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Department of Geology and Geophysics


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. Seismic Reservoir Characterization. Assistant Professor Dario Grana is seeking students, with a strong mathematical and statistical background, interested in research opportunities in the field of seismic inversion, rock physics modeling, and geostatistics. The goal of these research projects is to improve the reservoir description by integrating geophysical data in reservoir modeling and assess the uncertainty in the estimation of reservoir properties.

  2. Understanding the growth of oceanic crust. Professors Mike Cheadle and Barbara John are looking for one to two, highly motivated, students to join their current group of graduate students researching processes at mid-ocean ridges. One opportunity is for the student(s) to participate in NSF funded research to study the ocean crust at Pito Deep, a large chasm in the Pacific Ocean seafloor. Projects will involve both petrology and geochronology and be designed to solve the longstanding problem of how oceanic lower crust is formed. The project is a collaborative project with Professors Jeff Gee and Laurence Coogan at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, California and the University of Victoria, Canada. A second opportunity will be to work on another NSF funded project to study the geochemistry of zircons and geochronology of core from IODP Exp 360; the first expedition of the SloMo Mission to drill to the crust-mantle boundary. This project is in collaboration with Matt Rioux at UC Santa Barbara. An additional project to work on unique xenoliths of ocean crust mush is also available and NSF funds are pending for this project. 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.

  3. Semiconducting minerals and photochemical processes in the environment. Professor Carrick Eggleston is investigating the hypothesis that semiconducting minerals might have played a role in the origin of perchlorate in Mars soils and in the origin of Earth's banded iron formations. Future work involves understanding the photochemical role semiconducting minerals in desert varnishes for which Moab, Utah, is a main fieldwork area.

  4. Greenland ice dynamics. Professor Neil Humphrey has a major NSF funded project in Greenland that will be installing instrumentation to study the internal deformation of the ice in the transitional region of flow where fast basal sliding starts to occur. 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, flow modeling, basal processes and glacial hydrology will be able to combine extensive field work and observations in Greenland, with analysis of previously unavailable data. The project will run from 2013 to 2017. It is anticipated that at least two PhD and several MS students will work on this project.

  5. Passive source earthquake imaging. Associate Professor Ken Dueker seeks one or two graduate students per year to perform seismic imaging of the Earth's deep subsurface seismic properties using earthquakes and ambient noise. This research is called passive source imaging in contrast to the active source imaging used extensively for exploration. The main difference between the two disciplines is that active source research images shallow structure (e.g., oil fields) while passive source research images the lithosphere, upper and lower mantle and inner and outer core. In the 2012–2013 time span, students are performing research on: 1) Analysis of seismic data we collected in the Colorado Rocky Mountains to constrain the origin of the high standing topography and acceleration of uplift in the last-Miocene; 2) Seismic imaging of velocity changes associated with the mineral reactions of the dominate mantle mineral - olivine - to its higher pressure polymorphs; 3) Converted waves imaging to constrain the physical origin of negative velocity gradients in the sub-crustal lithosphere to understand the long and rich evolution of continental lithosphere.

  6. Stratigraphic filter in still water basins.  Assistant 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.

  7. Subsurface characterization and modeling. Associate Professor Ye Zhang's main interests include aquifer/reservoir modeling, geostatistics, upscaling, inversion, and uncertainty analysis in subsurface fluid flow applications. A recent project involves the joint analysis of well hydraulic data and geophysical measurements to develop petrophysical relations for fractured aquifers in several Wyoming watersheds in order to improve water balance modeling. Students with strong background in quantitative analysis and computer programming are encouraged to apply.

  8. Solar energy material. Professor Carrick Eggleston is part of a $2.4 million DOE grant investigating novel solar energy materials. In this context, there are many minerals that are viable candidates, and the research thus overlaps with mineralogy. There is a tremendous opportunity here to work with minerals that both help us understand Earth processes as well as have the potential to expand our renewable energy portfolio.

  9. Graduate student research in geochemistry of fluid-rock interactions. Associate Professor John Kaszuba seeks graduate students for research in fundamental aspects of multiphase fluid (H2O + CO2)-rock interactions with applications to geologic carbon sequestration and geothermal systems. Students with a background or interest and aptitude for geochemistry are encouraged to apply.

  10. Computational seismology group.  Assistant 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 the emerging homogeneous/heterogeneous multi-core petascale computing infrastructures. Students with strong background in mathematics, physics or computer science are encouraged to apply.

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Department of Geology and Geophysics

Dept. 3006

1000 E. University Ave.

Laramie, WY 82071-2000

Phone: (307)766-3386

Fax: (307)766-6679


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