PhD Position in Health Sciences

ETH Zürich


PhD Position in Health Sciences 

100%, Zurich, fixed-term

In a collaboration with Yonsei University College of Medicine in South Korea, ETH-Zürich is working on research projects that aim to improve the quantification of bone fracture risk in vulnerable populations and to develop personalized preventive care, using state of the art digital bone biomarker-based methods.

Project background

Falls and fractures are major health risks in vulnerable populations, such as the elderly or diabetics, and preventing them is inherently linked with accurately identifying individuals at risk. When risk is detected early, therapies aimed at reducing or preventing fractures can be most effective. However, despite the huge socioeconomic impact of bone fractures worldwide, current efforts have only made partial headway into fully understanding and addressing the problem.

Of different types of bone fractures that are attributed to frailty, hip fractures have the highest socioeconomic impact. Elevated hip fracture risk is generally addressed either pharmacologically or through lifestyle interventions. While both methods have been moderately successful, they can be expensive and difficult to implement but pharmacological treatment also carries its own risks. For this reason, clinicians must carefully screen for risk before implementing these solutions, and how this screening is informed is critical to their success. Presently, areal bone mineral density (aBMD) is the clinical `gold standard' used to diagnose those with osteoporosis. Epidemiologic evidence supports that low BMD is associated with increased population-based risk of fracture, however, aBMD and other clinical assessment tools are not sensitive enough to identify individuals likely to suffer a fracture.

With this project, we aim to address the limitations of current screening methods and develop novel, subject-specific methods for diagnosing hip fracture risk and novel methods for preventing fractures from occurring. The proposed research will combine, image processing on large cohort databases, dynamic Finite Element Analysis and data driven methods to achieve the goals of the project.

Job description

The PhD candidate will be embedded into a team of researchers from ETH-Zurich and Yonsei University College of Medicine, that is working on improving the management of the risk of hip fractures in the South Korean population. Some key components in the work are:

  • developing methods for carrying out large in silico clinical trials for screening and studying prevention of hip fractures using Finite Element Models
  • co-develop skeletal ageing phenotype digital biomarker for personalized bone care
  • co-supervision of students and contribute to the daily management of the research project.

Your profile

Applicants are invited to apply for a PhD position at the ETH-Zurich. The position is available from 01.01.2024 but starting date is flexible. Candidates with a MSc in Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Computer Science, Automotive Engineering, Civil Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, or related fields are encouraged to apply. Experience with any of the following would be a distinct advantage: image analysis, data-driven methods, programming, and explicit Finite Element Analysis. Funding is available for three years with a potential extension. Applications will be accepted until the position is filled.

We offer

The Institute for Biomechanics, within the Department of Health Sciences and Technology, is dedicated to the biomechanical and mechanobiological study of the human body across all scales, while maintaining ethical standards and a philosophy of respect and compassion for all life. Our mission is to investigate and characterise structural and functional properties of the musculoskeletal system. Challenges involve studying adaption and regeneration throughout life, in health and disease, and in response to mechanical demands. Building on this foundation, we aim to develop, refine and utilise multidisciplinary tools and concepts to provide a translation of understanding and techniques into clinical practice for repair or regeneration, ultimately to improve societal well-being.

For further information about the Institute for Biomechanics visite our website.

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In line with our values, ETH Zurich encourages an inclusive culture. We promote equality of opportunity, value diversity and nurture a working and learning environment in which the rights and dignity of all our staff and students are respected. Visit our Equal Opportunities and Diversity website to find out how we ensure a fair and open environment that allows everyone to grow and flourish.

Curious? So are we.

We look forward to receiving your application including the following documents:

  • a cover letter with a specific statement of your motivation for the project
  • your CV including the name and contact information of 2 references
  • a copy of your university transcripts as PDFs

Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal. Applications via email or postal services will not be considered.

PD, Dr. Benedikt Helgason by email (

About ETH Zürich

ETH Zurich is one of the world’s leading universities specialising in science and technology. We are renowned for our excellent education, cutting-edge fundamental research and direct transfer of new knowledge into society. Over 30,000 people from more than 120 countries find our university to be a place that promotes independent thinking and an environment that inspires excellence. Located in the heart of Europe, yet forging connections all over the world, we work together to develop solutions for the global challenges of today and tomorrow.

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