Postdoctoral Research Associate - Engineered Habitats for Plant-Microbe Interfaces

Date: Sep 9, 2023

Location: Oak Ridge, TN, US, 37830

Company: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Requisition Id 11370 


As a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science national laboratory, ORNL has an extraordinary 80-year history of solving the nation’s biggest problems. We have a dedicated and creative staff of over 6,000 people! Our vision for diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) is to cultivate an environment and practices that foster diversity in ideas and in the people across the organization, as well as to ensure ORNL is recognized as a workplace of choice. These elements are critical for enabling the execution of ORNL’s broader mission to accelerate scientific discoveries and their translation into energy, environment, and security solutions for the nation.


We are seeking a Postdoctoral Research Associate who will support the Plant-Microbe Interfaces (PMI) Scientific Focus Area (, Molecular and Cellular Imaging Group in the Biosciences Division, Biological and Environmental System Sciences Directorate (BESSED) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).


A major focus of the PMI project is to gain a deeper understanding of the diversity and functioning of mutually beneficial interactions between plants and microbes.  Plants are host to a diverse microbial community that resides within and on plant tissues. A key research emphasis within the project is on understanding the metabolic and molecular mechanisms underlying plant-microbe and microbe-microbe interactions in these complex ecosystems. To support this effort, an interdisciplinary group focuses on microbial isolation from rhizosphere samples, physiological characterization, image analysis, comparative genomics, plant-microbe model system development and experimentation for understanding physical and molecular mechanisms of microbe-microbe and plant-microbe interactions that influence microbial community structure and host plant physiology and phenotypes. 


A major thrust in this work is to visualize and quantify the dynamic evolution of the host, its associated microbial communities, and the local physical and chemical environment in which these complex changes occur.  The post-doctoral research associate will focus on continuing the development of microfluidic, 3D-printed and rhizotron platforms that will enable real-time imaging and chemical sampling of developing multi-kingdom systems. 


Work will be conducted within a highly interdisciplinary environment to create engineered habitats that enable high throughput phenotyping and advanced multimodal imaging of biological systems and soft materials.  Your work will combine micro- and nanofabrication, microfluidic assembly, imaging, and cell biology. 


Major Duties/Responsibilities: 

  • Conduct collaborative scientific research using constructed microbial communities and monitor host and community development using optical microscopy and quantitative image analysis.
  • Lead and contribute to the preparation of scientific manuscripts.
  • Present research findings at national and international scientific meetings.
  • Work independently to support interdisciplinary research efforts within the Plant-Microbe Interfaces project.
  • Deliver ORNL’s mission by aligning behaviors, priorities, and interactions with our core values of Impact, Integrity, Teamwork, Safety, and Service. Promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility by fostering a respectful workplace – in how we treat one another, work together, and measure success.


Basic Qualifications:

  • A PhD in Microbiology, Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering, or a related field completed within the last 5 years
  • Demonstrated expertise working with a breadth of micro- and nanofabrication techniques and/or 3D printing technologies to shape inorganic materials and fluidic platforms to effectively interface with and control biological systems.


Preferred Qualifications:

  • Demonstrated expertise in one or more of the following areas is desirable: microbiology, plant-microbe interactions, microfluidics and microfabrication, image analysis. 
  • Experience with fabrication techniques that include photolithography, electron beam lithography, reactive ion etching, physical and chemical vapor deposition and atomic layer deposition processes.
  • Experience with optical microscopy, scanning probe microscopy, and associated image analysis techniques.
  • Demonstrated experience working with biological systems in one or more of the following areas: microbial physiology, micro- and molecular biology, plant-microbe interactions, plant physiology, fungal biology, and/or mammalian cell biology. 
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills
  • Motivated self-starter with the ability to work independently and to participate creatively in collaborative teams across the laboratory 
  • Ability to function well in a fast-paced research environment, set priorities to accomplish multiple tasks within deadlines, and adapt to ever changing needs


Applicants cannot have received their Ph.D. more than five years prior to the date of application and must complete all degree requirements before starting their appointment. The appointment length will be for up to 24 months with the potential for extension. Initial appointments and extensions are subject to performance and the availability of funding.


Please submit three letters of reference when applying to this position. You can upload these directly to your application or have them sent to with the position title and number referenced in the subject line.


Instructions to upload documents to your candidate profile:

  • Login to your account via
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  • Under the My Documents section, select Add a Document


Benefits at ORNL:  

ORNL offers competitive pay and benefits programs to attract and retain talented people. The laboratory offers many employee benefits, including medical and retirement plans and flexible work hours, to help you and your family live happy and healthy. Employee amenities such as on-site fitness, banking, and cafeteria facilities are also provided for convenience.


Other benefits include: Prescription Drug Plan, Dental Plan, Vision Plan, 401(k) Retirement Plan, Life Insurance, Pet Insurance, Generous Vacation and Holidays, Parental Leave, Legal Insurance with Identity Theft Protection, Employee Assistance Plan, Flexible Spending Accounts, Health Savings Accounts, Wellness Programs, Educational Assistance, Relocation Assistance, and Employee Discounts.


If you have difficulty using the online application system or need an accommodation to apply due to a disability, please email: or call 1.866.963.9545.




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.

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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