University of Nevada RenoI’m always on the lookout for talented and motivated students broadly interested in Earth surface processes. I typically admit students to start in the fall (applications due on January 1) and prefer to take on PhD students (although, I will consider exceptionally qualified students for masters projects). If you’re interested in coming to Reno for grad school, please first read through the information below, and then get in touch with me (jscheingross at unr dot edu) for more information.

Interested in a postdoc? There’s no dedicated postdoc funding at the moment, but I’m happy to work with you on project development and writing to submit a NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship or something similar. If you’re a German national and are looking for a post-doc, I am a Humboldt Fellow and can serve as a US host if you apply for an Alexander von Humboldt Postdoctoral Fellowship (these fellowships have a high success rate!).

Why work with me?
I’m continually fascinated and inspired by landscapes, and I have a passion for understanding the details of Earth surface dynamics. If you share that drive, curiosity, and enthusiasm, we should be able to have a lot of fun doing science together. I pride myself on being invested in my students’ projects and making myself available to assist my students as much as needed. I’ve detailed my general approach to advising below – take a read and see if that philosophy matches with the type of experience you’re looking for.

What research is going on in the group?
Our group pursues a broad range of topics related to Earth surfaces processes (see our research page and recent publications) and we use a mix of fieldwork, physical laboratory experiments, geochemical analyses, remote sensing, numerical modeling and theory development.

I’m happy to work with prospective students and postdocs on NSF GRFP, NSF Postdoc or other similar fellowship applications to help support you in coming to Reno. These fellowships are a great way to allow you to pursue your own independent research.

What type of background should you have?
Above all else, you should have a passion for Earth surface processes and scientific research.  If you’re creative and passionate about your work, you can pick up other skills and knowledge along the way.  More than any specific skill set, I value your excitement and self-motivation to find interesting papers to read or explore new field locales, as well as your creative approach to asking questions and solving problems. All that being said, I’m generally looking for students who:

  • Have a degree in the geosciences, engineering, or another basic science or quantitative field (e.g., math, physics, chemistry, etc).
  • Have basic quantitative skills and like using them. In terms of coursework, this means having completed math through ordinary differential equations, introductory undergraduate courses in chemistry, calculus-based physics, and statistics. If you haven’t taken all these courses, that’s OK, you can take the courses you need to fill any knowledge gaps at UNR.
  • Are proficient in (or willing to learn) Matlab or another programming language (e.g., Python, R, etc)
  • Have previous scientific research experience.

UNR and life in Reno
The University of Nevada Reno is an exciting place to study interdisciplinary questions in Earth surface processes with strengths in hydrology, tectonics, high temperature geochemistry, biogeochemistry and more spread across the Department of Geological Sciences and EngineeringNevada Bureau of Mines & GeologyNevada Seismology Laboratory, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Science, and the Desert Research Institute (DRI).  The broad expertise of our faculty means that you’ll have lots of bright minds and resources at your disposal, and a healthy cohort of fellow graduate students to bond with. In addition to graduate programs within the Department of Geological Sciences and Engineering, students  can also pursue a degree through the Graduate Program of Hydrological Sciences which offers an interdisciplinary program covering aspects of hydrology, geomorphology, water resources, nutrient cycling and more.

The city of Reno is nestled between the Sierra Nevada and Basin and Range – providing a wealth of opportunities for field study and outdoor recreation as well as year-round sunshine. Lake Tahoe and the crest of the Sierra Nevada are a ~35 minute drive from campus, there are multiple ski resorts (and great backcountry skiing) 30-60 minutes from campus, Lassen Volcanic National Park and the southern terminus of the Cascades is a ~2 hour drive, Yosemite is a 3 hour drive, and the Pacific Ocean and California Coast Range can be reached in ~4 hours. Reno has metro-area population of ~500,000 and is seeing a large influx of young professionals along with growth in cafes, breweries, concert halls, bike paths, art exhibits and additional amenities that make for pleasant city life. The Reno-Tahoe Airport is 10 minutes from campus and has non-stop flights to most major cities Chicago and west.

