The Ferdowsi Research Laboratory for rheology of earth materials and physics of
earth’s near-surface processes

Open positions: We are looking for enthusiastic postdocs and students to join our research laboratory at the University of Houston. If you are interested in working with us, please contact Behrooz at bferdowsi@uh.edu .


Postdoctoral research positions

The Ferdowsi Research Laboraotry in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at the University of Houston (UH) invites applications for a postdoctoral research position. The qualified applicant will have or anticipate a PhD in, physics, earth environmental and planetary science, geology, geophysics, civil and environmental engineering, or a related field (e.g chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, applied mathematics, material science). We currently have two general lines of research that we could propose:

  1. Experimental rheology of granular and soft earth materials, broadly, including synthetic and natural materials (i.e., we can do experiments on natural soil, materials from sliding shear zones, fault gouge samples, and on synthetic materials such as quartz beads and glass beads), and including steady-state and transient rheology. The lab is currently equipped with an advanced rheometer suitable for exploring near-surface stresses to about 300kPa (Ideally this pressure range is relevant to the basal shear zone of subaerial and submarine landslides, glaciers, etc.). The rheometer is also equipped with a convection temperature device (-20˚ to 160˚C). We are working on customzied features for this rheometer that may allow performing experiments in the MPa pressure range. The setup in its current form can be used for experiments in dry, saturated, and unsaturated conditions, in different loading geometries (torsional shear cell, Couette flow cell, parallel plate).

  2. Computational physics-based and/or numerical and/or analytical modeling studies of earth’s near-surface processes. This research area could include grain-scale, multi-phase flow (particle-fluid interaction, CFD-DEM, LB-DEM), continuum (FEM, BEM), combined continuum-discrete (FEM-DEM, FDEM), analytical and mathematical modeling studies of landslide, earthquake, glaciers sliding, source processes of geological instabilities. This line of activity may also include basic computational/numerical/analytical studies on, e.g. the transient rheology of porous and granular materials, with implications for improving understanding of earth science phenomena and earth's processes. Our lab is equipped with a computational cluster with 800 CPU cores maintained by the Hewlett Packard Enterprise Data Science Institute (HPE DSI) at UH.

The applicant interested in general area (1) would ideally have some experience in one or more of these topics: rheology of complex fluids, granular mechanics or granular physics (experiment, simulation, theory), rock friction and deformation, or soil and sediment mechanics experiments (experience with either real or virtual/numerical setups). The applicant interested in general area (2) would ideally have some experience in computational-physics based research, programming, high performance computing methods.

We are also eager to learn about candidates interests and will be happy to collaborate with selected candidate on a topic he/she/they are excited to explore within the general research areas of the lab. If you are interested in applying for independent postdoctoral fellowships and grants (such as NSF, NASA, AAUW American/International Fellowships, L'Oreal Women in Science, JSMF Postdoctoral Fellowships) to work in our lab, we are also eager to support you for your application and will be happy to collaborate with you for your research program.

The currently-funded position is for 2.5-year, with the possibility of extension beyond that timeframe depending on funding availability and mutual interest. We strongly encourage applications from individuals who identify as members of groups that are underrepresented in science and engineering. Interested candidates should send a CV, list of publications, and the contact information of three referees. The position is available immediately and will remain open until it is filled. While the start date is flexible, the target is as soon as possible. Applications and any questions can be directed to Dr Ferdowsi at: bferdowsi@uh.edu

Primary responsibilities of a postdoctoral researcher in our lab include working in collaboration with and under the direction of the PI, contributing to all aspects of the PI’s scholarly activities related to the project designed for the postdoc. The postdoc will provide scientific and technical expertise and insight, and collaborative input on scientific and educational goals within the scope of the project designed for the postdoc. The postdoc will have responsibility for the design, planning, and execution of experimental research (if in the general research area (1)), the development of new computational techniques and model development and analysis (if in the general research area (2)), development of analytical tools and procedures (relevant to all research areas of the lab), the collection and analysis of data (relevant to all research areas of the lab), the presentation and dissemination of research results at scientific meetings and conferences, writing of manuscripts for publication in peer reviewed journals, and participation in collaborative research work ongoing in the lab. The postdoc will also contribute to laboratory and equipment construction if needed for the experiment she/he/they is working on, maintenance and repair (again if needed for the experiment she/he/they is working on), including the ordering of research materials. The responsibilities for experimental work is relevant for a postdoc in the general research area (1).

An important responsibility of the postdoc (in collaboration with the PI) will be the the mentorship and training of student researchers. Our lab also has an emphasis on the participation of undergraduate students in research. The postdoc will assist in the supervision of student researchers, but will not have independent supervisory roles.

The postdoc’s work schedule and job priorities will be defined in coordination with the PI as part of a mentorship agreement.

Salary: $55,000 per year + benefits


Graduate student research positions

Fully funded PhD student positions are available in the Ferdowsi Research Laboratory within the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Houston (UH). Positions are available with start date as early as Spring 2022 and Fall 2022. Some of our active research areas include experimental and computational mechanics of earth materials, rheology of earth materials, granular mechanics, physics-based modeling and quantitative studies of earth's near-surface processes. Applications are welcomed from students with bachelor’s or master’s degree in Earth Science, Environmental Science, Geology, Geophysics, Physics, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Applied Mathematics, or related fields. A strong background or a strong interest in granular physics, solid mechanics, and/or fluid mechanics is helpful. Some experience in either:

- computer programming
- high performance computing
- discrete element method, molecular dynamics or atomistic simulations
- computational fluid dynamics
- experimental investigation for rheology of soft materials and complex fluids
- soil and sediment mechanics, mechanics of sediment transport
- rock friction and deformation experiments

is a plus. Research projects will be designed in collaboration with students and will be motivated by their interests and career goals, within the general research areas of the laboratory. There are also opportunities for collaboration with researchers and faculty at the National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping (NCALM) which can connect small-scale modeling and laboratory-scale studies to geological-scale and remote sensing observations. The interested candidates are encouraged to (i) fill out this application form: https://forms.gle/CHgZR8zbNpBDt9EW7, and (ii) apply to the PhD programs in Civil and Environmental Engineering at UH.

Please note that a TOEFL/IELTS score that meets the criteria set by the UH graduate school is required for admission. A GRE score is not required for Spring/Fall 2022 admission.

We strongly encourage applications from individuals who identify as members of groups that are underrepresented in science and engineering. The University of Houston embraces diversity and recognizes our responsibility to foster an open, welcoming environment where students, faculty and staff of all backgrounds can collaboratively learn, work and serve: https://uh.edu/diversity-equity-inclusion/

Review of applications will start immediately and will continue until the positions are filled.


Undergraduate student research positions

We welcome undergraduate students interested in working in our laboratory on a research project, as part of a summer research fellowship, or simply to gain research experience. Please contact me directly at bferdowsi@uh.edu and briefly describe your background and interests. University of Houston students interested in summer research are encouraged to contact me at bferdowsi@uh.edu to work together on an application for the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program.