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Graduate Student Research Opportunities

Modern earth science is quantitative, process-oriented, and multi-faceted in ways that demand a global, interdisciplinary approach. As a graduate student at UW, you'll work closely with faculty who are tackling some of the most important problems in earth science today, from quantifying the strength of plate boundaries to developing strategies for sequestration of carbon from Earth's atmosphere. Some of these problems are best addressed in our backyard the fabulous natural laboratory of the Rocky Mountains but many require research in more distant locales. At UW, you get the best of both worlds.

If you're looking for graduate school opportunities, we invite you to contact the faculty_member(s) working in your field of interest.


  1. Biogeochemistry and Sedimentary Geochemistry. Assistant Professor Kimberly Lau is seeking students for research in global biogeochemical cycles with a focus on reconstructing paleoenvironmental conditions throughout Earth history. Potential projects include tracking the controls on nutrients and ocean oxygenation in deep time, from continental weathering to burial. Research will combine field, laboratory, and numerical modeling. Students interested in creative approaches in understanding the co-evolution of Earth and life are encouraged to apply.

  2. Ore Deposit Formation and Mineral Resources. Assistant Professor Simone Runyon seeks graduate students for research in fundamental aspects of ore deposit formation, including fluid-rock interaction, trace element distribution in hydrothermal systems, and deep manifestations of hydrothermal alteration. Students with a background and aptitude for fieldwork and geochemistry are encouraged to apply.

  3. Tectonics of Cordilleran orogenic systems.  Assistant Professor Jay Chapman seeks graduate students for research into lithospheric dynamics of the U.S. Cordillera and equivalent systems internationally. Research projects involve a significant component of field work and are inherently interdisciplinary, often combining a subset of structural geology, igneous/metamorphic petrology, geo/thermochronology, and basin analysis. Potential research topics include: the development of orogenic plateaus, shallow subduction, sediment underplating, Laramide deformation, peraluminous granitoids, and thrust belt evolution.

  4. Computational seismology group.  Associate Professor Po Chen is inviting applications for Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in the computational seismology group. We are developing next-generation seismic wave propagation modeling and full-physics data assimilation software for full-3D seismic waveform inversions from the near-surface scale to the crustal scale. Students with strong background in mathematics, physics or computer science are encouraged to apply.

  5. Stratigraphic filter in still water basins.  Associate Professor Brandon McElroy is seeking students interested in exploring hypotheses about the relations between the modern stratigraphic record and recent climatic record. This primarily involves comparing sediments that have accumulated over the last century with environmental and hydrologic inputs into impounded surface water reservoirs. The end goal is to quantify the stratigraphic filter for sedimentary accumulations in still water basins associated with the growth of deltas and with gravity flows.

  6. Subsurface characterization and modeling. Professor Ye Zhang's main interests include aquifer/reservoir modeling, geostatistics, upscaling, inversion, and uncertainty analysis for hydrology and energy applications. Recent research ranges from CO2-EOR modeling, aquifer characterization and contaminant source identification, to geophysical inverse problems. At the blair wallis fractured rock research well field, Zhang is interested in the joint analysis of well hydraulic data and geophysical measurements to develop petrophysical relations for fractured aquifers. Students with strong background in quantitative analysis and computer programming are encouraged to apply.

  7. Structural architecture of the megathrust earthquake source region.  Professor Barbara John Despite significant societal implications, the physical mechanisms and dynamics of large slip earthquakes at subduction zones remain poorly understood. Specifically, the structural character of the megathrust earthquake source region (physical conditions and rock properties of the fault zone at depth), are virtually unknown from active systems. Successful coring and logging through the target depth of IODP Site C0002- October 2018-March 2019 (offshore Japan), are expected to delineate structural characteristics of the megathrust deformation zone, including differences in composition and physical properties of the hanging wall, footwall, and damage zone, and fluid geochemistry. Post-cruise research will depend on core recovery from the active zone of decollement at the plate boundary, as well as adjacent hanging wall and footwall samples. Microstructural analysis of recovered samples will provide key information about fault zone thickness, architecture, and strain localization, from a macro- to microscopic scale.

