Professional Profile

I am a geologist with a diverse background in sedimentology and stratigraphy, hydrogeology, and near-surface geophysics. Currently I am a PhD at the University of Wyoming. With my advisor Brandon McElroy, I am research decreased sediment supply in the Mississippi River system due to upstream reservoirs and other engineering structure. Previously, as an independent contractor with the WSGS I have mapped bedrock geology near Rawlins, WY and surficial geology near Jackson, WY, and have researched the geologic history of the Great Divide and Washakie Basins. Before moving to Wyoming, I received my M.S. in Geology from the University of Illinois, where I researched fluid dynamics in streams. I acquired B.S. degrees in both physics and geology from Temple University in Philadelphia, PA.

In addition to being a scientist, I am also a writer, and I maintain an educational blog at www.writingtherocks.com. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to use the contact sidebar at the left of the screen, or send me an e-mail at derek@dtlichtner.com.

Work Experience

October 2015 - September 2017

Freelance Geologist

Laramie, WY


In association with the Wyoming State Geological Survey, I have mapped bedrock geology in the Bridger Pass 7.5' quadrangle and surficial geology in the Jackson 30' and 60' quadrangle. In 2016 I worked on the Fort Union Oil and Gas Project, compiling data and making interpretations of the depositional and tectonic history of late Cretaceous and Paleocene strata (Lance and Fort Union Formations) in the Great Divide and Washakie Basins.

  • Mapped bedrock and surficial geology in the field and using ArcGIS
  • Correlated well logs, e.g. gamma, resistivity and density, using IHS Petra
  • Compiled gas show data from mud logs
  • Assessed well cuttings for use in coal vitrinite reflectance analysis
  • Interpreted depositional and tectonic history using structure contours, isopach maps and detrital zircon data
  • Sampled groundwater wells with the DEQ

August 2013 - July 2015

Research Assistant

Department of Geology, University of Illinois, Part-Time


At the University of Illinois my M.S. thesis focused on the roles of turbulence and permeability in flows across the sediment-water interface (hyporheic exchange). In additional to the leading the laboratory experiments, I also participated in several other research projects, which gave me the opportunity to conduct field work on the Wabash and Mississippi Rivers.

  • Planned and conducted particle image velocimetry (PIV) experiments
  • Processed flow field vectors with MatLab and interpreted contour maps and turbulence statistics
  • Gathered GPS-georeferenced Wabash sediment samples and conducted grain size analysis
  • Piloted research vessel and troubleshooted RESON multibeam echosounder systems
  • Presented results locally and nationally, including at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) annual conference

August 2014 - May 2015

Teaching Assistant

Department of Geology, University of Illinois, Part-Time


At the University of Illinois I also acted as the teaching assistant for paleontology and sedimentary geology classes. Teaching gave me invaluable experience in explaining scientific concepts in layperson's terms. It also necessitated efficient time management.

  • Prepared laboratory teaching materials
  • Lectured on basic geology principles
  • Graded assignments and examinations
  • Engaged and guided students in interactive activities
  • Organized field guides, food and lodging for educational field trips

August 2011 - July 2013

Physics and Math Tutor

Temple University Math and Science Resource Center, Part-Time


During my undergrad years, I worked part-time at Temple University's formal tutoring center. In addition to giving me experience in interacting with clients and customers, working as a tutor allowed me to constantly brush up on fundamental science and math concepts.

  • Assisted students with physics, math and chemistry coursework
  • Conducted several large, lecture-style exam review sessions

May 2012 - Oct 2012

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Department of Earth and Environmental Science, Temple University, Part-Time


For my undergraduate research project at Temple University, I used near-surface geophysical techniques to study flow pathways during rain water infiltration.

  • Operated geophysical equipment, including ground penetrating radar (GPR) units and electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) arrays
  • Analyzed time-lapse data of infiltration events with MatLab and Earthimager
  • Presented results locally and nationally, including at the Geological Society of America (GSA) 2012 Conference and in front of hydrologic science program directors at the National Science Foundation in Washington, D.C.

January 2011 - May 2011

Writing Tutor

Temple University Writing Center, Part-Time


Although I am now a scientist, I began my undergraduate career as an English major. Since I've entered the field of geology, my background in writing has greatly aided in my effectively conveying scientific information.

  • Assisted students with brainstorming content, forming coherent arguments, and correcting grammar
  • Wrote detailed conference reports

Technical Skills

Intermediate, 5 Years

Field Geology

My initial geologic training was in the structurally complex Paleozoic strata of the Appalachians. In 2012 I attended Lehigh University's field camp, where I practiced the basics of geologic mapping in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. In 2014 I had the opportunity to partake in an advanced field geology course with University of Illinois in the Scottish Highlands. As a teaching assistant, I helped to plan and execute educational field trips. In association with the Wyoming State Geological Survey, I have co-authored two geologic maps.

Expert, 5 Years

Geospatial Information Systems

Much of my education and employment has heavily featured ESRI ArcGIS. In my projects with the WSGS I used ESRI ArcMap for mapping bedrock and surficial geology; spatial analysis of well variables; and contouring formation thicknesses.

