Share this Job

Assistant Technician, Earth Systems Science

Date: Jan 9, 2021

Location: Oak Ridge, TN, US, 37831

Company: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Requisition Id 4511 


The Earth Systems Science section (ESS) within the Environmental Sciences Division (ESD),, at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL),, is seeking a highly motivated individual to provide laboratory and field support for several existing projects associated with ORNL’s Climate Change Science Institute. A common goal throughout the research performed by our team is using environmental field data to inform Earth System Models that represent the cycling of carbon, water, and nutrients within these changing ecosystems. Our team collects and processes a variety of soil, plant, and water samples using a wide array of analytical chemistry methods and equipment. We are looking for someone to support our team by running analytical machines, managing data processing and archiving, helping with occasional field campaigns, and maintaining a productive, clean, and safe laboratory environment. This will be a full-time research staff position with potential for scientific growth and career advancement for a creative and highly motivated individual. The selected candidate will join the Plant-Soil Interactions group and be supervised by Dr. Colleen Iversen.


ESD is an interdisciplinary research and development organization with more than 60 years of achievement in local, regional, national, and international environmental research. Our vision is to expand scientific knowledge and develop innovative strategies and technologies that will strengthen the nation’s leadership in creating solutions to help sustain the Earth’s natural resources. Our scientists conduct research, develop technology, and perform analyses to understand and assess responses of environmental systems at the environment-human interface and the consequences of alternative energy and environmental strategies.


The ESS section is world-renowned for large-scale experimental manipulations and is currently leading the US DOE flagship ‘Spruce and Peatland Responses Under Changing Environments’ (SPRUCE) field experiment ESD staff also lead the Next Generation Ecosystem Experiment (NGEE) Arctic project, and we are an integral partner in the NGEE Tropics research program


Major Duties/Responsibilities

The successful candidate will be responsible for running samples on a solid-phase IRMS δ13C and δ15N (Thermo Fisher Delta V Advantage Mass Spectrometer/ EA Flash Isolink), a Lachat Autoanalyzer for nutrient concentrations, an elemental analyzer for carbon and nitrogen concentrations in solid samples (Costech), and Licor portable photosynthesis machines (Li-6400, Li-6800). Laboratory activities will include sample preparation and data processing as well as equipment maintenance, calibration, and troubleshooting. In addition to working with analytical machines, the candidate would be required to undertake preparation of plant and soil samples, notably that of fine roots (sample grinding, weighing, sorting, cleaning, etc). Working within ORNL facilities requires strict adherence to safety protocols so duties will also include writing up protocols, maintaining chemical inventories, and communicating with parties across our large and interdisciplinary organization. Responsibilities would also include training newcomers to the group on protocols and analytical equipment and maintaining comprehensive in-house protocols.


Two to three times a year, trips to field sites ranging from Minnesota to Alaska to Puerto Rico to Brazil may be required to collect new samples and data. During field campaigns, team members often work long hours and occasionally share housing: a strong work ethic and interest in natural ecosystems can make these challenging trips rewarding for the right individual. Field conditions can be unpredictable and strenuous: inclement weather, manual labor, insects, and unforeseen logistical challenges often prevail. Travel for field campaigns is expected to take up roughly 1 month/year.


Required Qualifications

The successful candidate will have a BS/BA in a chemistry, geology, biology or a related environmental field. General knowledge of, or experience with, infrared mass spectrometry equipment is required. Research experience in a laboratory setting is necessary, willingness to participate in field research at remote locations is desired. Field experience is not required. The candidate must have excellent communication skills, be dependable, willing to learn, and interested in taking advanced training classes offsite. Familiarity with data processing in R is strongly preferred. The candidate must be able to travel for 1-2 weeks at a time, spend time in remote locations, and perform physically demanding tasks outdoors.


Work will involve various physical requirements and certain working conditions and as such a post offer, pre-hire physical will be required.


The candidate must hold a current, valid driver’s license and be able to pass a background check.


Desired Qualifications:

  • The ideal candidate will have a commitment to teamwork, continuous learning, a desire to improve the efficiency of everyday tasks, and a personal investment in accuracy, reproducible science, and data documentation and management.
  • Ability to thrive within a collaborative, team environment
  • Familiarity with ecosystem ecology methodology – plant and soil collection in the field and physical and chemical processing in the laboratory
  • Basic knowledge of a programming language (R, python, etc.)
  • Experience with analytical chemistry methods and equipment
  • Ability to archive and organize raw and processed data in a variety of formats
  • Interest and ability to perform field work in remote locations
  • Personal experience communicating technical information in a concise and clear manner


Additional Information:

  1. Colleen Iversen:
  2. Plant-Soil Interactions group:
  3. Biological and Environmental Systems Science Directorate:
  4. Oak Ridge National Laboratory Climate Change Science Institute (CCSI):


This position will remain open for a minimum of 5 days after which it will close when a qualified candidate is identified and/or hired.

We accept Word (.doc, .docx), Adobe (unsecured .pdf), Rich Text Format (.rtf), and HTML (.htm, .html) up to 5MB in size. Resumes from third party vendors will not be accepted; these resumes will be deleted and the candidates submitted will not be considered for employment.

If you have trouble applying for a position, please email

ORNL is an equal opportunity employer. All qualified applicants, including individuals with disabilities and protected veterans, are encouraged to apply.  UT-Battelle is an E-Verify employer.

Nearest Major Market: Knoxville