NRRI Research Project Specialist

Oct 3, 2022

Job ID: 351814
Location: NRRI Coleraine
Job Family: Research-Support
Job Code: 8352P3
Employee Class: Civil Service

About the Job

The Research Project Specialist is a critical role in the Project Management Office (PMO). The role supports the translation of Researcher/Engineer (PI) defined research projects into actionable tasks. The specialist is regarded as a technical expert in Metallurgical capabilities while also having broad knowledge of the types of equipment and testing capabilities within the NRRI Coleraine site. The specialist is also going to be trained in the NRRI project management approach and will represent these capabilities when working with colleagues as NRRI develops its Project Management culture.

The role will collaborate extensively with research project PI’s and site leadership to define work center capabilities and mechanisms for modeling and tracking capacity utilization in these work centers. As PI’s define overall research objectives, the specialist role will work to translate these needs into specific tasks that will be included in the work breakdown structure. The tasks will subsequently be scheduled, based on global capacity metrics, tracked, and monitored and status updates routinely made to responsible PI’s and NRRI leadership. Problem solving related to scheduling and logistical dynamics will be solved by the specialist as they arise. The specialist will also update project tracking software to ensure projects are delivered on time and within budget as defined.

Job Duties:

• Technical Resource - Oversee a variety of laboratory tests following established specialized procedures and techniques related to operating laboratory equipment. Maintain accurate records of process performance, results and prepare summary project reports. Contributes to research planning, execution and close out and ongoing continuous improvement initiatives. Required to attend frequent safety, project related briefings and training, and apply the information and principles to the work performed each day. May act as an informal technical resource for technical staff and engage in “on the floor” discussions to ensure protocols are appropriately applied and deviations from plan are appropriately responded to, including escalation if needed. (25%)

• Project Management - Act as a facilitator between financial/budget, technical, etc. to define the project scope and objectives including create and maintain the schedule/Gantt and interface with sponsor or PI. Planning: work with contracts; project planning and procurement to ensure adequately trained staff and materials are ready when work is scheduled. Execution/Control: assist project managers to ensure proper techniques are being used; assist with presentations; keep track of tasks, follow up with resources; attend meetings; support preparation of project reports; budget updates; ensure data entry into WORK OTTER Project Software; define and plan resources with lab management to be utilized by projects and communicate bottlenecks/constraints when they emerge. The Research Project Specialist will share information with lab management related to resource utilization and potential capacity limitations and evaluate alternate execution scenarios to optimize project outcomes across the portfolio. (25/%)

• Planning, Monitoring and Tracking Projects – the position will leverage the new project portfolio software to keep project status current across the assigned portfolio of projects. The position will identify projects that are not achieving expected results (monitoring) and engage with project manager/PI to confirm the observation and identify apparent ways to resolve the issues. The position will also provide monthly (at least) reporting to NRRI leadership including project status, issues, and corrective actions taken/to be taken (Tracking). Finally, the position will interact with Project Managers and PI’s to ensure projects are planned with the appropriate level of detail to ensure resource utilization can be provided to these project responsible people (Planning). (15%)

• Problem Solving - the position will continuously monitor project related activities including timely release of work orders, test results and planning/tracking critical administrative tasks identified by the Project Manager/PI. If the Project Specialist identifies emerging or current issues, they will either take action to resolve the issue (i.e., remind responsible personnel of the requirement) or engage in escalation of the concern until the project problem has been successfully resolved. Examples include consulting with the project manager and then communicating to senior leadership what the issue was and what action will be taken as well as present impacts of these issues on the long-term trajectory of the project. The Specialist may also schedule a full project review with leadership to bring visibility to any emerging issues and leverage the leadership response to bring the project trajectory back on track. (25%)

• Additional Duties – other duties and assignments that are not specifically described within this job description may be assigned to the role as normal conduct of business and that are appropriate for the role. (10%)

This position is located at Coleraine Laboratory in Coleraine, MN


Required Qualifications:

• Bachelor’s degree in a technical or business-related field and four years of experience or advanced degree and two years of experience or a combination of related education and work experience to equal eight years.
• Understanding of complex process workflow.
• Previous experience collecting and reporting data and results from experimental work.

