Assistant Scientist (Research Engagement)

Urbana-Champaign, IL, United States
Position Type: 
Organization Type: 
University/Academia/Research/Think tank
Experience Level: 
10+ Years
Degree Required: 
Bachelor's (Or Equivalent)


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The Illinois State Water Survey (ISWS) is part of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which is centrally located between Chicago, St. Louis, and Indianapolis. Our research and service programs provide citizens, industries, and government agencies at all levels with timely, science-based information and analyses necessary to manage our water resources wisely for economic development and a sustainable environment.   Learn more at

The primary function of this position is to lead community engagement for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Risk Mapping, Assessment, and Planning (Risk MAP) grants and other projects as assigned within the Coordinated Hazard Assessment and Mapping Program (CHAMP).  Formulate resolutions to technical comments and appeals to regulatory and other products. Perform legal due process functions for regulatory products for both the CHAMP digital map production and the map revision programs.

The University of Illinois is an Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action employer.  Minorities, women, veterans, and individuals with disabilities are encourages to apply.  For more information, visit http://go.illinois.eud/EEO. To learn more about the University’s commitment to diversity, please visit

Major Duties and Responsibilities:

Research - Engagement -40%  

  • Manage community engagement for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Risk Mapping, Assessment, and Planning (Risk MAP) grants and others as assigned within the Coordinated Hazard Assessment and Mapping Program (CHAMP) including oversight of budgeting, planning, scheduling, presenting, and communicating project status to stakeholders, staff, and leadership.
  • Direct community engagement meetings, develop and deliver presentations.
  • Oversee tasks necessary to meet strict standards and deadlines for FEMA, Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs), Flood Insurance Study (FIS) reports, and the project Summary of Map Actions (SOMA).
  • Coordinate with FEMA Region V and FEMA Headquarters to ensure approval of required Key Decision Point (KDP) submittals for multiple project phases.
  • Coordinate distribution of National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) preliminary products: FIRM, FIS report, and SOMA to communities.
  • Monitor updates to FEMA Standards, Technical References, and Guidance Documents and provide review comments on behalf of CHAMP; train staff on new protocols and documentation.
  • Assess and respond to technical mapping and NFIP administrative questions from the public, community representatives, consulting engineers, Illinois Department of Natural Resources - Office of Water Resources (IDNR-OWR) staff, and other federal, state, and local agencies.
  • Oversee the Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA) revalidation process at the conclusion of each project.
  • Provide cost estimates and parameters for preparation of proposals.
  • Supervise assigned full-time and hourly staff; this includes task assignment, scheduling, ongoing performance monitoring and evaluation, career/position mentoring, and leave/travel coordination.
  • Provide relational database design specifications for database establishment and functional enhancements; and oversee the maintenance of data and contact information.

Research – Resolution- 30% 

  • Formulate resolutions to technical comments and appeals; and prepare resolutions packages, including letters, data spreadsheets, Hydrologic and Hydraulic (H&H) reports, and other scientific analysis as applicable for distribution to communities and appellants.
  • Coordinate with CHAMP Engineers and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) staff to resolve technical comments and appeals.
  • Request, analyze, and catalog data from communities and other project partners; and disseminate study results and information through required publications.
  • Prepare FEMA correspondence for review and signature.?

Research – Legal 20%

  • Perform legal due process functions for regulatory products for both the CHAMP digital map production and the map revision programs.  Ensure processes, methods, and communications comply with National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) policy as stated in Title 44 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), sections 59 through 80 and FEMA Policy Standards for Flood Risk Analysis and Mapping FEMA Policy #FP 204-078-1 (as revised).
  • Develop and maintain Flood Elevation Determination Docket (FEDD) files for all project phases.
  • Prepare legal notices and coordinate publication in local newspapers.
  • Prepare Flood Hazard Determination (FHD) notices and coordinate publication in the Federal Register.
  • Develop and implement Quality Assurance (QA) and Quality Control (QC) plans for all regulatory correspondence.
  • Perform completeness and consistency checks for Letter of Map Revision (LOMR) Determination Documents prepared by engineers.

Research – Initiatives - 5% 

  • Develop engagement initiatives through collaboration with U of I Extension and other agencies to support efforts to inform state and local government officials and the public about flood hazards and alternatives for mitigating risk with the ultimate goals of saving lives, reducing property loss, and minimizing economic disruption.

Professional Development – 5%

  • Registration as a Certified Floodplain Manager (CFM) is required to maintain position.
  • Attend training and professional conferences to remain current on information, technologies, and processes.
  • Travel, including overnight for multiple days, to deliver presentations at professional conferences and meetings
  • Continue education to develop or enhance skills sets related to project tasks, processes, and management.
  • Continue education to develop or enhance leadership skills to further career progression.
  • Keep abreast of developments in this discipline
  • Perform other duties as needed in order to further the mission and goals of PRI.

Position Requirements and Qualifications:


Required:  BS/BA degree in field related to natural resources. Alternate degree fields will be considered/accepted depending on the nature and depth of the experience as it relates to this position.

Preferred: BS/BA degree or higher in water resources.


Required:  A minimum of fifteen years of progressive work in water resources and public engagement.  A minimum of ten years of experience with FEMA guidelines and projects.  Experience with communications related to floodplain management.  Project management experience.  Supervisory experience.

Preferred:  Experience with relational databases. Training or teaching experience.

Training, Licenses or Certifications

Required:  Valid Driver’s License.  Certified Floodplain Manager (CFM). Completion of training to perform LOMR Quality Reviews on behalf of FEMA.

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities

Required:  Proficiency with the FEMA FIRM, FIS, SOMA, Standards & Guidelines, and statutory procedures.  Proficiency with FEMA’s Mapping Information Platform (MIP) and Community Information System (CIS) databases.  Proficiency with commonly employed software (e.g. MS Word, Excel).  Demonstrated ability to perform with a professional demeanor in a diverse and fast-paced work environment consisting of multiple and changing priorities, under minimal supervision.  Demonstrated ability to perform detail oriented functions.  Effective personal relations, communication, organizational, and leadership skills.

This is a regular full-time academic professional appointment, renewable annually based upon satisfactory progress in the position and continued funding. The starting date is negotiable and salary is commensurate with experience and skills.

Please complete your candidate profile at  and upload a cover letter, CV/resume, and the names and contact information (including e-mail addresses) for three professional references by February 5, 2019.  Interviews may be conducted before the closing date; however, no hiring decision will be made until after the closing date.  All requested information must be submitted for your application to be considered.  Incomplete applications will not be reviewed.

For further information, please contact Megan Weeks at  " target="_blank">  or 217-244-4768.

The University of Illinois conducts criminal background checks on all job candidates upon acceptance of a contingent offer.