Desalination: Kinetics of Mineral Scaling

Job Type
Job Rank
Job Institution
SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
Job Description

The Water Desalination Science research group at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (a Directorate of the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory) has an immediate opening for a postdoctoral scholar to help conduct a dynamic research program investigating the formation of mineral scale in high salinity brines, both in solution and on separation membranes, using a combination of laboratory- and synchrotron-based techniques. The primary goals of the program are to mitigate scale formation during brine concentration processes, improve water recycling and reuse, and help mitigate the environmental impacts of brine. This research program is funded by the DOE Advanced Manufacturing Office through the National Alliance for Water Innovation.

The postdoc will work in laboratories at SLAC within a rich scientific environment and will have the opportunity to cross-train in advanced X-ray characterization techniques, aqueous chemistry, kinetic modeling, and desalination science. They will have the opportunity to publish lead-author manuscripts and to build a career in water treatment R&D or to build toward a future academic career.  

Research will focus on developing kinetic models of scale formation by measuring rates of nucleation. This includes the structural and chemical characterization of metal silicate phases that are poorly described, but which pose a particularly difficult problem for membrane processes. Additionally, research will involve 2D and 3D characterization of fouled separation membranes used in reverse osmosis and brine concentration. The applicant will conduct laboratory-based experiments and will also work extensively at multiple beamlines to perform a number of different X-ray characterization techniques, including X-ray scattering and 2D and 3D imaging.


  • Conduct aqueous geochemical reactions with brine samples
  • Perform nucleation rate experiments using laboratory-based dynamic light scattering
  • Analyze compositions of aqueous samples using techniques such as inductively coupled plasma mass spectroscopy, ion chromatography, and UV-vis spectroscopy
  • Perform small X-ray scattering measurements to measure nucleation rates at the beamline
  • Perform 2D and 3D chemical characterization (mico-XRF, TXM, micro-CT, STXM) of mineral scales and scaled membranes at multiple beamlines
  • Present results at conferences and publish manuscripts.

Application: Applicants should include a cover letter, a statement of research accomplishments, a curriculum vitae, a list of publications, and names of three references for future letters of recommendation with the application. 


Education & Experience: 

A Doctoral degree is required with a focus in aqueous chemistry, geochemistry, interfacial chemistry, chemical kinetics in environmental systems, mineralogy, water treatment or related subjects. We welcome candidates from Civil and Environmental Engineering, Earth Sciences, and Chemical Engineering.

Knowledge, Skills and Abilities: 

  • Experience with aqueous and solid-phase geochemical analysis techniques such as ICP-MS, IC, XRD and/or DLS desirable
  • Strong analytical chemistry skills are desirable
  • Previous synchrotron expertise is not required, however the candidate must be excited and willing to learn synchrotron characterization techniques, as these will comprise a significant proportion of work
  • Highly organized with excellent attention to detail
  • Ability to apply sound judgment in challenging situations
  • Strong communication skills and a demonstrated ability to work effectively with others within a results-oriented scientific

SLAC Employee Competencies:

  • Work independently: Able to complete experiments on-time with high quality results with minimal oversight (Masters/Doctorate).  Design and conduct new research projects vital to the overall research group work scope (Doctorate).
  • Effective Decisions:  Uses job knowledge and solid judgment to make quality decisions in a timely manner.
  • Dependability:  Can be counted on to deliver results with a sense of personal responsibility for expected outcomes.
  • Self-Development:  Pursues a variety of venues and opportunities to continue learning and developing.
  • Initiative:  Pursues work and interactions proactively with optimism, positive energy, and motivation to move things forward.
  • Adaptability:  Flexes as needed when change occurs, maintains an open outlook while adjusting and accommodating changes.
  • Communication:  Ensures effective information flow to various audiences and creates and delivers clear, appropriate written, spoken, presented messages.
  • Relationships:  Builds relationships to foster trust, collaboration, and a positive climate to achieve common goals.


Must be able to work occasional extended or unusual work hours based on research requirements and business needs


  • Interpersonal Skills: Demonstrates the ability to work well with SLAC colleagues and clients and with external organizations.
  • Promote Culture of Safety: Demonstrates commitment to personal responsibility and value for environment, safety and security; communicates related concerns; uses and promotes safe behaviors based on training and lessons learned.  Meets the applicable roles and responsibilities as described in the ESH Manual, Chapter 1—General Policy and Responsibilities:
  • Subject to and expected to comply with all applicable University policies and procedures, including but not limited to the personnel policies and other policies found in the University's Administrative Guide,