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Postdoctoral Fellow in Microbial Ecology, Plant and Soil Sciences - Davis College
West Virginia University in Morgantown, West Virginia
Date Posted 12/13/2021
Employment Type Fulltime
Application Deadline Open until filled

Postdoctoral Fellow in Microbial Ecology, Plant and Soil Sciences - Davis College

Posting Classification: Research Corporation
Exemption Status: Exempt
Benefits Eligible: Yes
Schedule: Full-time

Full Job Description

The Morrissey Lab at West Virginia University (WVU) in the Division of Plant and Soil Sciences (http://morrisseyem.wixsite.com/morrisseywvu) is seeking applications for a Postdoctoral Scholar in Microbial Ecology. This position will work on multiple federally funded research projects using stable isotope probing and omic’s techniques to understand how microbial community composition relates to soil carbon cycling in natural and human-impacted ecosystems. Research in the Morrissey Lab seeks to understand how soil, the second largest reservoir of carbon on earth, will respond to climate change. We use a microbial lens to develop and test frameworks on the extent to which climate shifts alter the functioning and diversity of soil microorganisms that control the stabilization and decomposition of soil carbon. We then use this empirical data to inform ecosystem models to predict climate driven microbial feedbacks on soil C cycling. The Postdoctoral Scholar will link the identity and traits of microbes with the dominant soil C substrate they consume ranging from simple sugars to complex plant and microbial debris. The Postdoctoral Scholar will use cutting edge techniques to determine which microorganisms consume key types of soil carbon and how the distribution of these microbes varies across distinct regions, climates, and soil types. These data will be used to develop microbial functional groups based on substrate preference in an ecosystem model. Applicants experienced with metagenomics, metatranscriptomics, ecosystem modeling, and/or stable isotope probing are particularly encouraged to apply. The incumbent will join a vibrant and collaborative research group with six PhD students and the opportunity to mentor undergraduates in the Morrissey Lab. In addition, our strong collaboration with the Brzostek Lab in the Department of Biology at WVU allows us to feed our data into ecosystem models.

This is a two-year position with the potential for extension depending upon performance and the availability of funding. The postdoctoral scholar in this position will be able to respond to inquiries and independently resolves matters of moderate to high complexity. Responsibilities require judgment, resourcefulness, and originality, but guidance will be provided through mentoring by principal investigators.

Duties & Responsibilities
Responsibilities are functional in nature and performed under general supervision. Specific tasks include, but are not limited to:

  • Design and conduct field and laboratory research.
  • Processing and analysis of research samples by performing molecular and biogeochemical analyses.
  • Processing and analysis of research samples by performing tasks such as DNA extraction, ultracentrifugation, and polymerase chain reaction (PCR).
  • Analyze data and interpret results, perform statistical tests.
  • Communicate research results by writing scientific manuscripts and presenting at conferences.

Supervisory/Lead Role
This position reports to the Principal Investigator (PI). Normally receives minimal instructions on routine work, and general instructions on new assignments. Supervision of others is not required; however, sharing of knowledge with others and team participation is expected in the role. Program, project or activity lead responsibilities will occur or be assigned in this position.

Physical Demands
Activities require manual skill to perform accurate sampling, operate computer, equipment and measuring devices; lifting and carrying objects up to 30 lbs; standing/sitting by the bench, walking back and forth from laboratory to office and in the field for transporting samples, which can be a medium distance, traversing field, stairs and/or using elevators. Good hand-eye-coordination, precision of movements, and attention to detail is required.

Work Environment
Work will be performed predominantly indoors in a standard laboratory environment including using computers and laboratory equipment with electrical connections; and minimally outdoors with exposure to varied temperature and atmospheric conditions (fumes, odors, mists, dusts, dirt) and animals. Protective measures will be provided.

Education and/or Experience

  • PhD, or successful defense of a PhD dissertation, in biology, microbiology, environmental sciences, or a related discipline.
  • 0 - 6 months Laboratory experience related to biological research.

Skills, Knowledge, & Abilities

  • Demonstrated ability to perform genetic laboratory techniques, such as DNA extraction and PCR.
  • Demonstrated knowledge of genetic principles and concepts
  • Demonstrated ability to analyze data, write effectively, and present results of scientific studies.
  • Ability to read and interpret documents such as scientific literature, safety rules, operating and maintenance instructions, and procedure manuals.
  • Demonstrated ability to operate a personal computer utilizing Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, and Power Point) and other software applications for reports, graphs, mailings and presentation development.
  • Demonstrated ability in scientific writing and presentation of research results.
  • Thorough knowledge of proper English, grammar, spelling, punctuation, and sentence structure.
  • Ability to speak effectively before groups of employees of the organization.
  • Demonstrated ability to perform statistical analysis.
  • Excellent organizational skills and a thorough knowledge of general office methods, procedures, and practices.
  • Ability to set, coordinate, and plan schedules, work independently, and collect, organize, and analyze information. Must have the ability to independently set priorities in a logical and efficient manner.
  • Ability to coordinate different tasks, determine relative importance of each, set deadlines, and complete projects in a timely manner and within set guidelines.

Behavioral Competencies

  • Technical skills – Strives to continuously build knowledge and skills; pursues training and development opportunities; assess strengths, weaknesses, and shares expertise with others.
  • Problem solving – Gathers and analyzes information, identifies problems, develops alternatives, uses reason even when dealing with emotional topics and works well in groups and resolves matters timely.
  • Communications – Demonstrates group presentation skills, participates in meetings, listens and gets clarification, is responsive and speaks clearly and persuasively in positive and negative situations. Writes and edits clearly and informatively, varies style to meet needs, presents numerical data effectively, and able to read and interpret written information.
  • Organizational Support – Aligns work and develops strategies to meet organizational goals; seeks to improve and promote quality; demonstrates accuracy and thoroughness; and upholds organizational expectations and values.
  • Self-Management – Responds to management direction; resourcefully adapts to changes in work environment and circumstances; responds well under pressure and manages competing demands; takes calculated risks, asks for and offers help when needed; exercise discretion and sound judgment; is tactful and responsible for own actions. Adheres to work schedule and complies with leave management responsibilities.

Preferred Qualifications & Credentials:
Education and/or Experience

  • PhD, or successful defense of a PhD dissertation in environmental microbiology, ecology, ecosystem science, biogeochemistry or related discipline.
  • Demonstrated ability with analysis of metagenomic or metatranscriptomic studies of environmental microbial communities.


  • Resume or Curriculum Vitae.
  • Letter of Interest.

About Research Corporation

West Virginia University Research Corporation is proud to be an Equal Opportunity employer. West Virginia University Research Corporation values diversity among its employees and invites applications from all qualified applicants regardless of race, ethnicity, color, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, nationality, genetics, disability, or Veteran status.

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