Careers at UMass Amherst

Post Doctoral Research Associate - Molecular Microbial Ecology

Apply now Job no: 518000
Work type: Post Doc (Amherst Only)
Location: UMass Amherst
Department: Microbiology
Union: Post Doc
Categories: Postdoctoral Research Associate, Research, College of Natural Sciences

About UMass Amherst

UMass Amherst, the Commonwealth's flagship campus, is a nationally ranked public research university offering a full range of undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. The University sits on nearly 1,450-acres in the scenic Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts, and offers a rich cultural environment in a bucolic setting close to major urban centers. In addition, the University is part of the Five Colleges (including Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, and Smith College), which adds to the intellectual energy of the region.


Job Summary

This position is a full-time postdoctoral researcher position in the UMass Molecular Microbial Ecology Lab, with the intention of studying the microbial traits associated with growth and resource acquisition from necromass biomolecules in soils and soil communities. Our long-term goal is to better predict necromass persistence. Persistent SOM promotes soil health and limits soil greenhouse gas emissions. Understanding the mechanisms of SOM formation and persistence will improve climate forecasting and soil regeneration and management efforts. The work that this candidate conducts will, for the first time, separately query the major necromass biomolecules carbohydrates, lipids, nucleic acids and proteins, with integrated microbial genetic, metabolic, genomic, and trait-based insights into the controls of necromass persistence.

The candidate will lead a lab incubation experiment using model soils and collect and analyze data including total C mineralized to CO2, microbial biomass, mineral associated organic matter, and necromass to quantify the relative contribution of clays and pore sizes in microbial growth. They will also perform metabarcoding and metagenomics to reveal the microbial communities and metabolisms that form on different necromass, and 18O-water stable isotope probing (SIP) metaproteomics (Protein-SIP) will reveal traits associated with necromass biomolecule decomposition under varying nutrient bioavailabilities. This work will require work with multivariate statistics and bioinformatics, and the candidate will be expected to lead the development of the data analysis and synthesis.

The candidate’s work is part of a collaborative effort, and they will have the opportunity to advise on cutting edge soil metaproteomics and Protein-SIP analyses to define microbial carbon transformations, including localization of processes in a secretome analysis. Key innovations in our work will also include enzyme kinetics specific to soil carbohydrate, lipid, nucleic acid and protein degradation, and sorption analyses to differentiate biotic versus abiotic routes to organic matter mineral associations. The candidate will also advise our modeling collaborators on incorporating these elements into ecosystem models.


Essential Functions

Examples of duties:

  • Define the mineral characteristics and microbial traits that drive necromass decomposition using laboratory model soil microcosms.
  • Author manuscripts and reports based on research conducted, with extensive feedback on writing from the PI and other lab members, as well as contribute code to lab github.
  • Mentor undergraduate students, masters students, and graduate students informally as well as formally by guiding them in their research and professional development.
  • Contribute to positive and enriching lab culture, including participating in journal clubs and group meetings, contributing to in person and online conversations on lab Slack, and model professional skills including courage, persistence, and collaboration.


Other Functions

  • Work collaboratively and effectively to promote teamwork, diversity, equality and inclusiveness. 
  • Work in partnership with colleagues within the CNS community and across the campus to support the Dean’s strategic priorities.
  • Perform other duties as assigned in support of the mission and goals of the College of Natural Sciences.


Minimum Qualifications (Knowledge, Skills, Abilities, Education, Experience, Certifications, Licensure)

  • Ph.D. in Microbiology, Microbial Ecology, or a related field.
  • Proficiency in statistics and bioinformatics with knowledge of at least one programming language which should include R.
  • Expertise in molecular techniques including DNA or RNA sequencing and molecular microbial ecology such as metagenomics or transcriptomics data analysis.


Work Schedule

  • Generally, work should be conducted between the hours of 9am and 5pm, Monday – Friday, to ensure a sense of community and collaboration between lab members. However, schedule can be flexible and sometimes may need to be depending on the demands of the research.


Salary Information

  • Salary $52,024; commensurate upon experience.


Special Instructions to Applicants

Along with the application, please submit a resume, cover letter and contact information for three (3) professional references. The search will remain open until a suitable candidate has been identified.

As part of a commitment to their own multicultural community, we seek an individual with a demonstrated commitment to diversity and one who will understand and embrace university initiatives and aspirations. (


UMass Amherst is committed to a policy of equal opportunity without regard to race, color, religion, gender, gender identity or expression, age, sexual orientation, national origin, ancestry, disability, military status, or genetic information in employment, admission to and participation in academic programs, activities, and services, and the selection of vendors who provide services or products to the University.  To fulfill that policy, UMass Amherst is further committed to a program of affirmative action to eliminate or mitigate artificial barriers and to increase opportunities for the recruitment and advancement of qualified minorities, women, persons with disabilities, and covered veterans.  It is the policy of the UMass Amherst to comply with the applicable federal and state statutes, rules, and regulations concerning equal opportunity and affirmative action.

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