) The generation and comp
[2] Keller et al. (2013). Numerical modelling of magma dynamics coupled to tectonic deformation of lithosphere and crust. Geophysical Journal International,
[3] Buck (2006). The role of magma in the development of the Afro-Arabian Rift System.
[4] Crowley et al. (2014). Glacial cycles drive variations in the production of oceanic crust. Science,
[5] Olive et al. (2015). Sensitivity of seafloor bathymetry to climate-driven fluctuations in mid-ocean ridge magma supply. Science.