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HAI Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Stanford Mineral-X Initiative, Doerr School of Sustainability

Mineral X Initiative’s Project: Energy transition minerals and the rainforest: AI for smarter mineral exploration and sustainable mining practices. As the energy transition accelerates, AI technologies are being used to speed up critical mineral explorations. Critical minerals, including Nickel, Cobalt, Copper, and Lithium, are in high demand for building towards 100% renewable power through electrification and batteries. However, such speed-up using AI raises environmental and human concerns: a majority of battery metals such as Ni and Co come from rainforests, including the Amazon, Indonesia, and the Congo. With this project, we aim to develop AI to plan smart, responsible, and sustainable critical mineral explorations in rainforest areas. Currently, environmental and human concerns are only raised at the mining stage, which is too late. We will develop a POMDP-based sequential planner that accounts quantitatively for environmental and human concerns. This AI planner includes reward structures related to water, energy, and land uses. The purpose is to allow exploration companies to abandon projects discovered unsuitable at the exploration stage rather than the late mining stage. We aim to set a leading example for sustainable mining in the rainforest, preserving the environment and justice, and accelerating the supply for energy transitions.

Stanford Mineral-X will provide the postdoctoral fellow mentorship in three ways:

  • The postdoc fellow will be directly advised by and work with the Stanford Mineral-X founder Prof. Jef Caers (Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences, and by Courtesy, of Geophysics) and Dr. David Zhen Yin (program director).
  • We will provide a supportive research community. The fellow will collaborate closely with Mineral-X’s industrial and research partners to develop AI planers for mine exploration.
  • Mineral-X thrives on vibrant collaborations and knowledge-sharing. Mineral-X’s research scientists, postdoctoral fellows, and Ph.D. students are enthusiastic about sharing research ideas and knowledge to support the HAI postdoc fellow’s development.

Stanford HAI is also committed to creating a diverse community of scholars who are engaged in contributing to the understanding and advancement of Human-Centered AI. Postdoctoral fellows will have the opportunity to engage with one another and with the broader Stanford HAI research community. They are also expected to participate in professional development, cohort-building, and other programmatic activities organized by HAI.


We are seeking a self-motivated candidate who is committed to promoting the environmentally just development of energy transition metals in rainforests. A successful candidate should have the following:

  • Profound understanding of decision makings under uncertainty in real-world mineral exploration and their impacts on rainforests.
  • Demonstrated skills in using data scientific/machine learning techniques to solve complex geoscientific problems with geological, geophysical, and environmental data.
  • Knowledge in POMDP (partially observable Markov decision process).
  • Demonstrated programming skills in Python or similar languages (e.g. Julia).
  • Being a quick learner with demonstrated collaborative skills to work in high-energy interdisciplinary teams, and having proven presentation and writing skills are essential.
  • Being a quick learner with demonstrated collaborative skills to work in high-energy interdisciplinary teams, and having proven presentation and writing skills are essential.
  • Excellent communication skills and connections with local rainforest communities (e.g. Amazon, Indonesia, Congo) are desired.
  • Completion of all doctoral requirements within the last three years and no later than September 1, 2023

Evaluation Criteria

  • Ph.D. in geochemistry, geoscience, geological engineering, geophysics, mining engineering, or Earth and environmental sciences.
  • Research excellence in related areas as demonstrated through publications.
  • Quality of research papers (1-2 sample papers) – either published or working papers
  • Real field geoscientific experiences, preferably in earth resources forecasting.


  • Application Deadline: March 20, 2023 (Applicants advancing in the review process may be asked to submit additional materials, including letters of recommendation, and may be invited to interview.)
  • Selections to be made by mid-April, 2023
  • This is a 1-year appointment starting Fall 2023


For full consideration, send a complete application in a single PDF to with the subject line: “HAI Postdoc Fellowship - Mineral X.”

Complete applications will include:

  • Cover letter explaining your interest in becoming a postdoc with the respective research lab/center/faculty through the HAI Postdoctoral Fellowship Program (500 words max).
  • Curriculum Vitae (CV)
  • Short answer responses (300 max each):
    • Description of your dissertation research and broader research agenda
    • How do you see your research training and expertise contributing toward the understanding and advancement of Human-Centered AI? HAI thinks about "Human-Centered AI" through three focus areas.
  • One representative writing sample (published or unpublished)

The expected base pay for this position is $80,000/yr. The pay offered to the selected candidate will be determined based on factors including (but not limited to) the qualifications of the selected candidate, budget availability, and internal equity.

Stanford is an equal opportunity employer and all qualified applicants will receive consideration without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by law.