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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.

The recruiting season for fall 2020 has now begun and the application deadline is January 15 2020. Please note that we do not typically admit sudents in the Spring or Summer semester, unless a faculty member has funding for a specific project in your field of interest.

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


  1. Stratigraphy & Sedimentology, Petroleum Geoscience, Paleobiology & Paleoceanography. Assistant Professor Brian Kelley is seeking students for research in modern-to-ancient carbonate sedimentology and stratigraphy with applications in paleobiology, paleoceanography, and petroleum geoscience. Potential projects include the influence of Paleozoic tectonics and climate on carbonate depositional systems of the western US, the influence of Quaternary climate change on tropical reefs and carbonate sedimentation, and carbonate reservoir prediction and characterization. Students with an interest in any aspect of carbonate geoscience 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. 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 (1) understanding the controls on nutrients in the ancient oceans of Wyoming, (2) deciphering the role of continental weathering on anoxia and the carbon cycle, (3) improving interpretations of the uranium isotope proxy for reconstructing anoxia, and (4) tracking how environmental change relates to the rise of animals. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. Uncertainty quantification methods for subsurface characterization. Associate Professor Dario Grana is seeking students, with a strong mathematical and statistical background, interested in research opportunities in the field of geophysical inverse problems. The goal of these research projects is to quantify the uncertainty associated with the prediction of subsurface property predictions, such as porosity and fluid saturations, using Bayesian inverse theory.

  8. 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.

  9. Back to the Future: Interdisciplinary research on Eocene Greenhouse Intervals in Wyoming. A collaborative project by Associate Professor Ellen Currano, Professor Mark Clementz, and Research Scientist Laura Vietti that is focused on understanding how ecosystems functioned during enhanced greenhouse conditions in Wyoming’s past. Using fossil localities in the Wind River Basin of central Wyoming, the team is investigating relationships among climate, water availability, vegetation structure, floral composition and diversity, leaf traits, and microbial bone decay during the Early Eocene Climatic Optimum (EECO). Methods include a mix of geochemistry and traditional paleontological analyses and students with an interest in these areas are sought to join the team. 

  10. 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.

  11. 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.  Students will be able to combine extensive field work and observations in Greenland, with analysis of previously unavailable data on meltwater infiltration into deep firm, to aid in the development of a new theory of heterogeneous water infiltration and storage. 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.

  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. 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.

Contact Us

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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