Two PhD Researchers: Urban BioCycles - Mycelium Digitalisation (# of pos: 2)

Updated: about 2 months ago
Job Type: PartTime
Deadline: 22 May 2021

Two PhD Researchers: Urban BioCycles - Mycelium Digitalisation

Future Cities Lab (FCL) Global is a research collaboration between ETH Zurich and the Singapore universities – National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) and the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) – with support from the National Research Foundation (NRF). It operates under the auspices of the Singapore-​ETH Centre (SEC), which aims to strengthen the capacity of Singapore and Switzerland to research, understand and actively respond to the challenges of global environmental sustainability.

The Digital Building Technologies (DBT) group at the Institute of Technology in Architecture, ETH Zurich, led by Prof. Dr. Benjamin Dillenburger, researches in new building technologies based on the seamless integration of computational design methods, digital fabrication, and new materials. In this context, DBT investigates additive manufacturing strategies in architecture, which have the potential to challenge traditional paradigms of construction. Our aim is to develop digital technologies to increase the productivity of construction, improve the quality and the ecological footprint of buildings, and to open up radically new design-solutions.

The Block Research Group (BRG) at the Institute of Technology in Architecture, ETH Zurich, led by Prof. Dr. Philippe Block and Dr. Tom Van Mele, has three core areas of research: equilibrium analysis and design of vaulted masonry structures, computational form finding and structural optimisation of curved surface structures, and fabrication and construction of novel shell structures, particularly in unreinforced masonry and concrete. Translating research into practice, the BRG develops novel computational structural design strategies to utilise digital fabrication and to push construction innovation. To address the grand challenges posed by climate change, the group’s research follows the motto “strength through geometry” to reduce embodied carbon, use fewer resources and minimise waste.

Project background

The worldwide economic and ecological development of our future is strongly connected to the question of where our resources for future prosperity come from. As our mines run dry and CO2 levels reach alarming levels, our thinking needs to be radically different in all economic sectors.

The building industry alone is responsible for 40% of global solid waste production, for 40% of the use of primary energy resources and for 40% of CO2 emissions worldwide. Even in current times, natural resources are extracted from the earth and disposed of in a linear process. They are literally consumed rather than being temporarily borrowed from natural or socio-​technical circuits.

This approach has profound consequences for our planet, that will be further aggravated if we do not adopt a more circular process. Ecosystems are destroyed, the climate is jeopardised, and many resources – such as sand, gravel, copper and zinc – will soon no longer be available in economically reasonable terms. To address this issue, we need to build an environment that is truly sustainable using alternative construction materials and systems.

In the module Urban BioCycles - Mycelium Digitalisation, in collaboration with Prof. Dirk Hebel (KIT) and Prof. Hortense Le Ferrand (NTU), the researchers aim to develop new sustainable technologies by combining composite materials that comprise cultivated, grown and harvested natural resources with digital fabrication methods. Mycelium material grown from fungi is one of the materials of choice for this enterprise, as well as subtractive and additive (i.e., 3D-​printing) processes. Along with materials and fabrication, a careful assessment of the sustainability and likelihood for application in the construction sector will be studied.

Job description

The project team will consist of 2 PhD students and 1-2 postdoctoral researchers. Research on structural design and analysis methods as well as structural testing and the combination of subtractive and additive manufacturing processes will be carried out by postdoctoral researchers. A starting date of September 1, 2021, is preferred.

The topics of the PhD researchers will be:

3D printing of self-organising biological material (PhD 1)

The team will comprise a researcher, a PhD Student and a PostDoc situated between the disciplines architecture, digital fabrication and material science. Guided by Prof. Benjamin Dillenburger at the Institute of Technology in Architecture, ETH Zurich, the PhD student will focus on developing a custom 3D printing process and design-to-fabrication routines. Research tasks include:

  • Investigating powder bed based additive manufacturing of mycelium based elements  
  • Determination if the printing parameters strengthen the material. 
  • Investigating possible reinforcement strategies
  • Customised set-ups for a digital workflow from design to fabrication
  • Design and optimisation of 3D-printed mycelium parts that demonstrate the potential of additive manufacturing
  • Experimental prototyping and development of a large scale demonstrator 

Subtractive processes to realise structural components out of Mycelium (PhD 2)

The research will be conducted by a PhD student with a background in architectural, structural or mechanical engineering. Guided by Prof. Philippe Block, the project team’s postdoc and senior scientists in the Block Research Group with a cross-disciplinary expertise in architectural design, structural engineering and computational methods, the PhD student will focus on the development, testing and evaluation of various subtractive fabrication methods.

The expectation is the development of methods and tools for the structural design and analysis of compression-only structures made of Mycelium:

  • Adopting and calibrating existing digital subtractive methods for roughing and finishing operations on Mycelium
  • Investigating fabrication workflows and strategies that enable the efficient production of geometrically complex elements
  • Identifying possible geometric constraints for the fabrication of complex-shape elements when using the adopted subtractive fabrication methods
  • Testing compression-only structural elements made of Mycelium to understand their structural behaviour

Employment type:

PhD student - stipend

The successful candidates will be salaried employees as well as enrolled doctoral students following the guidelines of ETH Zurich (standard rate ). A work place in the Institute of Technology in Architecture on ETH’s Hönggerberg campus will be provided, and flexible working conditions including partial home office are possible.

Your profile
  • A postgraduate degree at the MSc or MArch level in architecture, architectural engineering, structural design, structural engineering, mechanical engineering or related fields is required
  • Expertise in computational design and digital/robotic fabrication (PhD 1)
  • Expertise in computational design and structural design and/or mechanics (PhD 2) with an interest in digital fabrication
  • Coding skills, preferably in Python
  • Interest in material-driven research
  • Ability and interest to work in a large interdisciplinary team
  • Strong written, verbal and graphical communication skills (English)

ETH Zurich

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.


We look forward to receiving your online application with the following documents: 

  • Cover letter (please specify interest in PhD topic 1 or 2)
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Contact information for two references
  • Portfolio
  • Sample of publications (optional)

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

Questions regarding the position (no applications!) should be directed to:

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