Update: Zhang Lab has one Ph.D. level graduate student and two postdoc positions open for an NSF funded research project on the Innovations at the Nexus of Food Energy and Water Systems (INFEWS). Review of applications will begin immediately and continue until qualified candidates are found. Other postdoctoral, graduate, or undergraduate level research positions are also open for application. 09/10/2017

Position 1: Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in Agriculture and Land Use Modeling (Filled by 01/30/2018)

Location: Joint Global Change Research Institute, College Park, MD.

We are recruiting an individual with research experience in the area of agriculture and land use modeling to work on developing and tuning crop yield-response behaviors in GCAM, an integrated assessment model of agriculture, land use, energy, water, and climate. The key tasks in this position are to (1) review the existing literature on modeling of crop yield, and relevant historical datasets; (2) develop, test, and implement functional forms characterizing the response of crop yields to several variables of interest; and (3) parameterize and tune the functions for incorporation into a global integrated assessment model with about 300 regions and 12 crop types.

The research areas will involve agricultural economics, statistical modeling, and computer science. The successful applicant must have (1) a PhD received within the last 5 years or within the next 8 months, (2) a strong publication record, and (3) experience with computer-based modeling, ideally in R, C++, and/or Python.

Position 2: Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in Sustainable Agriculture Assessment (Open)

Location: Appalachian Laboratory, Frostburg, MD.

The selected candidate will work closely with the PI on developing an indicator system and a database to measure several aspects of sustainability and resilience of agricultural production. The key tasks in this position include (1) review literature and data related to sustainable agriculture; (2) identify major characteristics of sustainable agricultural production in environmental, social, and economic dimensions, and synthesize data from various sources to provide quantification of each characteristic; (3) evaluate and visualize sustainability in agricultural production with the indicator system; and (4) develop methodologies to assess the resilience of agricultural production for a country, and examine the trade-offs between resilience and sustainability.

Qualifications: A PhD in environmental/agricultural economics, environmental science and policy, statistics, computer science or a closely related field is required.  The successful candidate will have a working knowledge of sustainable agricultural production, strong quantitative skills, and proficiency in at least one basic programming language (e.g. Matlab, R). Experience with remote sensing data, data visualization, Industry Ecology, and Econometrics is desirable but not required. Excellent writing and communication skills are essential.

Position 3: PhD level graduate student in environmental statistics (Open)

Location: Appalachian Laboratory, Frostburg, MD.

The key tasks in this position include developing a statistical approach to quantifying relevance and importance of the factors (such as resource inputs, climate and soil conditions) influencing the long-term dynamics of agriculture yields around the world. It will involve: 1) Working on the ways to investigate yield patterns across temporal and spatial scales and identify the relevant ecological and socioeconomic drivers. 2) Running extensive data analysis using modern statistical and machine learning techniques in a multivariate domain. 3) Work closely with the research team to synthesize research findings and to prepare the results for publication. 4) Present research findings at scientific meetings.

Qualifications: The successful candidate will have 1) excellent training in statistics and mathematics (a MSc in Statistics or a closely related field is desirable); 2) proficiency in R and other languages for statistical computing; and 3) genuine interest and working knowledge of the methods for spatio-temporal multivariate analysis, including time series modeling and forecasting, and machine learning. Working knowledge of the crop production system and climate science is desirable but not required.

To apply send an email to Xin Zhang (xin.zhang@umces.edu) containing following documents as a single PDF: (1) a statement of interest, (2) a CV, (3) contact information (names, addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses) for three references, and (4) copy of academic transcripts (optional).  Please indicate in your subject line “[INFEWS positions]”. Informal inquiries are also welcome.

Information about AL and UMCES can be found at: http://www.al.umces.edu/.  UMCES is an affirmative action, EOE.  Individuals with disabilities, veterans, women, and minorities are encouraged to apply.

For more details about those three positions, please check INFEWS Job Announcement by UMCES


Other positions

1. Postdoctoral opportunities

No other funding is currently available to hire postdocs. Applicants willing to apply for fellowships should contact Dr. Zhang to discuss possible projects and funding sources. Here are some examples:


2. Ph.D. Position (U. Maryland): Food and the Environment

The Zhang Lab at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) is seeking a motivated Ph.D. student interested in investigating the interactions between food production and global environmental change with data-driven approaches. The student would have the opportunity to design his/her own topic of investigation related to food security, agricultural production, climate change, and/or global nitrogen and carbon cycles. In addition, the student will be able to work closely with modeling development groups at Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory at Princeton and Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement (CIRAD) in France.

The Zhang lab has been using interdisciplinary and data-driven approaches to examine strategies for addressing the triple challenges of food security, environmental degradation, and climate change. Ongoing research projects include modeling the impact of agricultural production on global nitrogen cycle and assessing the environmental and economic trade-offs between expansion and intensification of agriculture production.

The successful candidate will have working knowledge of the biogeochemical and biophysical processes of the earth system, strong quantitative skills, and proficiency in at least one basic programming language (e.g. Matlab, R, FORTRAN). Prior research experience in environmental science and policy is desirable.

The position is based at the UMCES Appalachian Laboratory in Frostburg, Maryland and comes with a highly competitive stipend and benefits package. Three years of support are available through research assistantships, with additional support possible through competitive teaching assistantships. Finalists for the position will also be encouraged to apply for fellowships through UMCES:


The student will matriculate through the Marine, Estuarine, and Environmental Sciences Program (MEES) at the University of Maryland, College Park and will reside at the Appalachian Laboratory in Frostburg for the duration of the project. Frostburg is a small college town in the mountains of western Maryland, providing abundant outdoor recreational opportunities.

To apply, please email Xin Zhang (xin.zhang@umces.edu) a single PDF containing (1) a statement of interest, (2) a CV, and (3) contact information for three references. Please indicate “Food and the Environment PhD position” in your subject line. Review of applications will continue until a suitable candidate is found, with starting dates available as soon as September 2016 and no later than September 2017.

UMCES is an affirmative action, EOE.  Individuals with disabilities, veterans, women and minorities are encouraged to apply. This ad is also posted at http://www.umces.edu/al/employment.

3. Undergraduate opportunities

Internships are available for students who are interested in analyzing the database of Global Nitrogen Budgets in Crop Production (the data presented in Zhang et al. 2015, Nature) to answer key questions regarding how to address the challenges of food security, climate change, and environmental degradation. The intern will design a case study with my guidance. Applicants should have some basic data analysis skills and good writing skills. To apply please email xin.zhang@umces.edu with your GPA, major, and interest in this position.