The lab & our group


We are a group that straddles traditional disciplines. We run the Surface Processes Instrumentation Lab within the Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences in John T. Tate Hall. We are also a part of the Saint Anthony Falls Laboratory, a legendary hydraulics lab built into the side of the largest waterfall on the Mississippi, where group members can have offices and run experiments. Wickert is also an Associate of the Institute on the Environment (IonE), which hosts educational and research programs and helps us to communicate our work and to produce impactful applications.

Most importantly, though, we are the lab members. If you are inquisitive, open-minded, interested in connecting theory and observations, and someone who wants to be a member of a diverse and collaborative team, you could be be a good fit. If you are excited about methods that may include instrumentation design, numerical methods, physical computing, laboratory experiments, geomorphic history, field investigations, and/or theory, your interests intersect with ours. We have limited positions, but we’re always glad to hear form interested applicants.

Open positions

We are considering applicants for projects in the following general areas:

Model deveolpment in fluvial geomorphology

Ph.D. student (University of Minnesota)

  • Working with Andy Wickert
  • Analyzing landscape structure
  • Coupling and numerically solving differential equations for river-system change
  • Applying solutions to problems of flooding, climate change, and geological-scale river evolution

Desired skills

  • Scientific programming and software development (C++ and/or Python)
  • Geospatial computation and topographic analysis
  • Mathematics, physics, and fluid mechanics

Field-oriented fluvial geomorphology

M.S. student (Minnesota State University, Mankato)

  • Working with Phil Larson
  • Linking late Quaternary fluvial-system change and geochronology
  • Connections between soils geomorphology, weathering, and landscape change

Deciphering the glacial and deglacial history of the upper Mississippi valley

Ph.D. student (University of Minnesota)

  • Working with both Phil Larson and Andy Wickert
  • Dating the terrace record (CRN and/or OSL)
  • Modeling river long-profile evolution
  • Linking research to ice-sheet and proglacial-lake history

Desired skills

  • Scientific programming and software development (C++ and/or Python)
  • Geospatial computation and topographic analysis
  • Field geomorphology and Quaternary geology
  • (Can be taught through short courses) Quaternary geochronology

Environmental instrumentation

M.S. or Ph.D. student (University of Minnesota)

  • Working with Andy Wickert
  • Designing, testing, and documenting sensors to measure water level
  • Possible extension to broader-scale weather and climate instrumentation
  • Focus will be on implementation: Bobby Schulz (current student) has completed or thoroughly started many hardware designs. This position therefore focuses on:
    • Field testing
    • Documentation
    • Telemetry
    • Bringing these technologies to the people who need them

Desired skills

  • Electrical engineering: circuit design, fabrication, and assembly
  • Mechanical engineering: CAD, fabrication (CNC, 3D printing), and assembly
  • Scientific programming and software development (C++ and/or Python), with a focus on Arduino-style embedded C++
  • Field instrumentation assembly and data analysis

Aeolian activity in the upper Mississippi valley

M.S. student (Minnesota State University, Mankato)

  • Working with Phil Larson
  • Identifying and dating (with OSL) ancient aeolian deposits
  • Bringing pulses of aeolian activity into a broad paleogeographic framework

Testing and documenting environmental instrumentation

Undergraduate research assistant

  • Working with Andy Wickert
  • Interest in and/or experience with sensors and programming required

Important information for international students and visitors

Prospective international students and visitors should be in touch with Andy Wickert and International Student and Scholar Services at the University of Minnesota.

Important information for prospective students

Key areas of expertise

My hope is for all students in the group to gain skills and confidence in all three major areas of our work

  • Developing theory / numerical modeling
  • Laboratory research, whether in instrumentation design/development or at SAFL (hydraulics and sediments
  • Field work, which can range from local projects in river valleys to farther-flung work in remote locations and on glaciers

Core course requirements and competencies

The University of Minnesota requires three pairs of core-science courses to ensure that our graduate-student entry requirements are equivalent to our undergraduate-student graduation requirements:

  • 2 semesters of calculus (this means through the end of single-variable)
  • 2 semesters of chemistry (this can sometimes be satisfied with geochemistry as one semester)
  • 2 semesters of physics (typically, this is classical mechanics + E&M) If you have not completed them, you may still apply but will have to complete these classes before you can graduate. Please be in touch if this is the case.

I expect that by the time they graduate, all of my students will exceed these levels of core competencies in mathematics and computation. Strong skills in differential equations, linear algebra, and programming (Python, C/C++, and possibly Fortran) will open a range of options for your future scientific career.

Field work

We welcome field scientists of all levels of physical ability.

If you are interested in working in the field with us at a site that requires streuous backcountry travel, I expect that by the time of our departure, you will be able to carry a heavy load at a standard backpacker’s pace (~2 miles per hour) over uneven terrain for multiple days. This is a requirement for both completion of the work and (most importantly) the safety of you and the group.

If your physical conditioning and/or a disability preclude this kind of work, we welcome potential approaches involving less-strenuous local field work, remote sensing, and landscape analysis. It is most important that students are comfortable with their research and in a good place to succeed.

Personal learning and development objectives

It is my goal that students in my group become confident, independent-minded, collaborative, and self-aware researchers. This is a place to stretch your imagination and abilities. Sometimes there are funded projects with things that just need to be done, but as much as possible, I want to promote your ability to learn and explore.