PhD and Postdoc opportunities, The physics of ice melt at glacier ice-ocean boundaries: Oregon State University

The Project: Tidewater glaciers flow into the ocean, melt, and collapse into a jumble of icebergs through complex, dynamic, and interactive processes. Understanding this behavior will help put bounds on future changes in sea level and ice flow. Recent observations, however, provide evidence that tidewater glaciers are melting much faster than current models predicted (see this article on, or our recent research publications Sutherland et al 2019, and Jackson et al 2020). Our team is leading a major initiative to investigate ice-ocean interaction physics at a near-vertical ice face to understand the dynamics responsible for this discrepancy – and to get more accurate prescriptions of the physics in the next generation of climate models.  Specifically, we aim to make the first observations of boundary layer fluid mechanics and morphodynamics that control ice-melt rates at the actively-calving terminus of Leconte Glacier, Alaska.  These field experiments will be the first of their kind, using novel ROV capabilities to make measurements of the physics of glacial melt driven by centimeter-scale fluid motions in the boundary layer. See more about this project here: Melting Ice Project.

The Positions:

We are recruiting for three positions at Oregon State University – for 2 PhD students and a post-doc to be part of our team of scientists and engineers at both OSU and our partner institutions (University of Oregon and Rutgers University).  We plan to work with each successful applicant to design a project that fits their interests and expertise. The following are example project scopes:

Project A (fluid mechanics emphasis): The successful applicant(s) will focus their study on boundary layer fluid mechanics at the ice-ocean interface and the complexities associated with the interaction of buoyant (convective?) melt plumes with a convoluted ice boundary that is also subject to sheared, external-forced currents.  They will be responsible for processing/analysis/synthesis of data and could also be involved in helping to design aspects of the measurement system and working with LES model simulations for data interpretation.  Our preferred qualifications include experience in fluid mechanics and/or boundary layer flows in the ocean, atmosphere, industry or similar.  We envision the student will likely already hold an M.Sc. and is seeking further advancement.   Positions for PhDs and/or post-docs are available in either Coastal/Ocean engineering and in Physical Oceanography.

Project B (glacier mechanics and morphodynamics emphasis): The successful applicant will focus their study on the ice mechanics (fracturing/sound/bubble mechanics) and evolving morphology of the tidewater glacier interface. They will be studying the glacier dynamics and the influence of the glacier on the fluid flow in the fjord. The applicant could be a student in either Glaciology, Physical Oceanography, or Coastal/Ocean engineering. 

While this project does involve ship-based fieldwork in Alaska and Svalbard, to insure inclusivity of all potential applicants, participating in this field work is not required. We will work with you to ensure that your science component can be successful with the available field team members.

The team strongly believes in creating an inclusive environment for learning and collaborating.

We highly encourage applicants who are women, Black, Indigenous, People of Color, People with disAbilities, LGBTQIA+, or belong to any other group historically marginalized by the scientific community.

These positions are funded through grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Keck Foundation. The postdoc will work under the mentorship of Principal Investigators Dr. Jonathan Nash, Dr. Erin Pettit, Dr. Meagan Wengrove, and Dr. Eric Skillilngstad, along with collaborators Dr. Becca Jackson (Rutgers University) and Dr. Dave Sutherland (University of Oregon).

PhD Student Applicants: Please note that this is just the initial application stage. We will select the top candidates who will then apply though the appropriate program within the OSU graduate school. Refer to College of Earth Ocean and Atmospheric Science Graduate Studies (Due Dec 15 through January 5, 2021, please discuss this due date range with us) or College of Engineering Coastal Engineering Graduate Studies (Due Dec 31, 2020) for specific graduate school information. At this stage, please provide (1) cover letter stating your interest in graduate studies in this area and how this project will benefit your future career goals; (2) a curriculum vitae including any current employment and contact information; (3) description or publications for any research experience you have (undergraduate, MSc, or in a professional environment); (4) names and contact information for three professional references; and (5) an unofficial transcript (you will need to submit an official transcript for the graduate school). Students will begin either in Summer or Fall terms 2021.

Post Doc Applicants: The Post Doctoral Scholar will be part of a strong postdoctoral community across Oregon State through the OSU Post Doctoral Program. This post doctor opportunity includes structured mentoring support and the opportunity to spend up to 15% time for professional development activities. At this stage, please provide (1) cover letter stating your interest in post doctoral experience in this area with a statement as to how this project will benefit your future career goals; (2) a curriculum vitae including any current employment and contact information; (3) a research interest statement including pdfs of your publications; (4) names and contact information for three professional references; and (5) an unofficial transcripts from your undergraduate and graduate studies. Start date can be negotiated between February 2021 and September 2021.

Additional Expectations: Specific additional qualifications depend on the position for which you are most suited. All positions benefit from excellent written and verbal communication skills (or willingness to work hard to improve these skills); self motivation and ability to work independently; effective decision-making skills and ability to plan and implement research strategies (in collaboration with the advisors/mentors) to efficiently achieve the project goals; ability to work effectively with colleagues from diverse backgrounds. Please refer to your experience in these areas in your cover letter.

Application: For full consideration, apply here by Dec 7, 2020*. Application materials should be addressed to one or more of the PIs listed above and uploaded as single pdf here:

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