Preferred Qualifications:

• 3 or more years prior work experience in mineral/metallurgical processes and testing.
• NRRI Coleraine’s research labs have several environmental conditions to be aware of including high temperatures, noise, dust, moving equipment, etc. Technicians are required to use various types of personal protective equipment when performing certain tasks including hard hats, safety glasses, safety toed shoes, high visibility vests, dust masks.
• Employees should be able to stand/walk during the entire work shift and lift up to 75 lbs.

About the Department

Situated near Minnesota’s minerals and forestry resource-based industries, NRRI’s Coleraine Lab is a world-renowned center for minerals and biomass conversion and their connections to land, forest, and water resources. NRRI Coleraine possesses the facilities, equipment, and highly qualified staff to conduct applied research for private and public sector clients in Minnesota, North America and around the world. The lab has a wide range of equipment for conducting studies at both laboratory (grams/pounds) and pilot scales (tons). Laboratory and pilot scale capabilities include mineral characterization, mineral processing, metallurgy, and biomass conversion to energy and agronomic products.


Working at the University

At the University of Minnesota, you’ll find a flexible work environment and supportive colleagues who are interested in lifelong learning.  We prioritize work-life balance, allowing you to invest in the future of your career and in your life outside of work.

The University also offers a comprehensive benefits package that includes:

  • Competitive wages, paid holidays, and generous time off.
  • Continuous learning opportunities through professional training and degree-seeking programs supported by the Regents Scholarship.
  • Low-cost medical, dental, and pharmacy plans.
  • Healthcare and dependent care flexible spending accounts.
  • University HSA contributions.
  • Disability and employer-paid life insurance.
  • Employee wellbeing program.
  • Excellent retirement plans with employer contribution.
  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) opportunity.
  • Financial counseling services 
  • Employee Assistance Program with eight sessions of counseling at no cost.

Please visit the Office of Human Resources website for more information regarding benefits.

How To Apply

Job open date: 09/22/2022

Job closing date: open until filled

Applications must be submitted online. To apply for this position, go to  and search for job opening 351814. You will be given the opportunity to complete an online application and attach a resume and cover letter. Additional documents may be attached after submitting your application by accessing your "My Activities" page and uploading documents there.

Complete applications must include:                               

  1. Cover Letter
  2. Current Resume
  3. Contact information for three professional references
  4. Diversity Statement: Please provide a brief personal statement detailing your affirmative action, equal opportunity, and diversity philosophy. 

First submit the application with a cover letter and CV/resume.  Then return to the “My Activities” page to attach the additional documents.

Email application procedure questions to

To request an accommodation during the application process, please e-mail or call (612) 624-UOHR (8647). If you need a reasonable accommodation for any part of the application and hiring process, please contact a University of Minnesota Access Consultant at 612-624-3316.

If you have started receiving retirement annuity payments from the Minnesota State Retirement System (MSRS) or Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) your eligibility for this position may be impacted. Please contact OHR Benefits at 1-800-756-2363 for more information.

Veterans and individuals from underrepresented groups are encouraged to apply. The University of Minnesota is an Equal Opportunity Educator and Employer.

***Smoking and chewing tobacco and the use of electronic cigarettes is prohibited on all UMD property, including indoor facilities, campus grounds and University vehicles.***


The University recognizes and values the importance of diversity and inclusion in enriching the employment experience of its employees and in supporting the academic mission.  The University is committed to attracting and retaining employees with varying identities and backgrounds.

The University of Minnesota provides equal access to and opportunity in its programs, facilities, and employment without regard to race, color, creed, religion, national origin, gender, age, marital status, disability, public assistance status, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.  To learn more about diversity at the U:

Employment Requirements

Any offer of employment is contingent upon the successful completion of a background check. Our presumption is that prospective employees are eligible to work here. Criminal convictions do not automatically disqualify finalists from employment.

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