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Department of Geology and Geophysics|Graduate

Contact Us

Department of Geology and Geophysics
Dept. 3006
1000 E. University Ave.
Laramie, WY 82071-2000
Phone: (307)766-3386
Fax: (307)766-6679

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. Rock physics and reservoir characterization.  Assistant Professor Dario Grana is seeking students interested in research opportunities in the field of 1) rock physics and petrophysics, 2) seismic reservoir characterization and reservoir modeling, 3) geostatistics and inverse problems. Examples of research projects are: relations between seismic velocities and pressure, joint inversion of seismic and electromagnetic data, Bayesian inversion of time-lapse seismic data, seismic and production history matching. In addition to students with a bachelor degree in geophysics or related fields, students with strong background in mathematics and/or computer programming are encouraged to apply.

  2. Magmatic Processes in Layered Mafic Intrusions. Professor Mike Cheadle invites applications from students interested in studying the origin of large mafic intrusions. The research will emphasize using innovative microstructural and textural methods to understand the physical processes occurring in these large intrusions. Projects may include fieldwork in the Laramie Anorthosite and work on existing samples from the Dufek Intrusion in Antarctica, the Stillwater Intrusion in Montana and the Rum intrusion in the UK.

  3. Near surface geophysical imaging. Professor Steve Holbrook is seeking graduate students interested in advancing our understanding of the near-surface environment using geophysical techniques. Topics of particular interest include critical zone processes, and methods to detect and track surface/groundwater interaction. Successful applicants will work in an interdisciplinary environment sponsored by the new Wyoming Center for Environmental Hydrology and Geophysics and will have access to state-of-the-art near-surface geophysical instrumentation, including seismic, electrical resistivity, EM, GPR, gravity, NMR, and magnetic instrumentation. Summer internship opportunities in the environmental consulting industry in Wyoming will be available. Preference will be given to PhD applicants.

  4. Earth's dynamic surface. Associate Professor Cliff Riebe is seeking applicants for a Ph.D. position in his critical zone processes research group. The research will focus on connections between bedrock composition, regolith development, forest structure, and landscape evolution in the Southern Sierra Critical Zone Observatory. For details about the position, click here.

  5. 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.

  6. 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 2016. It is anticipated that at least two PhD and several MS students will work on this project.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. Reservoir modeling and its application in energy extraction and waste disposal. Associate Professor Ye Zhang's main interests include reservoir modeling/geostatistics, upscaling, inversion, and uncertainty analysis in subsurface flow and transport modeling. She has also worked on topics such as coupled modeling of hydrocarbon reservoirs and fluid flow and gas migration in sedimentary basins. Students with strong background in mathematics, physics, or computer programming are encouraged to apply.

  10. Sedimentary basin responses to changes in tectonic and climatic events. Professor Paul Heller, in collaboration with Professors Holbrook and Shuman is a combined paleoclimate/seismic stratigraphy project of a tectonically-active synrift basin in southeastern California — Searles Valley. For the past 3 million years the basin preserved a high fidelity record of changing lake cycles. The goal is to combine seismic sequence stratigraphy with an independent record of climate change to map out how changes in basin subsidence and sediment supply interact to generate the stratigraphic record. Please contact Dr. Heller if interested.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. Understanding the interaction of tectonics and magmatism at mid-ocean ridges. Professors Mike Cheadle and Barbara John are looking for two, highly motivated, graduate students to join their current group of graduate students researching processes at Mid Ocean Ridges. They are particularly interested in understanding faulting and deformation at ultra-slow spreading ridges and in deciphering the interaction of magmatic and deformation processes that lead to the formation of gabbroic lower oceanic crust at both fast and slow spreading ridges. They are trying to answer questions like "How does lower ocean crust grow?"; "Does the mantle at the slowest spreading ridge in the world behave differently to mantle at other ridges?"; "How deep do the faults go?"; and "Is hydrothermal circulation required for the formation of large faults?". Slow and ultra-slow spreading ridges remain one of the least well understood aspects of plate tectonics.

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