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Three Postdoctoral Research Opportunities – Chemical and Biological Engineering with the Systems Analysis Research Group

The Systems Analysis Research group in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Northwestern University is seeking three postdoctoral researchers to fill the following three positions:

  1. CO Capture and Upgrade

The postdoctoral researcher hired for this position will work jointly with Prof. Ted Sargent and Prof. Jennifer Dunn to conduct analyses of CO2 capture, CO2 upgrade to fuels and chemicals, and the defossiilization of electricity, industrial processes, and agriculture.

The researcher will contribute to an interdisciplinary team providing expertise that includes:

  • Life cycle assessment and techno-economic analysis, informed by process optimization and uncertainty analysis;
  • The computational and experimental investigation of CO2 capture and release (including electrified), as well as CO2electrocatalytic upgrade.

Flows of interest/to be evaluated include electrocatalytic processes, biological processes, and thermocatalytic processes, including their combined/cascade approaches.

 Specific topics and targets for analysis include:

  • Direct air capture (DAC) of CO2, including capture, transport, and sequestration; as a function of the source of electricity, including analysis of its intermittency, its carbon intensity; and with analysis of the cost and overall carbon intensity of the related capital plant and its maintenance.
  • The production of food/food molecules from CO2. 
  1. Hydrogen systems life cycle assessment

This position entails working with the Midwest Alliance for Clean Hydrogen analysis team to evaluate projects in this hydrogen hub for hydrogen production and use in the Midwest region. The primary focus will be to carry out life cycle analyses of hydrogen production pathways and hydrogen use in refining, steel manufacturing, transportation, and other applications. An additional focus will be to build a hydrogen economy model for the region. This position will involve working closely with hub partners including Argonne National Laboratory, Idaho National Laboratory, and the University of Michigan along with industrial partners.

  1. Energy-water systems modeling

We are interested in understanding how energy and water systems interact including how recovery of nutrients for wastewater could reduce fertilizer production, the water intensity of the hydrogen economy, the water cost of minerals mining and processing, and water consumption in plastics recycling. We are interested in exploring integrated assessment models and other systems analysis tools to support our exploration of these inter-relationships.

Description of Duties:

Successful candidates will place their major focus on achieving original first-authored publications in interdisciplinary academic journals. They will work effectively in a team environment and will value the chance to reach across disciplines and to work with partners. Postdoctoral fellows will take advantage of the opportunity to increase their mentoring skills, helping doctoral students to develop as scientist-engineers.

Essential Qualifications:

Position 1:

  • Applicants must have received, or be close to receiving, their PhD degree in an area of chemical engineering, bioengineering, civil engineering, environmental sciences, chemistry, materials science, or a related field.
  • Applicants must possess at least one of the following, or transferable skills:
  • Expertise in topics related to bioreactors, thermocatalysis, electrocatalysis, and/or carbon capture and separation processes.
  • Expertise in topics related to net GHG emissions associated with the end-to-end process of crop production.
  • Demonstrated ability to perform LCA and TEA and to write related scientific reports.
  • Experience in process modeling, including in the use of tools such as Aspen Plus, CHEMCAD, or SuperPro.
  • Experience levering open-source software such as GREET, openLCA, SimaPro, or GaBi.

Positions 2 and 3:

  • Applicants must have received, or be close to receiving, their PhD degree in an area of chemical engineering, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, or a related field.
  • Applicants must have experience developing and applying life cycle assessments, ideally for energy systems.
  • Experience with Python is preferred.
  • (Specific to Position 3) Experience with integrated assessment models like GCAM is preferred.
Application procedure:

Please complete this Google Form which will request information about your training and experience in addition to requesting a cover letter explaining why you are a good fit for the position and a CV.  We will request the names of three references. 

Additional information:
  • Salary: $55,000 USD/year and above based on experience.
  • Expected Start Date: Jan 15, 2024, or as soon as possible thereafter.
  • Appointment: Term – (12 months) with the potential for renewal.