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September 13, 2023

For more than 144 years, the USGS has built its reputation on providing the finest Earth science regarding the United States for decision-makers, land managers and the public. From bedrock foundational science to cutting-edge innovations, USGS scientists have been at the forefront of research into the environment, natural resources, natural hazards and mapping needs of the country. 

It’s the excellence of our scientists that drives those scientific achievements, though, and in order to ensure that we are recruiting the next generation of geoscientists to our rank, we are inviting applicants to our Mendenhall Research Fellowship cohort for 2023. Check out our page to learn how to apply! 

Image shows a man and a woman smiling and holding a coffee mug
USGS Mendenhall Fellow Sabine Loos (left) works on how  earthquake information can be produced to be actionable and equitable for diverse communities. USGS Mendenhall Fellow Max Schneider (right) works on statistical modelling for aftershock forecast models, and data visualization for these forecasts.

What’s a Mendenhall Fellow? 

So what is our Mendenhall Research Fellowship Program? About twenty years ago, we started a new postdoctoral research program in honor of Walter C. Mendenhall (1871-1957), the fifth Director of the USGS. The Mendenhall Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Program (now the Mendenhall Research Fellowship Program) provides postdoctoral Fellows, in a variety of fields, the opportunity to conduct research that enhances their experiences, scientific stature and credentials.  

Applicants choose from a list of projects to apply to, based on their interests and expertise. Each project has one or more USGS scientists coordinating the fellowship. The projects range across the entirety of the scientific disciplines that we study. 

Image shows two women in PFDs kneeling and collecting a sample in sediments by a water body
USGS Mendenhall Fellows Noa Randall and Rachel Allen are installing an optical turbidity sensor on the mudflats in Wellfleet harbor, to pair with the altimeter run by the Center for Coastal Studies.  

Why Should You Be a Mendenhall? 

In addition to competitive pay and benefits, Mendenhall Fellows get to work on exciting and interesting projects and with excellent scientists. In addition, Mendenhall Fellows are some of the best scientists working for us, and many go on to leadership roles within the agency.  

In fact, the reasons are as varied as the Mendenhall Fellows themselves. So let’s hear from some of those Mendenhall Fellows in their own words why they enjoy being Fellows and what they get out of the position. 

Image shows a woman in high-vis clothing and a hard hat standing next to a pile of rocks with a mine in the background
Erin Benson is a USGS Mendenhall Fellow who received her PhD in Earth and Climate Science from Duke University and is now tracking the spatiotemporal evolution of a world-class carbonatite rare earth element deposit at Mountain Pass, California. 

“Working as a Mendenhall Fellow has provided the opportunity to continue my favorite parts of research from my Ph.D., while working on challenging new area of my field. Scientific research with the USGS is well-supported; I've appreciated the access to numerous research laboratories run by excellent scientists who enjoy collaborative work. Coming from a small Earth Science department with extremely broad research interests during my Ph.D., I've also enjoyed discussions with scientists working on diverse problems in my field.” 
Image shows a woman at a podium presenting with a screen behind her and an audience full of people in front of her.
Kathryn Hobart is a USGS Mendenhall Fellow who received her PhD in Earth Science from the University of Minnesota. She is studying the mineralogical controls on critical mineral distribution in ores and mine waste, which have implications for mineral exploration, resource recovery and environmental impacts. 

“My favorite parts of being a Mendenhall Fellow so far has been the extremely welcoming environment and the clear connection of my research to national science priorities while still having the freedom to pursue the parts of the research that are exciting to me."
Image shows a woman standing at a lab station and looking at materials on the lab
Julia McIntosh is a USGS Mendenhall Fellow who received her PhD in Geology from Southern Methodist University and is currently conducting an information assessment of critical minerals using stable isotopes. 

“The highlight of my Mendenhall Fellowship has been working on interdisciplinary teams of expert USGS scientists to investigate complex geologic questions. The Mendenhall Research Fellowship Program provided me an initial opportunity to pursue my own research interests at the USGS, which then opened the door for me to collaborate on a variety of other USGS research projects.” 
Image shows a man standing at a podium presenting with a screen behind him and an audience filled with people in front of him
Stanley Mordensky is a USGS Mendenhall Fellow who received his PhD in Engineering Geology from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, and has joined a team at the USGS examining machine Learning and the next generation of geothermal energy assessments.  

“My experience as a Mendenhall Fellow has been and remains a whirlwind of learning. I am a researcher bridging the fields of geoscience and machine learning to find geothermal resources and address our energy needs of tomorrow. Every day brings new challenges and puzzles that require me to reach beyond my fields of immediate expertise to areas like the other natural sciences and computational disciplines to build multidisciplinary solutions. Having a role in which I am forced constantly to learn and discover is the single greatest part of being a Mendenhall Fellow.   

Although the dynamics of the challenges may initially seem daunting, I have not been alone in addressing them. I work as part of a small but highly functional team composed of Erick Burns, Jake DeAngelo, John Lipor (our Portland State University affiliate), Jeff Pepin, Ryan Cahalan, and myself. We learn from one another. Perhaps a bit unanticipatedly, I consider myself a beneficiary of a world-class mentorship, and can argue that I have learned more in my years as a Mendenhall Fellow than during my graduate studies. In my opinion, this mentorship has been the greatest and yet too often unsung benefit of being a USGS Mendenhall Fellow.” 
A smiling woman in a hard hat and life jacket gives two-thumbs-up on the deck of a ship standing next to a sediment core tube.
Nora Nieminski is a research geologist and Mendenhall Fellow at the USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center in Santa Cruz, California.

She is pictured here, on board Marine Vessel Bold Horizon, with a piston core sample collected from the southern Cascadia subduction zone offshore of northern California/southern Oregon. 

How to Apply 

So you’re convinced, you want to be a Mendenhall Fellow with us. Great! Here’s the fine print. You’ll need to fill out an application form by November 1, 2023, and you’ll need to meet two qualifications: 

  1. Meet Ph.D. degree requirements no earlier than 5 years before the application opening date. The Ph.D must be completed by the time employment starts; 

  1. Meet the qualification requirements described in the Research Opportunity. Applicants must address the USGS scientific needs described in the Research Opportunity description. The proposal must demonstrate that the applicant is equipped with the knowledge, skills, and abilities to successfully perform the duties for the specific Research Opportunity. If they do not, they may not be considered. 

Here's the list of active projects seeking Mendenhall Fellows. Take a look, choose which project you feel best suits your interests and qualifications, and apply! Here’s more information on how to do that.  

For more information, contact Cara Campbell, manager of the Mendenhall Research Fellowship Program, at or email the general Mendenhall Research Fellowship Mailbox at  

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