How I approach admitting new graduate students
Unless someone has independent funding (e.g., from a NSF GRFP), I prefer to only admit students when I have clearly defined, funded projects. This means that I will be able to make sure you are paid a salary for your work. I typically admit new graduate students to start in Fall, and there is a standard timeline and process I generally follow (see details below). Because I recognize that applying to graduate schools is time consuming and expensive, I make an effort to Zoom with prospective students far in advance of the application deadline. I also tell prospective students whether or not I think they will be competitive for a position in my group.  If I think you will be competitive for a position, and you also rank UNR high on your list of options for graduate school (say in your top 3-5 choices), I will encourage you to formally apply to our program (in cases, I may also be able to pay for your application fee). Typically I encourage ~3-4 people to apply for every open position I have. This means that you’re only investing the effort to formally apply if you both have a good chance of being admitted and there’s a good chance that you will accept if I make you an offer. I recognize that this system is not perfect, but it is the best approach that I’ve been able to come up with. If you’re thinking about applying, it’s good to be aware of the typical timeline I work with:

  • August – September: Advertise any available MS or PhD opportunities in my group (e.g., via posting on list-servs like Gilbert Club, advertising on social media, etc).
  • August – early November: This is the ideal time to e-mail me and express interest in an advertised position.
  • September – early December: Hold zoom meetings with prospective students.
  • Mid-December: Let students know whether or not I think they will be competitive for a position.
  • AGU Annual Meeting (typically mid December): I attend this meeting almost every year and enjoy meeting prospective students at the conference. If you want to meet at AGU, please let me know. However, even if we plan to meet at AGU, it is best to first set up a Zoom call earlier in the fall.
  • Dec. 15 and January 1: Soft due dates for admission to the Graduate Program in Hydrologic Sciences and the Department of Geological Sciences and Engineering, respectively (you can apply to either program and we can talk more about the pros and cons of each on Zoom). It’s possible to submit applications late without a penalty, but you should consider January 15 a hard deadline for both programs
  • February – March: Invite top candidates to visit UNR.
  • March – April: Make formal offers of admission.

Interested in joining our group?
If you’re interested in applying for a position, please contact me (jscheingross – at – unr.edu) and include some information about:

  • Your research interests (and ideas for the types of projects you’re interested in pursuing)
  • Any previous research experience that you have
  • Your academic background (an unofficial transcript is great if you have one)
  • Why you’re interested in coming to UNR and working in our group.
  • A copy of your CV and any conference abstracts or papers you’ve published (if you have them, it’s fine if you’ve never been to a conference or published a paper).

My approach to advising and expectations for students
(adapted from Itay Halevy, Margaret Zimmer, Claire Masteller, and Mariam Aly)

As an advisor, I view it as my responsibility to:

  • Promote a happy, welcoming, and inclusive work environment where your ideas are valued and all lab members are treated fairly and with respect regardless of ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender-identity, nationality, socio-economic status, ability, or age.
  • Work with you to develop, pursue, and complete a research project that you find exciting and motivating, complements your skillset and research interests, and tackles a fundamental problem in the geosciences.
  • Hold regular, one-on-one weekly 1 hour meetings so that we can work together, have open dialog (about research and any other issues you want to discuss), and make sure your research is advancing.
  • Read and provide detailed feedback on your manuscripts and proposals within two weeks (often less), provided I’m not in the field or traveling.
  • Provide financial support throughout your entire graduate school tenure including your tuition costs, salary, field work and research expenses, and conference travel. This support will come through a mix of teaching assistantships (typically not to exceed 2 years for PhD students) and research assistantships (which will allow you to work full time on research).
  • Share my passion for science. I’m here because I love what I do and I’m continually fascinated by the intricacies of Earth surface processes. Hopefully you have some of that passion already, and if not, I’d like to share it with you, because this game is a lot more fun when we both like our jobs!
  • Be honest, open, and encouraging in our discussions.
  • Always act in (what I believe to be) your best interests, and openly discuss my reasoning with you when solicited.
  • Provide future career guidance and advice (if you want it) on opportunities both in and outside of academia.
  • Be flexible. I understand everyone has a life outside of science, situations change, and over the course of your graduate school career you’re likely to go through good times and bad times. So long as you communicate with me, I’ll do everything I can to reasonably adjust to difficult situations, and offer help or advice if it is appropriate for me to do so.
  • Listen to you and be open to feedback.  I care deeply about my advising and the success of my students. One of the best ways for me to become a better adviser is to receive open, candid feedback from students on what works and what needs improvement.

