Hydrology Prospective Students PDF Print E-mail


Dear Hydrology Inquirer:

New Mexico Tech and I appreciate your interest in our Hydrology Graduate Program. I thought that information beyond what is included in the Earth and Environmental Science brochure and catalog would interest you, so I have prepared this summary. This document includes the following about the Hydrology Program:

  • Overview
  • History
  • Career choices of recent graduates
  • Curriculum
  • Current research
  • Facilities
  • How to apply
  • Faculty
  • Adjunct Facultyfaculty

Overview of the NMT Hydrology Program
Our program places strong emphasis on fundamental principles, field studies, and quantitative modeling. The background in hydrology that students receive at New Mexico Tech prepares them for positions in industry, consulting, government, and academics. The current research ongoing in the program is varied. Historically, the research focus has been on groundwater hydrology. This tradition continues and has recently been broadened to include surface hydrology. For example, NMT is a lead participant in the NSF Science & Technology Center on Sustainability of semi-Arid Hydrology and Riparian Areas (SAHRA), formed to address the growing problems of increasing water demand and declining water quality in the southwestern United States and climatically similar regions around the world.

Most students complete a M.S., with an independent study paper or thesis, in approximately two and a half years. The Ph.D. program takes from four to six years, including the M.S. Although most of our students have a geology background, we are also strongly interested in students whose prior training is in mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, soil science, or agricultural engineering.

In 2009/2010 the hydrology program enrollment is 23 graduate students working toward MS or PhD degrees. External grants and contracts, teaching assistantships, or fellowships support nearly all students. This support typically covers both the academic year and the summer and includes funds to pay for tuition. All students have offices. Each graduate student works on a research project under the supervision of one or several faculty members. Examples of projects that incoming students could work on include:

  • Groundwater flow and transport through heterogeneous aquifer materials, including fault zones
  • Probabilistic groundwater capture zone analysis for water supply and remediation pumping wells
  • Basin scale water and salinity balance
  • Regional soil moisture and evapotranspiration from remote sensing
  • Land-atmosphere interactions and climate change
  • Interactions of water contaminants with natural and engineered materials
  • Spatial and temporal variability of groundwater recharge

History of the Hydrology Program
The Hydrology Program was founded in 1954. The first two directors were Mahdi Hantush and Charles E. Jacob, the fathers of modern well hydraulics. In the seventies and early eighties the program was directed by Lynn Gelhar, who, with Allan Gutjahr, led the development of the field of stochastic groundwater hydrology. John Wilson replaced Dr. Gelhar in 1984, leading research on probabilistic numerical models of groundwater flow. In 1995, Robert Bowman was director, conducting research in groundwater contamination and remediation. Fred Phillips has been the director since 2006.

Some of the classical papers in hydrology were written here in Socorro, including most of Hantush's fundamental contributions to well hydraulics and the theory of leaky aquifers, and Gelhar and Gutjahr's papers in stochastic groundwater flow and pollutant transport. Graduates of our program have made many fundamental contributions. For example, Dr. Stavros Papadopulos became well known for his work with well hydraulics in the U.S. Geological Survey, and is now president of an international geohydrologic consulting firm. Dr. Abraham Mercado is a world-famous geochemist who conducted some of the earliest field experiments illustrating macro-dispersion. Miguel Marino is a Professor of Engineering at the University of California, Davis, where he continues his excellent contributions to hydrology and water resources research.

Career Choices of Recent Graduates
Recent graduates receiving an M.S. degree have accepted positions in geotechnical and geohydrologic consulting firms, national laboratories, state and federal regulatory agencies, and research organizations. Examples include:

  • Various consulting firms: Duke Engineering (Albuquerque, NM; Austin, TX; Charlotte, NC), Daniel B. Stephens and Associates (Albuquerque, NM), CH2M-Hill (San Francisco, CA; other locations), Environmental Science and Technology (Blacksburg, VA), Hart-Crowser (Anchorage, AK), Sanborn, Head and Associates, Inc. (New England), Souder Miller and Associates (Santa Fe, NM), RMT Inc. (Madison, WI)
  • National Laboratories & Other Research Organizations: Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (Idaho Falls, ID), Lawrence Berkeley Labs (Berkeley, CA), Sandia National Labs (Albuquerque, NM), Los Alamos National Laboratory (Los Alamos, NM), Center for Nuclear Waste Regulatory Analysis, Southwest Research Institute (San Antonio, TX)
  • Federal Agencies: Environmental Protection Agency (e.g., Research Triangle Park, NC); U.S. Geological Survey (various locations); The Ministry of Environment (Victoria, B.C., Canada).
  • State Agencies: New Mexico Environment Department (Santa Fe); State Engineer's Office (Santa Fe); Texas Water Development Board (Austin, TX), Texas Bureau of Economic Geology (Austin, TX), South Carolina Environment Department, Wisconsin State Geological and Natural History Survey (Madison, WI)

Most of our recent Ph.D. students have gone on to university or national laboratory positions. Examples include:

  • University of Virginia Civil Engineering Department (Roseanna Neupauer)
  • University of Mississippi Geology Department (Robert Holt)
  • University of Arizona Department of Hydrology and Water Resources (Marek Zreda, T. C. "Jim" Yeh)
  • University of New Hampshire Department of Geological and Earth Sciences (Matt Davis)
  • Sandia National Laboratory (Steve Conrad, Vince Tidwell)
  • Los Alamos National Laboratory (Jake Turin)
  • Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (Earl Mattson)
  • Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Jiamin Wan)
  • Southwest Research Institute (Deborah Hughson)

Hydrology Curriculum
The core hydrology M.S. curriculum includes five courses:

  • Hydrological Theory and Field Methods
  • Hydrogeochemistry
  • Flow and Transport in Hydrologic Systems
  • Quantitative Methods in Hydrology
  • Hydrological Modeling

All M.S. students take these courses. In addition, we offer more than 20 additional hydrology courses for M.S. and Ph.D. students.

At Tech, our current research and education program includes both applied research, often dealing with sites in New Mexico, and basic research into the nature of water movement and chemical transport over and beneath the land surface. Current research is sponsored by NSF, USGS, EPA, USDA, NRC, USBR, DOE, the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute, National Laboratories, and various foundations. Research results are widely disseminated at conferences, in reports, and in journals such as Water Resources Research, Journal of the Hydraulics Division, A.S.C.E., the Journal of Hydrology, Ground Water, Soil Science Society of America Journal, Environmental Science & Technology, Nature, and Science. Students coauthor most of our papers and presentations. Research includes collaboration with faculty in the Departments of Mathematics, Physics, Biology, and Chemistry. In addition, we also collaborate with Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of New Mexico, New Mexico State University, University of Arizona, University of Chihuahua, Mexico, and various other universities and national labs.

Faculty Research

Penny Boston's research interests include cave geomicrobiology, microbial life in highly mineralized environments, unique or characteristic biominerals, and biosignature detection. She is also involved in astrobiology and the search for life beyond Earth. Cave formation mechanisms on other planetary bodies is a topic of particular interest to her. She has come to NMT recently to create a new program, Cave and Karst Studies, in conjunction with the founding of the National Cave and Karst Research Institute.

Jan Hendrickx conducted agrohydrological field research in the Netherlands and in various semi-arid regions (West Africa, North-East Brazil, Pakistan, Chihuahuan Desert) before joining New Mexico Tech in the fall of 1990. His research deals with the hydrology of the vadose zone. The hydrological processes in this zone determine to a large extent the vulnerability of groundwater to contamination and the amount of fresh water available for aquifer recharge. Hendrickx's research emphasizes the following areas: uniform and preferential flow processes in the vadose zone, application of shallow geophysical methods for non-invasive measurements, ground water recharge, and evaluation of regional water balances using GIS and remote sensing.

Mark Person's work is focused on numerical modeling of groundwater flow and transport processess at the sedimentary Basin scale. Applications of his work focus on the role of groundwater in geologic processes, climate chagne hydrogeology and paleohydrology, geothermal systems, and faulthydrogeology.

