Department of Earth SciencesWestern Science

Finding a Supervisor

Choosing a supervisor is one of the most important decisions you'll make in graduate school. They'll be your mentor and adviser, and you'll work together closely throughout your graduate career.

Researching Potential Supervisors

You should select a supervisor with a strong record of research and publication in your area of interest. When looking into potential supervisors for your program, become familiar with the type of research they do and their working style.

Finding the Perfect Fit

Contact each of your potential supervisors to discuss your research interests, and see if they would be interested and available. Be sure to ask them about their availability during your graduate program, and whether they're planning any extended absences during that time. When considering potential supervisors you should talk to several professors before asking one to become your supervisor. Be sure you understand what your prospective supervisor would expect of you as a graduate student.

Current Available Graduate Projects

Below is a list of current opportunities for prospective students interested in joining the department, however this list is not exhaustive. Please feel free to contact individual faculty members regarding other opportunities involving shared research interests.


Students are sought (M.Sc. and Ph.D.) for a variety of studies on meteorites and analogue materials to investigate formation, shock and cosmic ray irradiation processes. Graduate projects are available with Dr. Phil McCausland (Curator, meteorites) and several other researchers in the Department. Some example projects include:

  1. Extended investigation of newly discovered meteorites.
  2. Investigation of the bulk properties and mineralogy of the Tagish Lake carbonaceous chondrite: a) as an analogue for primitive bodies in the Solar System; and, b) as a mechanically friable material which survived dynamical evolution and atmospheric entry (joint with Dr. Peter Brown). 
  3. Calibration of shock metamorphism in meteorites as observed by optical petrography, micro X-ray diffraction and other techniques, using experimentally shocked materials (joint with Dr. Roberta Flemming.)

    Please contact Dr. Phil McCausland for details on these projects and other possible graduate work.

Clastic Sedimentology and Basin Analysis

Students interested in M.Sc. and Ph.D. studies are being considered for projects that address the evolution of the Cretaceous Western Canada Foreland Basin.  Studies typically integrate outcrop sedimentology in the Rocky Mountain Foothills with well log stratigraphy across the adjacent, subsurface portion of the basin.  Projects address problems concerning the control on sedimentation exerted by tectonic activity and eustatic change.  The issue of mud transport, on a regional scale, is currently the focus of much attention.  Students with a strong background in both sedimentary geology and the English language, as well as an interest in rugged fieldwork, high-resolution allostratigraphy and basin analysis, are encouraged to apply to Dr. Guy Plint.

Event Stratigraphy

A two-year M.Sc. position is available immediately in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Western Ontario, to conduct graduate research in a subproject of a high-resolution stratigraphic study of the Middle Devonian Hamilton Group in southern Ontario, Canada.

Components of the project include aspects of paleoecology, taphonomy, biostratigraphy, diagenesis, and sedimentology. The project as a whole will involve high-resolution correlation of strata of the Appalachian foreland basin into intracratonic Michigan basin, with the ultimate aim of elucidating the depositional history of this bridging area.

The specific project the M.Sc. candidate will undertake, and the subdiscipline(s) focused on in his/her project will be tailored to the strengths and interests of the individual. Preference will be given to enthusiastic applicants with a strong interest in interdisciplinary geological research, superior academic credentials and strong communication skills. Interested applicants are urged to contact Cam Tsujita.


Dr. Rob Schincariol currently has openings for one M.Sc. and one Ph.D. student interested in geothermal energy, primarily the thermal performance, sustainability, and impact of borehole heat exchangers (BHE’s) within hydrogeological environments. The overall objectives of the research program are (1) develop generic industry usable tools that allow for the design of efficient and sustainable closed-loop borehole heat exchangers within hydrogeological environments, and (2) develop methodologies for utilizing subsurface waste heat generated in bitumen (oil sands) recovery operations. The first objective is broad based and looks at bridging the current divide between hydrogeological based studies of heat transport and geothermal energy, and mechanical engineering based design of borehole heat exchangers. Research involves the use of BHE’s under freezing ground conditions and the use of BHE’s to mitigate permafrost degradation. The second objective is specifically focused on the unique environment of bitumen recovery operations and involves both waste energy utilization and thermal remediation. An integrated approach is used including field, lab, and numerical simulations.

Isotope Cosmochemistry

The Isotope Geochemistry and Cosmochemistry Research Group led by Dr. Audrey Bouvier is seeking a highly motivated graduate student to work on geochemical and geochronological studies of Apollo rocks and lunar meteorites. The student will work in Dr. Bouvier’s newly-established clean laboratory for trace metal isotope studies and with other researchers at Western and internationally for specific aspects of the project.

Materials Science

Support is now available for two M.Sc. positions shared between the Department of Earth Sciences and Surface Science Western, UWO. The candidates will investigate factors controlling the separation of mineral phases in a flotation scheme with specific reference to surface chemistry.