  8. Understanding the growth of oceanic crust. Associate Professor Mike Cheadle and Professor Barbara John are looking for highly motivated students to join their current group of graduate students researching processes at mid-ocean ridges. Mike has recently been working with the International Oman Drilling Project and is looking for a student to work on samples collected during that project. These are absolutely unique samples and together with upper crustal samples collected from Pito Deep in the Pacific Ocean provide spaced samples that cover the entire thickness of fast spread crust. The aim of this project is to answer the question "How is ocean crust created?"  Mike and Bobbie are also interested in understanding faulting and deformation at slow spreading ridges and in deciphering the interaction of magmatic and deformation processes.

  9. The origins of unusually corrosive oxidizing power on both Earth and Mars!. Professor Carrick Eggleston is seeking to understand an under-appreciated process - relevant to understanding both Earth and Mars - the interaction of sunlight with semiconducting minerals (like iron and manganese oxides) to drive many chemical reactions that directly affect our environment - and that of Mars. Along the way, become an expert in instruments that let you see atomic-scale structures and processes at mineral surfaces .

  10. Hydrogeophysics: Assistant Professor Andy Parsekian seeks PhD-level Geophysics students for research projects related to permafrost processes and/or mountain hydrology. Interested applicants who have strong quantitative/coding skills, physics background, and past research experience in geophysics, environmental science, hydrology or related fields should contact Dr. Parsekian to discuss possible project opportunities.

  11. Machine Learning for Seismic Reservoir Characterisation. Associate Professor Dario Grana is seeking students, with a strong mathematical and statistical background, interested in research opportunities in the field of seismic reservoir characterization. The goal of these research projects is to improve the reservoir description by applying machine learning method to large datasets.

  12. Near-Surface geophysics of hydrothermal systems and “deep” critical zone geophysics/petrophysics: Research Scientist Brad Carr is seeking M.S. and Ph.D. students for near surface geophysical imaging of Yellowstone National Park hydrothermal systems (i.e. phase separation pools as well as geysers) and Critical Zone geophysics (surface and borehole) combined with petrophysical analyses. Students with an interest and/or experience in surface/borehole or airborne geophysics, environmental science, hydrology or related fields with strong physics, quantitative analysis skills, and/or computer programming ability are encouraged to apply.

  13. Greenland Firn Processes. Professor Neil Humphrey has a major NSF funded project in Greenland that will be installing instrumentation to study internal snow pack and firn processes that govern melt retention and runoff. Graduate student funding is available, and students are needed, for a range of projects related to the overall project. In particular, students with an interest in ice dynamics, glacial and snow hydrology and thermal and firn modelling, will be able to combine extensive field work and observations in Greenland, with analysis of previously unavailable data. The project will run from 2018 to 2021. It is anticipated that at least one PhD and one MS student will work on this project.

  14. Oceanic core complexes in the Indian Ocean. . Associate Professor Mike Cheadle is participating in a research expedition to the Marion Rise on the South West Indian ridge in February/March 2019. This expedition will map and collect fault rock samples from two previously unexplored oceanic core complexes. He will likely be looking for graduate students to work on those rocks to gain a better understanding of the formation of oceanic core complexes at an ultra-slow spreading ridge.

  15. Reconstructing ancient river systems.  Associate Professor Brandon McElroy is seeking student(s) to develop and apply models for fluvial-deltaic depositional systems in order to constrain and extract past Earth surface conditions from fluvial strata. Available projects include flume work, modern river system characterization, and paleohydraulic exploration of river and delta sediments in Wyoming and global basins.

  16. Laser ablation (LA)-ICP-MS of accessory minerals.   Assistant Professor Jay Chapman seeks graduate students who are interested in learning about and developing LA techniques to help address tectonic and petrologic questions using accessory minerals (zircon, apatite, titanite, monazite, rutile, etc.). Of particular interest is the use of techniques that can be combined with U-Pb geochronology and thus applied to the detrital record (e.g., Lu-Hf isotopes in zircon). Future and ongoing projects include the advancement of novel uses of radiogenic isotopes, stable isotopes, non-traditional stable isotopes, and trace elements. 


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Department of Geology and Geophysics

1000 E. University Ave.

Laramie, WY 82071-2000

Phone: 307-766-3386

Fax: 307-766-6679

Email: geol-geophys@uwyo.edu

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