Fred Phillips' work is focused on isotope hydrology and geochemistry. He is a leading scientist in the application of 36Cl dating for geologic, climatologic and hydrologic analysis. Phillips' group of graduate student researchers are involved in the dating of landforms, the analysis of recharge through the vadose zone, groundwater flow patterns in deep basins, and reconstruction of paleohydrologic fluctuations using stable isotopes in lacustrine sediments. Phillips won the 1988 Clarke Award given by the Geochemical Society "to a young scientist for a single, outstanding contribution to geochemistry..." He was the 1994 Birdsall-Dreiss Distinguished Lecturer in Hydrogeology for the Geological Society of America, the recipient of the 1994 New Mexico Tech Distinguished Research Award, and in 1996 was elected a Fellow of the Geological Society of America. In 2001, he received the O.E. Meinzer Award in Hydrogeology from the Geological Society of America.

John L. Wilson studies fluid flow and transport in permeable media, using field & laboratory experiments and mathematical models. In the past this has included studies of the movement of water, non-aqueous phase liquids, dissolved chemicals, colloids, and bacteria through porous, fractured, and faulted media. Other research work is directed toward wellhead protection, estimation methods to find the source of observed groundwater contamination, flow through heterogeneous media, and the geological characterization of aquifers. The laboratory studies emphasize flow visualization, which Wilson featured as the 1992 Darcy Lecturer for the Association of Groundwater Scientists and Engineers. Recent lab studies have focused on diffusion problems in both porous and fractured systems, with one or two fluid phases. A recent MS student completed the study of diffusion through a single pore throat study, in a successful attempt to understand enhanced vapor diffusion in the vadose zone. The student was awarded an outstanding paper prize at the AGU 1999 Spring Meeting. Another recent focus is the solution of stochastic or probabilistic flow and transport equations backward in time-and-space, to help identify sources of groundwater contamination using mathematical models. This approach can be used to delineate pumping well capture zones, design aquifer remediation schemes, or to allocate liability or cost. A third recent focus involves studies of the spatial pattern of permeability and its relationship to natural geologic variability on outcrops and undisturbed rock samples. One of these studies investigates upscaling models for permeability, and is based on over 200,000 automatic laboratory permeability measurements taken at five different spatial sample volumes, spanning several orders of magnitude. These upscaling studies have a bearing on large-scale numerical simulation of aquifers, and the assignment of properties to the simulators. In 1994 Wilson was elected a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union, and in 1996 he received the O.E. Meinzer Award from the Geological Society of America and was elected Fellow of the Society. He received Tech's Distinguished Research Award in 1998. In 2001 he was elected chairman of the Board of Directors of the Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science, Inc. (CUAHSI).

Adjunct Faculty and Other Collaborator Research

Tom Kieft, Professor in the Biology Department at New Mexico Tech, is conducting research on the microbiology of subsurface environments, including basic research to characterize microbial communities in aquifers and vadose zones, as well as more applied research relating to the bioremediation of contaminated sites. He and his students have been participating in a large multi-lab project to aseptically collect cores from very deep subsurface environments and to relate the numbers and activities of indigenous microorganisms to the geochemical and hydrological properties of those environments. Kieft supervises both hydrology and biology graduate students.

Mike Whitworth is an Associate Professor of Geological Engineering at the University of Missouri, Rolla, and a Faculty Adjunct. His research primarily focuses on geologic membrane phenomena. Current research topics include the role of geologic membrane processes in saturated zone heavy metal transport, hydrogeochemical modeling of artificial aquifer recharge, development of a kinetic-based precipitation computer model to predict the life of injection wells and the location and timing of precipitation fronts, and the role of geologic membrane processes in the origin of sedimentary ore deposits. Mike has taught several graduate-level hydrogeology courses.

Bob Glass is a Staff Scientist at Sandia National Laboratories. He is well known for his fundamental work in analyzing fluid instabilities in the unsaturated zone, and his unique sand box scale flow visualization studies. He supports the research of several M.S. and Ph.D. students at his Fluid Dynamics Laboratory at Sandia, and at a field site on the Tech campus.

