Postdoctoral Research Associate - Plant Systems Biology

Date: Nov 21, 2023

Location: Oak Ridge, TN, US, 37830

Company: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Requisition Id 9640 


Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) is the largest US Department of Energy science and energy laboratory, conducting basic and applied research to deliver solutions to compelling problems in energy and security. Our capabilities span a broad range of scientific and engineering disciplines, enabling the Laboratory to explore fundamental science challenges and to carry out the research needed to accelerate the delivery of solutions to the marketplace.The Biosciences Division ( of ORNL has an opening for a plant biologist (Postdoctoral Research Associate, Plant Systems Biology) to conduct basic research on plant genes and phenotypes that are foundational to developing sustainable biomass feedstocks. Selected applicant will join a team of diverse, cross-disciplinary scientific and technical staff working to characterize and understand the variation in stem and root properties of natural variant and transgenic poplar plants, study associated molecular pathways in bioenergy plants, and co-optimize above-belowground biomass chemistry and productivity traits using advanced genomic selection and synthetic biology approaches under the Center for Bioenergy Innovation (CBI) project. CBI is a U.S. DOE Office of Science supported Bioenergy research Center to accelerate domestication of bioenergy-relevant, non-model plants and microbes to enable high-impact innovations within the sustainable aviation fuels domain ( In this position, the postdoctoral researcher will work with interdisciplinary teams of plant, microbial, biomass characterization and conversion, decision science and computational scientists, across the tissue culture, greenhouse, and field scales, and contribute to the holistic understanding necessary for accelerated domestication of poplar as a sustainable bioenergy crop. This overall research approach is aimed at improving prediction of lab-to-field performance. Specific goal of your work is to understand and optimize the genetic component of above-belowground traits and will focus on conducting and analyzing experiments to co-assess structure, chemistry and function of poplar stem and root in natural variant and transgenic lines and enable design-test iterations for multi-gene engineering of above-belowground traits.  Specific research activities would include RNA isolation and library preparation, cloning, RNA-seq data analysis, phylogenetic analysis, synthetic biology construct generation using candidate genes, plant tissue culture and transformation, plant-microbial co-culture assays, plant propagation, stem, leaf and root phenotype characterization, data analysis and preparation of oral presentations and journal publications describing the results.


Recent relevant publications from the Plant Systems Biology group include Payyavula et al.  (2022) Plant Direct. 6 (8); York et al. (2022) Plant Phenome. 5: e20028. Kalluri et al. (2020) BioDesign Research. 7914051. Farahi et al (2020) ACS Omega 5, 6, 2594–2602; Labbé et al. (2019) Nature Plants 5: 676; Xie et al. (2018) Plant Cell 30: 1645; Zhang et al. (2018) New Phytologist 220: 502; Yang et al. (2017) Nature Communications 8: 1899.


Major Duties/Responsibilities: 

The Plant Systems Biology Group seeks to explore and understand the network of genes, proteins, metabolites, and environmental signals that lead to improved plant characteristics and performance. The selected candidate will be based in the plant systems biology group, which is undertaking broad, integrated approaches to enhance fundamental understanding of genetic controls of plant productivity, biomass quality and sustainability, and carbon sequestration using bioenergy-relevant plants. Major duties/responsibilities include:

  • Perform comparative genomics of variant lines and conduct expression assays
  • Measure variation in stem and root properties in lab and field settings
  • Generate and characterize transgenic plants, in collaboration with experts, to inform design-test iterations for multigene engineering 
  • Perform co-assessments of above- and belowground plant performance
  • Present research progress in project meetings and national/international conferences
  • Publish scientific results in peer-reviewed journals in a timely manner
  • Maintain detailed and accurate records
  • Acquire and analyze data in keeping with project scheduling
  • Ensure compliance with environmental, safety, health, and quality program requirements
  • Maintain strong dedication to the implementation and perpetuation of values and ethics


Basic Qualifications:

  • A Ph.D. in plant biology, biochemistry, molecular biology, genetics, physiology, or a related field completed within the last 5 years
  • Prior knowledge and demonstrated expertise in molecular, genetic, and biochemical characterizations of genes and pathways, and plant phenotypic characetrization


Preferred Qualifications:

  • Expertise with functional genomics or characterization of stem and/or root
  • Experience in root and/or stem genomics and phenomics in lab or field settings
  • Experience in plant transformation
  • Experience in plant-microbe co-cultures
  • Experience working with Populus plants
  • Effective writing and communication skills with a strong publication record
  • Desire to work both independently and collaboratively as part of a multidisciplinary team


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 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


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.


Moving can be overwhelming and expensive. UT-Battelle offers a generous relocation package to ease the transition process. Domestic and international relocation assistance is available for certain positions. If invited to interview, be sure to ask your Recruiter (Talent Acquisition Partner) for details.

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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.

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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.

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