One candidate will be involved with: the identification of secondary ion yields in common sulphide minerals with the goal to partially determine fundamental parameters controlling variability; the creation of relative sensitivity factors (RSFs) for the primary matrix elements in the most common sulphide minerals; to create semi-quantitative calibration indices for surface modifiers and to incorporate the RSF and calibration indices into the existing surface chemical analyses technique by ToF-SIMS; to test the novel technology and its effectiveness as a predictive tool.

The second position will be related to: the activator/collector facilitated inadvertent flotation of non-value gangue silicates in problematic ores. The specific system we will address involves the flotation separation of Ni-bearing pentlandite from pyroxene which, within the Sudbury ores, occurs in two crystallographic (orthrombic versus monoclinic) species. The student will perform a number of experiments on both monoclinic and orthrombic pyroxenes by ToF-SIMS and XPS to determine the fundamental controls that promote favourable conditions for surface chemical modification and inadvertent flotation.

The successful candidate will gain experience in mineral separation technology, and a variety of surface analytical techniques including ToF-SIMS, XPS and SEM/EDX. The candidate will also work closely with and benefit from the interaction with mineralogists and metallurgists from one of the world's leaders in developmental strategies for mineral recovery.

Interested students should contact Dr. Brian Hart.

Mineral Deposits

Dr. Robert Linnen has opportunities for M.Sc. and Ph.D. students in four areas, most of which will involve collaborations with mineral exploration companies. For further information please contact Dr. Robert Linnen.


Dr. Roberta Flemming at the Department of Earth Sciences at University of Western Ontario has openings for M.Sc. or Ph.D. candidates interested in pursuing fundamental or applied studies of minerals in the following areas:

Facilities at UWO include a Bruker D8 Discover micro X-ray diffractometer, High-T and High-P laboratories, EPMA, SEM, FTIR, Raman, and XRF facilities (Earth Sciences), 400 and 600 MHz solid-state NMRs (Chemistry), XPS and SIMS facilities (Surface Science Western).

If you wish to obtain more information about these projects, or other possible projects, please contact Dr. Roberta Flemming. Collaborative projects with other faculty are also possible. Research and teaching assistantships are guaranteed for all qualified students.

Mineral Physics / Materials Science

Four graduate student positions (M.Sc. and/or Ph.D. level) are available immediately in the High Pressure - Temperature Mineral Physics and Materials Science Laboratories.

Paleobiology and Paleoecology

Projects available in biodiversity change of benthic faunas in response to greenhouse-icehouse environmental fluctuations during the Late Ordovician and Early Silurian, North America. Research opportunities are available at either the M.Sc. or Ph.D. level.

Please direct your inquiries to Jisuo Jin.

Paleomagnetism and Tectonics

M.Sc. and Ph.D. students are sought by Dr. Phil McCausland for tectonic studies using paleomagnetism and associated geochronological and geochemical investigation of field localities related to several themes:
Please direct your inquiries -or other project suggestions!- to Dr. Phil McCausland,

Petroleum Geology

Positions are occasionally available for qualified M.Sc. students interested in reservoir characterization of carbonaceous mudstone petroleum systems of the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin. Please contact Burns Cheadle for current availability of projects.

Petrology / Geochemistry

Dr. Neil Banerjee currently has openings for M.Sc. and Ph.D. students interested in studying hydrothermal alteration processes in oceanic crust, biogeochemical evidence for early life on Earth preserved in ancient greenstone belts, and studies of Earth environments as Mars analogues. Interested students should contact Dr. Banerjee for more information.

Planetary Evolution / Geochemistry

Support is now available for a doctoral research project to determine the oxygen diffusion rate in metamorphosed natural zircon – a key test of the recent 'cool Early Earth' or Hadean hydrosphere model that proposes oceans on Earth 4.4 billion years ago. The project area is in the Kapuskasing Uplift, Superior Province, one of the world's most complete known continental cross sections. The successful candidate will gain experience in field mapping in a classic natural laboratory for crustal studies integrated with state of the art ion probe (SIMS) analysis of U-Pb and oxygen isotope ratios at leading laboratories in North America. Interested students should contact Dr. Desmond Moser.

Planetary Geology

Dr. Gordon Osinski currently has openings for M.Sc. and Ph.D. students interested in studying various aspects of meteorite impact craters, comparative planetary geology (using terrestrial analogues to better interpret the observed geological attributes of Mars and other planetary bodies), and analysis of planetary materials, including meteorites.

Interested students should contact Dr. Gordon Osinski.


Dr. Gail Atkinson currently has openings for M.Sc. and Ph.D. students interested in seismic hazard analysis in Canada, empirical studies of earthquake ground-motion processes, induced seismicity, and ground-motion modeling. Contact Dr. Gail Atkinson for more information.

Dr. Robert Shcherbakov is currently looking for students to work with in the areas of the physics of earthquakes, computer simulation of seismicity, continuum damage and fracture mechanics, earthquake forecasting, planetary geophysics, and simulation of complex non-linear systems. Contact Dr. Shcherbakov for more information.

