An official website of the United States government.

This is not the current EPA website. To navigate to the current EPA website, please go to This website is historical material reflecting the EPA website as it existed on January 19, 2021. This website is no longer updated and links to external websites and some internal pages may not work. More information »

Research Fellowships

Understanding Critical Rare Earth Metals Recovery & Economics

EPA Office of Research and Development

EPA National Science Foundation Graduate Research Internship Program (GRIP) & Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) Opportunities


Opportunity Title:

Understanding Critical Rare Earth Metals Recovery & Economics

Research Area:


EPA Lab/Center/Office:

National Risk Management Research Laboratory (co-mentor) and EPA Region 4 NEPA Program Section (internship host office)


Atlanta, GA


 3 to 12 months (prefer 12 months)

Brief Summary:

The purpose of this project is to further science and engineering by achieving a higher level of understanding of Critical Rare Earth Metal (CREM) recovery processes from coal and coal by-products and wastewater sludge, including the engineering, scientific and economic feasibility designs for site-specific pilot projects, and the identification of potential environmental impacts associated with the recovery of CREM from the selected waste streams.

Opportunity Description:

Working in a collaborative environment, the student will have the opportunity to develop project designs that engage and drive the scientific, engineering and economics aspects for the recovery of Rare Earth Metal including CREM. This work will inform environmental policy. The student will interface with a CREM work group which includes several federal regulatory and non-regulatory agencies. The ideal candidate has experience as an environmental engineer, chemical engineer, and/or economist with technical expertise in CREM recovery processes that can address the scientific and economic feasibilities of different CREM recovery processes along with their potential environmental impacts’ and costs.

Ammonia concentrations are measured at more than 100 AMoN sites across the U.S. EPA is adapting a bi-directional flux model that will combine bi-weekly ammonia concentrations from AMoN with modeled ammonia compensation points to produce ammonia flux estimates at each site, collocated with NADP wet deposition measurements. The modeling component of the project will be two fold, including an assessment of the sensitivity of the model to inputs of air concentrations, meteorology and soil/vegetation chemistry across a range of AMoN site conditions, and a literature and online data search to expand current datasets of biogeochemical model inputs. Additionally, the candidate will assist with measurements of soil and leaf chemistry as part of a field study at Duke Forest near the EPA Research Triangle Park Laboratory in North Carolina. These measurements will be incorporated into the model evaluation. Ultimately, the model sensitivity analysis will be used to identify the most important model uncertainties and prioritize future field studies to improve model parameterizations.

Relevant NSF Fields of Study: Environmental Chemistry Systems, Chemical Engineering, Environmental Engineer, System Engineering, Civil Engineering, Mining Engineering, Geochemistry, Geophysics, Hydrology, Plasma Physics, Theoretical Physics, Economics, Decision Making and Risk Analysis, Science Policy

Opportunities for Professional Development:

Opportunities for Professional Development: The student would have the opportunity to collaborate with the multi-agency work group to research effective approaches to any of the following:

  • Research resource-based/Circular economics theory to determine how they are affected from environmental regulations, and how they are interpreted and carried out in real world scenarios
  • Study how environmental and economic implementation intersects with other federal agencies.
  • Evaluate environmental impacts and economic feasibility of CREM recovery processes including analysis on the scope of future growth of the CREM pollution and recycling market sectors
  • Resolve complex and important issues and to evaluate potential exposures and risk associated with different CREM recovery processes
  • Develop issue papers and technical documents addressing CREM recovery processes economics and sustainability, health risk assessments associated with different recovery processes, address public health issues, and evaluate environmental policy.

Point of Contact or Mentor:

Larry Long (EPA Region 4) and

Rick Wilkin (ORD)

For more information about EPA Research Fellowship opportunities, visit: