PhD Student to investigate photochemical dynamics in essential metallocofactors

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Shaping the future

European XFEL is an international non-profit company located in the Hamburg area in Germany. It operates a 3.4 km-long X-ray laser, which produces X-rays of unique quality for studies in physics, chemistry, the life sciences, materials research and other disciplines. The diverse scientific facilities at European XFEL enable scientists from across the globe to carry out a wide range of experimental techniques.

The Spectroscopy and Coherent Scattering (SCS) instrument enables time-resolved soft and tender X-ray experiments to probe the electronic and structural properties of complex materials, molecules, and nanostructures. Scientific objectives include, but are not limited to, the understanding and control of complex materials, the investigation of ultrafast magnetization processes on the nanoscale, the real-time observation of chemical reactions in liquids, and the exploration of nonlinear X-ray spectrocopy techniques. The two baseline spectroscopic techniques taking place at the SCS instrument are transmission mode XAS and resonant inelastic X-ray scattering enabled by the hRIXS spectrometer.

For our SCS instrument group we are looking for a

PhD Student (f/m/d) to investigate photochemical dynamics in essential metallocofactors

The position

In both nature and industry chemical processes are often enabled by transition metal (TM) catalysts and photocatalysts that capture light energy, bind substrates, and facilitate electron transfer reactions. In biological systems these metallocofactors are the active sites for chemical reactions. Rational design of new catalytic materials requires understanding how the underlying electronic structure guides their reactivity and photochemistry. The high-brilliance and time-resolution provided by XFEL enables new studies on dilute molecular systems such as molecules in solution and metalloproteins. This PhD project will focus on (1) the ultrafast soft X-ray spectroscopy (XAS and RIXS) of TM complexes, (2) the design of molecular sample handling and delivery technologies, and (3)  interpretation of results using modern quantum chemical techniques.
The specific tasks are:
  • carry out ultrafast X-ray studies of the electronic structure and photochemistry of biologically relevant metallocofactors using XFEL instrumentation
  • develop methodologies and instrumentation for sample preparation and delivery for soft X-ray measurements. This includes the manufacture of solid state thin film samples, and the design and construction of a liquid flat jet for spectroscopy on thin liquid samples
  • design, perform, and analyze (static and time-resolved) spectroscopic experiments on metallocofactors using X-ray radiation from synchrotrons and FEL’s. Analysis on these experiments will be based on insights from physical inorganic and computational chemistry
  • take active part in the beamtimes and measurements at the SCS instrument


  • Master’s degree in Chemistry, Physics, or other relevant discipline
  • previous experience performing and analyzing spectroscopic measurements on molecular systems ideally involving ultrafast lasers or synchrotron/FEL radiation
  • experience with a programming language (python or MATLAB) and/or computational chemistry software (Gaussian, Orca, etc.) is desirable but not required
  • ability to work regularly outside usual office working hours (during shift beamtimes working times include nights and weekends)
  • good communication skills in English and ability to work in an international and multi-disciplinary team

For additional information, please contact Dr. Benjamin Van Kuiken ( or Dr. Andreas Scherz ( .

Working place will be Schenefeld in the Hamburg metropolitan area. General information on working in Germany, the Hamburg area and the European XFEL can be found under

Our offer

The European XFEL GmbH employs a diverse, broadly international staff. Become part of a vibrant international and multi-cultural team of scientists, engineers, technical and administrative staff. Be involved in cutting edge scientific and technical progress, participate in our international networks, and shape your life upon trust based flexible working times and telecommuting options. Experience our atmosphere of tolerance and respect.
The PhD positions are fully funded for a duration of three years. In justified cases an extension is possible.
Salary amounts to 75% of pay group 13 for civil servants in Germany (TVöD Bund). Further benefits are similar to those of public service organizations in Germany. In addition, European XFEL provides a non-contributory company pension scheme, broad relocation benefits, a subsidized job-ticket for the local public transportation system, as well as our brand-new company restaurant BeamStop. Company language is English, non-German candidates hired from abroad receive an international allowance.
The European XFEL PhD program goes far beyond classical PhD studies. You will have the opportunity to advance your professional, personal and methodical abilities for boosting your scientific career.

Reference number



This appointment is limited to 3 years.


07 October 2020


Please apply online and provide a motivation letter and your CV in English as well as certificates in one single pdf-file.

Applicants with disabilities will be given preference over other equally qualified applicants The European XFEL GmbH is an equal opportunity and affirmative action employer and encourages applications from women

To apply for this job please visit