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Postdoctoral Research Associate - Biology - 50324
University of Washington in Seattle, Washington
Date Posted 01/30/2021
Admin-Laboratory and Research
Employment Type FullTime
Application Deadline Open until filled

Job Type/Schedule

This position is full-time and works approximately 37.5 hours per week. 

Department Name/Job Location

This position is in the Department of Biology.  This position is for the Danforth Campus in the School of Arts & Sciences.

Essential Functions


Two Postdoctoral Research Associate positions are available immediately to study autophagy and its roles in growth and development, nutrient recycling, and maintenance of protein homeostasis.  It is now becoming clear that autophagy is a major player in the selective turnover of individual proteins, protein complexes, protein aggregates, organelles and even invading pathogens, and is essential for cellular proteostasis.  Using yeast, Arabidopsis and maize as tractable genetic and biochemical models, the Vierstra lab is attempting to define the mechanisms that drive selective autophagy and understand how this process influences an organism’s proteome during development and under nutrient-rich and starvation conditions, using a suite of omics approaches including mass spectrometric methods to globally interrogate changes in the proteome of an organism.

The goal of an NIH-funded project is to understand selective autophagy using a novel collection of autophagy receptors we recently discovered that employ an ATG8-binding UIM domain to tether substrates to enveloping autophagic vesicles.  Two important targets of these UIM receptors are proteasomes and CDC48/p97, that become substrates for autophagy upon chemical inhibition or genetic inactivation.  Turnover of proteasomes (proteaphagy) is of particular interest as its degradation is regulated by a series of ubiquitylation events and involves at least two types of biomolecular condenstates before deposition of proteasomes into vacuoles/lysosomes for degradation.  As the CDC48/p97 mutations that initiate autophagic clearance have been linked to a variety of neuropathogies, understanding this turnover has medical relevance.  The second NSF-funded project involves exploiting metabolomic, proteomic, transcriptome and ionomic analyses on a collection of maize atg mutants impacting various steps in autophagy to understand how this system regulates intracellular recycling and helps avoid proteotoxic stress.  Central to this work is an in-house ThermoFischer Q-Exactive-Plus mass spectrometer that enables deep proteomic analyses at a quantitative level to provide overviews of how proteomes are affected and adjust to defects in autophagy.

For more background on these topics and information about experimental approaches, see recent papers.  The series of Marshall et al. (2015) Mol. Cell; Marshall et al. (2016) Cell Rep., Marshall and Vierstra (2018) eLife; Marshall et al. (2019) Cell; and Marshal & Vierstra (2020) Front. Mol. Biosci.) papers provide a background on the UIM-based autophagic system for proteasome and CDC48/p97 turnover.  For the omics work and other studies on autophagy in plants, see papers by Li et al. (2015) Plant Cell; McLoughlin et al. (2018) Nat. Plants; Liu et al. (2018) Front. Plant Sci.; Huang et al. (2020) Plant Cell; McLoughlin et al. (2019) Plant Cell; Liu et al., (2020) Plant Cell; and Zhang et al. (2020) eLife)  A general review on the topic is provided by Marshall and Vierstra (2018) Annu. Rev. Plant Biol.  These projects not only offer exciting science, but also the ability to become proficient in modern proteomic and genetic approaches and network analysis. Funding is for up to two years with additional years possible.  

Washington University in St. Louis is a center of excellence in all aspects of biology with a special emphasis on plant science, and includes modern facilities and instrumentation necessary for the proposed work.  In addition, the Washington University Medical School, the Danforth Plant Science Center and companies, such as Bayer Crop Sciences are nearby, making St. Louis an attractive place to do research with an abundance of technical expertise available.  St. Louis is a diverse community which boasts an attractive living environment with numerous cultural, sporting and recreational activities close by.


  • Research Duties:
    • Design, set up, and perform experiments related to understanding how autophagy regulates eukaryotic development, provide protection against nutritional stress, and direct intracellular recycling at the molecular level.  Propose new directions and possible next steps.  Coordinate efforts among concurrent experiments.  Collect data and perform analysis. Ensure the continuity of our germplasm, lab strains, and experimental colonies.
    • Prepare scientific data and manuscripts for publication.
    • Help prepare grant proposals to support the research.
    • Attend and present research progress at national and/or international meetings on the topics.
  • Lab Management:
    • Promote discussion among laboratory members, implement changes to protocols.  This will require adaptation and development of new protocols as the research progresses. 
    • Train and manage undergraduates and graduate students in conducting the research.
    • Quality control: Help oversee all autophagy-related projects and enforce the highest standards of quality and research conduct.
  • Data Management: 
    • Produce and maintain lab notebooks and ensure periodic back up of all data.  
    • Maintain and organize the collection of germplasm and stock cultures affecting various autophagy components, reporters and substrates.
    • Maintain and organize the extensive proteomic datasets generated from the mass spectrometric studies.

    Required Qualifications

    Ph.D. degree in biology.  

    Preferred Qualifications

    • Ph.D. degree in biochemistry, genetics, molecular biology, or related fields. 
    • Excellent organizational and data management skills. 
    • Attention to detail. 
    • Proficiency with computers.
    • Experience with various molecular and genetic techniques in yeast and/or plants, and a broad background with maize is helpful for the NSF-funded position.
    • Experience with proteomic approaches involving mass spectrometry and NexGen sequencing, and an understanding of the basic statistical and data analyses associated with these large datasets are also advantageous.
    • Experience with recombinant DNA methods, expressing proteins in various expression systems, protein purification, and experience with NextGen Sequencing methods are helpful.
    • If needed, successful candidate will be trained in mass spectrometry and other proteomic-based approaches.
    • Ability to work well within a group, and to handle multiple concurrent assignments.
    • Broad background in biochemistry and genetics.   

    Salary Range

    Base pay commensurate with experience.

    Pre-Employment Screening

    All external candidates receiving an offer for employment will be required to submit to pre-employment screening for this position. Current employees applying for a new position within the university may be subject to this requirement. The screenings will include a criminal background check and, as applicable for the position, other background checks, drug screen, employment and education or licensure/certification verification, physical examination, certain vaccinations and/or governmental registry checks. All offers are contingent upon successful completion of required screening.


    This position is eligible for full-time benefits.  Please click the following link to view a summary of benefits:  https://hr.wustl.edu/benefits/ .

    Applicant Special Instructions

    After submitting your application, please also mail or email your resume, copies of relevant publications, a cover letter detailing research experience, and a list of three scientists (preferably faculty) that can provide letters of recommendation to:

    Dr. Richard D. Vierstra
    George and Charmaine Mallinckrodt Professor
    Department of Biology
    Washington University in St. Louis
    One Brookings Drive
    St. Louis, MO 63130

    EOE Statement

    Washington University is an Equal Opportunity Employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, genetic information, disability, or protected veteran status.

    *Please mention academicjobs.net to employers when applying for this job*
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