Mendenhall Research Fellowship Program

18-29. Geophysical characterization of critical mineral and geothermal resources in the western U.S.


Closing Date: January 6, 2020

This Research Opportunity will be filled depending on the availability of funds. All application materials must be submitted through USAJobs by 11:59 pm, US Eastern Standard Time, on the closing date.

How to Apply

Apply Here

Growing national need for critical minerals and geothermal resources requires novel geophysical methods to characterize potential resources.  This Research Opportunity seeks candidates who will contribute to developing new geophysical models of mineral and geothermal resources in the western U.S. using potential-field and/or electromagnetic methods.  The opportunity encourages geophysical modeling in three-dimensions, novel methods to analyze geophysical data, use of high-performance computing, and analysis of multiple geophysical data sets. The opportunity encourages research that identifies and defines favorable areas for mineral and geothermal resources on different scales from local to regional.  This includes understanding the deeper system that controls the resource location such as potential heat sources, depositional pathways, and existing crustal structures.   

Current areas of interest include geophysical studies focused in California, and western Nevada.  The southeast Mojave Desert lies at the edge of the North American craton and hosts a world-class rare earth element (REE) deposit at Mountain Pass, California and is the largest and only proven economic deposit in the U.S.  The Owens river drainage system in eastern California contains one of the largest tungsten resources in the U.S., and lithium brines at Searles Lake. The Salton Sea is located along the San Andreas fault hosts one of the largest lithium brine deposits in the U.S. and includes a complex geothermal system.  Potential areas to characterize geothermal potential include Gabbs Valley and Granite Springs Valley in western Nevada, Mono Basin and Long Valley in eastern California, Surprise Valley in northeastern California, and the Clear Lake Volcanic Field in western California.  

The researcher will be working collaboratively with geologists and geophysicists to produce geophysical models and innovative interpretations of natural resources in the western U.S. Fundamental questions addressed by this research opportunity could include: 

  • How are mineral and hydrothermal systems related within the Great Basin and the western U.S.?

  • What is the geometry of subsurface structures that control the location of mineral or geothermal resource? 

  • What is the nature and distribution of the mineralization and heat sources within the western U.S.? 

  • How can we more effectively use geophysical surveys to identify areas with potential mineral and geothermal resources and better incorporate these results in assessments? 

  • Can geophysical methods identify flow paths for groundwater brines?

  • How can model uncertainty be characterized and incorporated into results to provide constraints on geologic interpretation?

  • How can various geophysical data sets be assimilated for joint interpretation or joint inversion?

  • Can the geophysical data be reduced, processed, or modeled in novel ways to produce more accurate models?

Interested applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the Research Advisor(s) early in the application process to discuss project ideas.

Proposed Duty Station: Moffett Field, CA

Areas of PhD: Geophysics or related fields (candidates holding a Ph.D. in other disciplines, but with extensive knowledge and skills relevant to the Research Opportunity may be considered).

Qualifications: Applicants must meet the qualifications for:  Research Geophysicist  

(This type of research is performed by those who have backgrounds for the occupations stated above.  However, other titles may be applicable depending on the applicant's background, education, and research proposal. The final classification of the position will be made by the Human Resources specialist.)

Human Resources Office Contact: Audrey Tsujita, 916-278-9395,

Apply Here


Jared Peacock

Research Geophysicist
Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics Science Center
Phone: 650-439-2833