As a graduate student, I expect you to:

  • Let me know what you expect from me. Every student is different, and an advising style that works well for one student may not work well for another. One way for me to be a better adviser to you, is if you give me feedback and let me know what’s working and what’s not, and how I can help you meet your goals.
  • Be honest, professional, and respectful. Maintaining a happy and inclusive work environment requires all of us to participate. We are a team and I expect all members of our group to adhere to commonsense principles of respect (see, for example, the UNR Code of Conduct and AGU Ethics Policy). It should go without saying that there’s zero tolerance for harassment, discrimination, or scientific misconduct.
  • Put your physical health, mental health, and family first. It’s hard to do great science when you’re not healthy or have problems at home. Make sure to take enough time away from the office to maintain a healthy work-life balance. This will help to keep your time investment in research efficient, productive, and, most importantly, enjoyable. We don’t have an official vacation policy, but I recommend all students take ~4-5 weeks of vacation per year, and I try to do the same. 
  • Read the scientific literature. You can’t advance the field unless you know what’s already been done. Spending time reading papers is one of the simplest things you can do to gain new ideas and become a better scientist. With a bit of effort, you’ll quickly become one of the world’s experts on your research topic. I recommend to all my students to read at least one new paper per week, and I try to do the same.
  • Fill your knowledge gaps via coursework or independent study. It’s hard to learn everything you need to know to pursue a graduate degree during your undergraduate education. I expect students with gaps in their knowledge base to take courses or teach themselves to get up to speed.  You’ll also want to take additional upper division and graduate level courses tailored to your research interests that depending on your interests may include fluid mechanics, open channel flow, continuum mechanics, isotope geochemistry, biogeochemical cycling, remote sensing and more.
  • Be enthusiastic, motivated, curious, creative, prepared, and take ownership of your work. I will help guide you throughout your graduate school career, but I expect students to be self-motivated and to genuinely want to be here. Experiment on your own, try to design your own field work or lab plans, see if you can come up with your own hypotheses (and then test them!), and come to our meetings prepared with ideas backed by logic. Be willing and ready to work hard, because there’s no getting around the fact that graduate school, while immensely rewarding, requires a lot of hard work and dedication! The greatest measure of success for both of us will be your knowledge surpassing mine on your research topic in conjunction with you developing the confidence to challenge me (and the scientific community at large) when we’re wrong.
  • Plan. Spend time thinking about what you want to get done this week, this month, over the next year, and in the next decade. Let’s talk about your plans together to make sure they’re feasible, and don’t be afraid to revise things as necessary when new discoveries or dead-ends inevitably force plans to change.
  • Submit at least 1 manuscript (Masters students) or 3 manuscripts (PhD students) before you leave UNR. For better or worse, progress in academia is measured by publications, and I expect you to transform your scientific discoveries into coherent papers to share with the greater scientific community. This is ultimately for your benefit, as your future employers are likely to evaluate you on your publication record should you choose to stay in science.
  • Be an active member of our group and the greater geoscience community at UNR. This includes participating in group meetings, department seminars, journal clubs, and being present on campus enough that people know you’re part of the team. You have a lot to learn from your peers (and your peers have a lot to learn from you!), so we all benefit when people show up in the office and interact.  That being said, I understand family obligations, sleep habits, and a myriad of other reasons might make it practical for you to work non-traditional hours or work remotely at times – that’s fine so long as we communicate.
  • Be willing to apply for external funding. While I will make sure you have financial support for your duration at UNR, I expect eligible students to apply for external funding (e.g., NSF GRFP, DOD NDSEG, NASA NESSF, etc). This should not be a huge time sink (< 6 weeks/year), and I’ll help you in identifying opportunities and crafting your proposals.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I’m happy to help out (and so are your student colleagues), but we can’t help if we don’t know there’s a problem.
  • Mistakes happen. Every scientist has a story about when they inadvertently destroyed their experiment, lost a precious sample, or had a mistake in a published manuscript. When that happens to you, let me (and your collaborators) know so we can work together to pick up the pieces and get you back on track.
  • Be flexible. Science is not a 9 to 5 job, and sometimes you’ll have to work long hours in the field, lab, or office to meet a deadline. Take this in stride, and when the hard times pass, reward yourself with a vacation. Ultimately, being a graduate student is a lot like being self-employed; you’re working for yourself, and what you get out is proportional to the effort you put in.
  • Be proud of your work and our group. You should hold me to my responsibilities listed above, and if there’s anything about the way we run our group that makes you uncomfortable, don’t hesitate to talk to me. Don’t feel comfortable talking to me? Reach out to another department faculty or staff member so they can relay the message.