Intermediate, 2.5 Years

Well Log Correlation and Analysis

In addition to a comprehensive education in borehole geophysics, my work at the WSGS has focused intensely on analyzing and interpreting both raster and digital well logs. I have used gamma, resistivity and density logs to pick formation tops, and I've compiled gas shows from drill stem tests and mud log total gas readings. Using both IHS Petra and ESRI ArcMap, I've constructed structure contours and isopach maps to interpret basin-scale geology.

Intermediate, 2 Years

Near-Surface Geophysics

I have been educated in the in-the-field operation of various near-surface geophysical equipment, such as ground penetrating radar (GPR), electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) and electromagnetic (EM) conductivity instrumentation. My undergraduate thesis project involved the acquisition of time-lapse GPR and ERT to assess rainwater infiltration pathways. My research assistantship at the University of Illinois consisted of gathering multibeam echosounder and acoustic doppler current profiler (ADCP) data on the Mississippi River.

Expert, 5+ Years

Data Processing and Analysis

In my hobbies, classwork and research, I have become adept at using programming languages, such as Python, MatLab, and Visual Basic for Applications in Microsoft Excel, to manipulate and analyze data. A degree in physics necessitated such skills, and in my classes and academic reasech I have been given the chance to employ them in the context of the geosciences.

Advanced, 4 Years

Laboratory Techniques

My education in physics also gave me the prerequisite laboratory experience to complete my M.S. thesis, particularly those experiences involving optics, electronics and soldering. My M.S. project involved the planning and construction of flume experiments and the acquisition of several terabytes of particle image velocimetry (PIV) flow vectors. Furthermore, in addition to an education in chemistry and isotope geology, I conducted numerous grain size analyses for my graduate research assistantship.

Advanced, 4 Years

Computer Graphics

In both my work and hobbies, I have become skilled at the use of Inkscape and Gimp (the open-source equivalents of Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop) for designing figures and editing photos. See my image portfolio above for examples of illustrations and plots I have created.

Education

University of Illinois, Champaign, IL

M.S. Geology - 4.0 GPA


At the University of Illinois my M.S. thesis research centered on the fields of sedimentology and fluid mechanics. Working with advisor Dr. Jim Best, I conducted flume experiments to assess the roles of turbulence and permeability in bedform formation and hyporheic exchange in gravel bed rivers. In addition to my research, I also took in-depth courses in river morphodynamics, isotope geology, landscape evolution modeling and advanced field geology. For a complete list of classes, see my LinkedIn page.

Temple University, Philadelphia, PA

Dual major, B.S. Geology and Physics - 3.93 GPA


At Temple University I received a diverse education in both physics and geology. In addition to learning geology in the structurally complex context of the Appalachian Mountains, I also completed an undergraduate research project in hydrology and near-surface geophysics under the guidance of Dr. Laura Toran.

Honors and Awards

At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

  • 1st Place, SESE Research Review Student Poster Presentations
  • NSF Graduate Fellowship Honorable Mention
  • Department of Geology Fellowship
  • Roscoe Jackson Endowment Summer Research Award

At Temple University

  • College of Science and Technology Dean's Scholarship
  • SEG/David C. Bartel Scholarship
  • Victor A. Johnson Field Camp Scholarship
  • Temple University Library Prize Winner for Research on Sustainability and the Environment
  • Temple Scholar Award Scholarship
  • GE Star Award
  • 2nd Place, Pennsylvania Council of Professional Geologists (PCPG) Scholarship Essay

Institutional Service

May 2014 - May 2015

President, Geology Graduate Student Association

Department of Geology, University of Illinois


After my first year of graduate school I was elected to serve as president of the geology department's committee of graduate students. As president I was required to not only make decisions based on student and faculty feedback but also to carry out these decisions. In addition to such leadership skills, this experience also gave me valuable insight into the workings of an academic institution.

  • Participated in faculty meetings and disseminated information to the student body
  • Organized student meetings and events, including conference travel and career workshops
  • Delegated tasks to council members and suggested future courses of action

July 2014

Summer Science Camp Counselor

Prairie Research Institute


At graduate school, in addition to the typical focus on research and classwork, I also made efforts to participate in public outreach. At the Prairie Research Institute in Campaign, Illinois, I supervised high school students as they participated in geology, anthropology, biology and sustainbility learning activities.

  • Answered geology-related questions in a clear and relatable manner
  • Encouraged participation in learning activities
  • Shuttled students around in 15-passenger van and monitored student safety

August 2013 - May 2015

Field Trip Teaching Assistant Volunteer

Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) & Department of Geology, University of Illinois


Acting as a volunteer teaching assistant on geology field trips was always a delight. In addition to being exposed to diverse geologic area, field trips gave me the opportunity to get students excited about geology.

  • Volunteered on educational trips
  • Assisted with teaching, supervising, driving, and camp cooking and cleaning
  • Participated in high school outreach

May 2012 - May 2013

President, SEG Student Chapter

Department of Earth and Environmental Science, Temple University


During my senior year at Temple University, I was appointed president of Temple's Society of Exploration Geophysicists Student Chapter, a position that required effective time management and close collaboration with the department's geology club.

  • Publicized career and learning opportunities regarding near-surface geophysics
  • Organized student meetings and events, including conference travel