Postdoctoral Research Associate - Synthetic Organic and Polymer Chemist

Date: Aug 29, 2023

Location: Oak Ridge, TN, US, 37830

Company: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Requisition Id 11254 


Oak Ridge National Laboratory is the largest US Department of Energy (DOE) science and energy laboratory, conducting basic and applied research to deliver transformative solutions to compelling problems in energy and security. 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. With a dedicated and creative staff of over 6,000 people, ORNL’s decadal 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 focus on the synthesis of oligoamide and other bioinspired building blocks to study enzymatic polymerization and depolymerization of polymeric materials and ultimately unravel how polymer sequence influences polymer thermomechanical properties. This position resides in the Soft Materials and Membranes Group in the Chemical Sciences Division (CSD), Physical Sciences Directorate (PSD) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). Oak Ridge National Laboratory is the largest US Department of Energy Office of Science national laboratory, conducting basic and applied research to deliver transformative solutions to compelling problems in energy and security.


The research will focus on developing synthetic routes to access polyamide oligomers including dimers, trimers, tetramers, and higher oligomers to support collaborative efforts on enzyme engineering, which aims to polymerize and depolymerize commodity plastics such as Nylons and aliphatic polyesters. This Laboratory Directed Research and Development project will involve organic synthesis and the development of novel synthetic pathways, step-growth and/or ring-opening polymerization of the synthesized building blocks, and thermomechanical characterization of the resulting polymer materials. In this position, the postdoc will work as part of an interdisciplinary ‘Design-Build-Test-Learn’ team engineering enzymes for materials science goals. The postdoc is expected to lead the efforts on a polymer synthesis use case while integrating with technical support staff and expert collaborators in biochemistry, machine learning, structural biology, and analytical chemistry. They will also design and execute laboratory experiments, analyze quantitative data, write, and communicate results to the scientific community.


Major Duties/Responsibilities: 

  • Synthesize oligoamide oligomers, aliphatic hydroxy acids, and macrolactones
  • Synthesize polymers by step-growth and ring-opening polymerization
  • Characterize polymer mechanical and viscoelastic properties
  • Publish scientific results in peer-reviewed journals in a timely manner
  • Present research results at national scientific meetings
  • Ensure compliance with environment, safety, health, and quality program requirements
  • Take a position of leadership for day-to-day laboratory operations
  • Participate in project planning and execution
  • Work with staff to develop new proposals
  • Maintain strong commitment to the implementation and perpetuation of values and ethics
  • 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 Polymer Science and Engineering, Polymer Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering, or a related field completed within the last 5 years
  • Expertise in organic/polymer synthesis and characterization methods


Preferred Qualifications:

  • Knowledge and expertise in multi-step organic synthesis
  • Knowledge and expertise in controlled/living polymerization
  • Knowledge and expertise in mechanical and viscoelastic characterization of polymers
  • Knowledge and expertise in polymer processing and manufacturing
  • Experience generating and analyzing large datasets
  • Self-motivated, with the ability to work independently, safety conscious, and participate creatively in solving problems and refining projects’ directions
  • An excellent record of productive and creative research demonstrated by publications in peer-reviewed journals
  • 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


For additional information, contact Dr. Jeff Foster (


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
  • View Profile
  • 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.


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.


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