Peggy Johnson, a hydrogeologist with the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, received her M.S. in Hydrology from Tech in 1990. Her research interests include paleohydrology and isotope hydrology, with additional focus on integrating basin hydrogeology, hydrogeochemistry, and aquifer characterization. Peggy has considerable experience in private consulting, and conducts and collaborates on hydrogeology and water supply projects for the City of Albuquerque, the New Mexico State Engineer's Office Interstate Stream Commission, and various counties and municipalities.

Jake Turin is a Staff Scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and a Faculty Adjunct. His work at Los Alamos includes a variety of vadose zone and groundwater investigations, but his involvement with students at New Mexico Tech principally focuses on karst and cave hydrology. He is currently employing a variety of environmental tracers to perform subsurface tomography of flow paths into Lechuguilla Cave in eastern New Mexico.

Dan Stephens is a Faculty Adjunct and president of the well-known consulting company, which bears his name. His group has conducted numerous field and laboratory experimental projects, backed up with numerical modeling, in a program aimed at a better understanding of water and solute movement in the vadose zone. The practical impacts of this work extend from a quantitative analysis of recharge in arid lands to pollutant transport at hazardous waste, nuclear waste and mine tailing sites. Stephens' group attacked the myth that flow in the vadose zone is oriented only in the vertical direction. Through field and laboratory experiments they have shown that topographic effects and soil layering can lead to significant horizontal flow components. His book on Vadose Zone Hydrology was published in 1995.

Emeritus Professor Gerardo Gross' research focus in hydrology covers both isotope hydrology and geophysical tools for hydrogeologic characterization. His study of the Roswell Basin in New Mexico is a classic illustration of the integration of isotope techniques with standard hydrogeologic tools, including numerical modeling. He has long been one of the leading scientists using tritium as a natural tracer. Dr. Gross also has a strong research program on the physics of ice crystals. He was the recipient of the 1993 New Mexico Tech Distinguished Research Award.

Jim McCord, who received his Ph.D. in Hydrology from New Mexico Tech in 1988, is a Faculty Adjunct and a Principal Hydrologist at Hydrosphere Resource Consultants (offices in Boulder, CO and Socorro, NM). He has over 20 years of professional experience in hydrology and water resource investigations, with emphasis on characterization of groundwater and surface water systems, vadose zone hydrology, contaminant hydrology, numerical modeling of hydrologic systems, surface water and groundwater interaction, water rights, river basin planning and management, and stochastic hydrology and geostatistics. He has been involved in numerous water resources and environmental contamination studies in New Mexico, Oregon, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Texas, California, Washington, Idaho, Louisiana, and Missouri. Dr. McCord has been involved in development and application of MODFLOW groundwater models for the Roswell Basin in New Mexico, the Denver Basin in Colorado, and the Yuma Valley in Arizona. He is a recognized expert in Vadose Zone Hydrology, teaching short courses on this topic for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the International Atomic Energy Authority. He has authored numerous consulting reports and technical peer-reviewed papers, and co-authored the textbook, Vadose Zone Processes (CRC Press, 1999). Besides serving as an Adjunct Professor of Earth Science at New Mexico Tech since 1991, he has also been an Adjunct Professor of Civil Engineering at University of New Mexico.

Enrique Vivoni's research interests address the hydrologic processes occurring on the land-surface through numerical modeling, field observations, and remote sensing. From a catchment perspective, his research seeks to understand the interaction of different components of the hydrologic cycle: surface water and groundwater; rainfall and hydrologic response; vegetation and water availability. Previous work has focused on methods for terrain representation in hydrologic models, combined rainfall and hydrologic modeling for extreme flood events, and the nonlinearity and scaling of coupled surface-groundwater basin response. Opportunities for conducting research in semi-arid rainfall-runoff modeling, ecohydrology, and hydrometeorology are available.

We are housed in a building with separate modern laboratories for computer simulation, isotope measurements, analytical chemistry, transport phenomena, soil-water studies, video flow visualization studies, and teaching. There is an additional multi-storied lab room for large size sand box, column, and hanging column experiments. The program has access to several mobile drilling rigs and a variety of equipment for field sampling and testing, including surface and down hole geophysical instrumentation. We have our own computer facilities for word processing, data analysis, graphics, image processing, and numerical simulation using PCs, Macs and SUN SPARCs. Printers, plotters, scanners and digitizers support this system. There are additional workstations elsewhere on campus. We are connected by fiber optic cable to supercomputers at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Kirtland Air Force Base, University of Illinois, and the University of New Mexico.

