The Critical Minerals Research Lab

An interdisciplinary hub to help PhD students develop, improve, and disseminate policy-relevant research on critical minerals for the clean energy transition.

A Forum for Interdisciplinary Research on Critical Minerals

Now Accepting Applications!

See below for more details.

As the world transitions to clean energy technologies, how can decisionmakers achieve a cost-effective, reliable, environmentally friendly, and equitable supply chain for the critical minerals needed to support that transition?

Since supply and demand for critical minerals are affected by sociological, technical, and economic factors, interdisciplinary research will play a strong role in critical mineral policymaking. The growing importance of critical mineral research across PhD programs in the United States means that graduate student research will likely have important impacts on future policy development.

To that end, the Critical Minerals Research Lab will bring students with diverse backgrounds and disciplines together to connect, receive feedback on their work, and identify interdisciplinary research ideas and partners. The lab will also help inform students of day-to-day issues on critical minerals, including grant funding opportunities, conferences, and ongoing policy discussions. By participating in the lab, students from across the country will be able to improve their research questions and approaches, and in turn, the policy recommendations that emerge from their work.

The lab is led by:

  • Beia Spiller | Fellow and Transportation Program Director, Resources for the Future
  • Kate Whitefoot | Associate Professor, Carnegie Mellon University College of Engineering
  • Nicole Smith | Associate Professor, Colorado School of Mines Mining Engineering Department
  • Karan Bhuwalka | Staff Scientist, Stanford University STEER group

The lab will be virtual (over Zoom), with monthly hour-long meetings, quarterly seminars, and one end-of-year workshop. Students will also be connected via an email group, where they can connect, collaborate, and share information.

Monthly Meetings

The monthly meetings will provide students with a space to present and receive feedback on their research. Additionally, there will be broader group discussions on a variety of critical minerals–related topics. The exact timing of these meetings will be determined based on the availability of the students, as determined in an initial kick-off meeting.

Quarterly Seminars

Each quarter, the lab’s leaders will invite a guest speaker to give a seminar on a critical minerals–related topic.

End-of-Year Workshop

At the end of the academic year, RFF will host a virtual public-facing workshop where the students will present their work to a broad audience, including government agencies, congressional staff, funders, NGOs, other academics, journalists, and more. Students will be encouraged to form interdisciplinary collaborations with other students in the lab and present the results of these collaborations at the workshop.

How Can I Get Involved?

The Critical Minerals Research Lab is searching for a diverse group of students across a broad range of interests, including but not limited to engineering, economics, policy, anthropology, and sociology. The first class of scholars will consist of 12 to 15 PhD students who are conducting independent research in a relevant area.

Applications are due July 30, and applicants will be notified of acceptance by August 20. Please provide the following information in an email addressed to Beia Spiller ([email protected]) with the subject line: “Application for the Critical Minerals Research Lab.”

  • Name
  • University
  • Program/Department
  • Year of study
  • Name and contact information of advisor
  • Area of ongoing research interest
  • A statement discussing their interest in working on interdisciplinary, policy-relevant research related to critical minerals for the clean energy transition (max 200 words)
  • A short statement of how their participation in this lab will contribute to the diversity of the scholars group (max 100 words)

The student’s advisor must also send a short email to Beia Spiller by July 30, expressing their support for their student’s engagement in the Critical Minerals Research Lab. Please include the following subject line: “Letter of support for participation in the Critical Minerals Research Lab.”

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