Stable Isotope Science

Project Title: Stable isotope studies of Late Pleistocene megafauna (mammoth, mastodon, giant beaver) from southern Ontario.

Supervisor: Fred J. Longstaffe

The cause of megafaunal extinction (climate change, human hunting, etc.) in North America continues to be a topic of vigorous debate.  Bone and teeth from Late Pleistocene megafauna will be used to determine ecological, environmental and climatic change in southern Ontario through oxygen, carbon and nitrogen isotopic analysis of bioapatite and associated collagen (including amino acids).  This project is part of our CFI-CRC funded 'Back to the Future Climate-Change in the Americas’ initiative.  

1 M.Sc. and 1 Ph.D. candidates are required.  Some fieldwork is necessary.  Analytical work is based in the Laboratory for Stable Isotope Science:

Project Title: Stable isotope studies of Late Pleistocene and Holocene climate shifting in the Lake Erie basin.

Supervisor: Fred J. Longstaffe

The cause(s) of the Younger Dryas and the nature of subsequent Holocene climate warming remain hotly debated, as do their consequences for the Great Lakes basin.  As part of a comprehensive study of all Great Lakes, we will use isotopic proxies (ostracodes, clams, organic matter) and organic biomarkers (e.g., n-alkanes) in three sediment cores from Lake Erie to identify periods of glacial meltwater flow and shifts in lakewater productivity over the last ~15,000 cal years BP in southwestern Ontario. This project is part of our CFI-CRC funded 'Back to the Future Climate-Change in the Americas’ initiative. 

1 M.Sc. and 1 Ph.D. candidates are required.  Some fieldwork is required.  Analytical work is based in the Laboratory for Stable Isotope Science:

Project Title: Stable isotope investigations of climate change in Southern Ontario since ~7,000 cal years BP

Supervisor: Fred J. Longstaffe

Late Pleistocene and Holocene sediments of the Great Lakes Basin contain many isotopic and organic biomarker proxies for climate change in this region over the last ~15,000 cal years BP.  As a companion to ongoing investigations Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, Ontario and Erie, we will examine such proxies for climate change contained in sediments from a small sinkhole lake (Barry Lake) located near Peterborough, Ontario, and a small pond (Carolinian Pond) contained in Pinery Provincial Park, Lake Huron, Ontario. The focus is on sediments recording climate changes spanning the warming period called the ‘Holocene Hypsithermal’, later cooling called the ‘Holocene Neoglacial interval’, and climate patterns over the last 500 years, including induced warming over the last ~100 years.  This project is part of our CFI-CRC funded 'Back to the Future Climate-Change in the Americas ' initiative. 

2 M.Sc. and 1 Ph.D. students are required.  Fieldwork is required.  Analytical work is based in the Laboratory for Stable Isotope Science:

Project Title: Nitrogen-15 dynamics of the Pleistocene Mammoth Steppe

Supervisor:  Fred J. Longstaffe

A curious biochemical signature of some Pleistocene megafauna (e.g., mammoths, horses) is their tendency to be enriched in nitrogen-15 relative to other herbivores, except during the latest Pleistocene when a sharp decrease in nitrogen-15 content is commonly observed.  Hypotheses to explain these patterns include climate-related dynamics in the ‘Mammoth Steppe’ ecosystem and physiological behaviours affecting nitrogen recycling within the bodies of these large animals.  Building on ongoing PhD investigations, we will use carbon and nitrogen isotopic analysis of amino acids in plants and animals to test for changes nitrogen cycling that affected herbivore diet at the base of the foodweb.  This project is part of our CFI-CRC funded 'Back to the Future Climate-Change in the Americas ' initiative. 

1 M.Sc. and 1 Ph.D. candidates are required.  Some fieldwork is required.  Experimental plant growth will be based in the Biotron (part of our ‘Growing Beringia’ project. Analytical work is based in the Laboratory for Stable Isotope Science:

Project Title: Stable isotopic investigations of cellulose from Carolinian forests and related ecosystems in the southern Great Lakes basin.

Co-Supervisors: Elizabeth Webb and Fred J. Longstaffe

Research opportunities are available at the M.Sc. or Ph.D. level to investigate variations in the hydrogen, oxygen and carbon isotopic compositions of cellulose from a type locality (Pinery Provincial Park) in southwestern Ontario. This area contains a diverse range of ecosystems, and offers the opportunity to calibrate this potential paleoclimate proxy, and to correlate observed variations in isotopic composition with the climatic history of the area, as determined from historical records and other stable isotope proxies.

For more details on the Laboratory for Stable Isotope Science please visit:

Structural Geology

Dr. Dazhi Jiang is currently looking for Ph.D. and M.Sc. students to work on projects in the Canadian Cordillera and East China. The former project aims at better understanding the evolution of microstructures of mylonites, and the latter project strives to better understand the tectonic evolution of East China since late Cretaceous and its relationship with the thinning of the North China Craton. Interested students please contact Dr. Jiang for more information.