Applying to the NMT Hydrology Program
Information on graduate application is best obtained by accessing the New Mexico Tech Graduate Studies home page at www.nmt.edu/~grad. As described on the application form, we need your college transcripts, GRE scores (general test only), and three letters of recommendation. For foreign students we also need TOEFL scores. We won't evaluate your application until all of these items are received. Note that there is no separate application for financial aid. Granting of financial aid depends on student qualifications and on the availability of funds. All of our applicants have an equal opportunity to qualify for the RA/TA positions. The decision as to whether an applicant qualifies depends on several factors including, but not limited to, courses taken, grades, GRE/TOEFL scores, letters of reference, interests, number of positions being offered and, of course, available research funding. For these reasons we recommend you complete and return the application at your earliest convenience.

Completed applications for fall admission should be received by the graduate office no later than the end of January in order to receive full consideration for financial aid. Applications for spring admission should be received by mid-October. Because of our course sequence we don't generally admit M.S. students for the spring term unless they already have a strong academic background in hydrology. Ph.D. students can be admitted any semester.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me or any of the other Hydrology faculty by email or telephone (575-835-5540). We'll be happy to help you in any way we can.


Fred Phillips
Director of Hydrology Program

Hydrology Program - Faculty

Penelope J. Boston, Associate Professor of Cave and Karst Science, Department of Earth and Environmental Science; BA, MS, PhD University of Colorado, Boulder (1985).

Jan M.H. Hendrickx, Professor of Hydrology, Department of Earth and Environmental Science; B.S., (Civil Engineering and Irrigation), Agricultural University Wageningen, Wageningen, The Netherlands, 1972; M.S. (Civil Engineering and Irrigation), Agricultural University Wageningen, Wageningen, The Netherlands, 1975; Ph.D. (Soil Physics), New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM, 1984.

Mark Person, Professor of Hydrology (arriving January 2009), Department of Earth and Environmental Science; BA Geology, Franklin & Marshall College, 1980; MS Hydrogeology, NM Tech, 1985; PhD Geology, Johns Hopkins University, 1990

Fred M. Phillips, Professor of Hydrology, Department of Earth and Environmental Science; B.A., Earth Science, B.A., History, with Honors, University of California at Santa Cruz, 1976; M.S., Hydrology, University of Arizona, 1979; Ph.D., Hydrology, University of Arizona, 1981.

John L. Wilson, Professor of Hydrology, Department of Earth and Environmental Science, and Senior Research Engineer, Geophysical Research Center; BCE (Civil Engineering), Georgia Inst. of Tech, 1968; M.S. and CE (Civil Engineering), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), 1970; Ph.D. (Hydrodynamics), MIT, 1974.

Hydrology Program - Adjunct Faculty

Thomas L. Kieft, Professor of Biology, New Mexico Tech. BA Carleton College, MS New Mexico Highlands University, PhD University of New Mexico

James McCord, Principal Hydrologist, Hydrosphere Resource Consultants; B.S., Civil Engineering, Virginia Tech, 1981; M.S., Hydrology, New Mexico Tech, 1985; Ph.D., Hydrology, New Mexico Tech, 1988.

Daniel B. Stephens, President, Daniel B. Stephens & Associates, Albuquerque, NM; Adjunct Professor of Hydrology, University of New Mexico; B.S., Geological Science (with honors), Penn State, University Park, PA, 1971; M.S., Hydrology, Stanford University , Stanford, CA, 1974; Ph.D., Hydrology, University of Arizona, Tucson , AZ, 1979.

Enrique R. Vivoni, Associate Professor, School of Earth and Space Exploration & Department of Civil, Environmental and Sustainable Engineering, Arizona State University, Tempe; B.S. Environmental Engineering Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), 1996; M.S. Environmental Fluid Mechanics, MIT, 1998; Ph.D. Hydrology MIT, 2003.


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Created: ( Monday, 24 October 2011 09:12 )
Last Updated: ( Thursday, 10 September 2015 14:00 )
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