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PhD Thesis Student (m/f) Subject: Dynamic of molecular bonds - Ref CFR373
Employer: ESRF
Location: Grenoble, France
Employment Start Date: As soon as possible

Organization Description:

The ESRF is a multinational research institute, situated in Grenoble, France and financed by 19 countries mostly European. It operates a powerful synchrotron X-ray source with some 30 beamlines (instruments) covering a wide range of scientific research in fields such as biology and medicine, chemistry, earth and environmental sciences, materials and surface science, and physics. The ESRF employs about 600 staff and is organized as a French société civile.

Job Description:

General Framework


Molecular bonds in chemical reactions are formed in high-energy states that vibrate violently on the sub-picosecond time scale. When newly born molecules are surrounded by a solvent, the excess energy will redistribute within the molecules within a few picoseconds and then diffuse into the solvent. This process is called vibrational cooling (VC) and most bonds take tens of picoseconds to reach the ground state. The goal of the project is to characterise VC for small halide molecules (Br2, I2, HgI2, C2H4I2 etc.) in polar and non polar liquids using time-resolved x-ray scattering and by molecular dynamics simulations.

Description of the Thesis Work

The molecule is dissociated by a short laser pulse and the recombining atoms, trapped by the solvent cage, are probed by short delayed x-ray pulses. Stitching together snapshots from different time delays, the distance distribution between pair of atoms is measured as a function of time (molecular movie). The laser and x-ray pulses used on beamline ID9B are normally 1 and 100 ps long and synchronised to a very high precision of 1-2 ps (rms). This superb temporal stability can be exploited by scanning the time delay, very small steps of 10 picoseconds, around the centre of the x-ray pulse. When the temporal profiles of the pulses are known, the scattering data can – in principle– be deconvoluted in time. Such experiments have been done successfully for simple reactions with a single-exponential decay. The PhD student will explore and refine this method together with the beamline scientists and measure dynamic atom-atom distributions during bond formation. We are looking for candidates with a strong background in physics or chemistry and with good experimental skills an interest in molecular physics.


Contract of two years renewable (subject to satisfactory progress) for one year.


The working language of the ESRF is English. You should hold a degree in Physics, or Chemistry allowing enrolment for a PhD, such as an MSc, Master 2 de Recherche, Laurea or equivalent.

Job Application:

For further information on employment terms and conditions, please refer to The ESRF is an equal opportunity employer and encourages applications from disabled persons.



If you are interested in this position, please apply on-line at this address:





 Ref. CFR373 - Deadline for returning application forms: 05 Sept 2012



Date Posted: April 4, 2012