Research Scientist, Nucleic Acid Observatory (Molecular Biology/Assay Development)

by Jordan Madrid

Aug. 10, 2022

Job Description

The Sculpting Evolution Group seeks a Research Scientist to co-lead research and development of wastewater monitoring laboratory methods related to the Nucleic Acid Observatory (NAO) project for early detection of future pandemics. Ideal candidates will have extensive wet-lab expertise and the ambition to significantly reduce global catastrophic biological risks.

The NAO aims to build metagenomic monitoring systems to reliably detect novel disease agents spreading in the human population and environment, with a goal of achieving meaningful reduction in global catastrophic biological risks within two years. We anticipate close collaboration between computational, experimental, and operations staff to generate the data, tools, and practical experience needed to make metagenomic early detection as effective as possible, as quickly as possible.


On a practical level, we’re looking for people who:

  • Are able to lead a team of research technicians and other researchers to design and execute critical experiments for wastewater monitoring and metagenomic sequencing;
  • Enjoy hands-on work with a wide variety of experimental systems and laboratory techniques;
  • Have extensive experience working with in fields such as molecular biology, biological engineering, analytical chemistry, assay design, and/or next-generation sequencing; 
  • Have excellent written and oral communication skills;
  • Are enthusiastic about learning new skills and techniques, both wet-lab and computational;
  • Do their best to contribute to a supportive team atmosphere with explicit proactive communication;
  • Take ownership in writing and editing publications and grant proposals related to the NAO project, including possible submission to peer-reviewed academic journals and presentation at conferences;
  • Optionally, engage in science communication with general audiences or policymakers;
  • Are enthusiastic about mentorship and committed to building an outstanding research team.

Broader views are also important. Particularly strong candidates might be those who: 

  • Aim to ensure that biotechnology benefits as many morally relevant beings as possible;
  • Recognize the importance of mitigating catastrophic risks;
  • Care more about long-term impact than conventional metrics;
  • Gladly seize upon a small chance of achieving a tremendously impactful outcome.

Longer-term, high-performing hires will have the opportunity to grow into a leadership role within the NAO, helping to build a healthy and productive team and determine the long-term direction of the NAO project.



  • PhD in Biology, Analytical Chemistry, Biological Engineering, or related fields;
  • Experience with standard biological assays and molecular biology techniques;
  • Deep expertise in one or more fields supporting our primary research interests, including:
    • Cloning;
    • Virology or microbiology;
    • Next-generation sequencing;
    • Environmental DNA;
    • Wastewater-based disease monitoring;
    • Assay design;
  • Skilled at troubleshooting experiments involving complex systems;
  • Comfortable with BSL2+ laboratory work involving wastewater and other environmental samples that may contain viruses and other pathogens, including presiding over on-site collection and preparation where necessary (previous experience working with wastewater samples is not necessary);
  • Excellent written and oral communication abilities;
  • Comfortable with giving and receiving frank and honest feedback, including asking for help when needed and quickly raising and resolving interpersonal issues.


  • One year of postdoctoral or industry experience;
  • Prior experience in research management (including managing research technicians, undergraduate students, or graduate students);
  • Familiarity with and excitement about the project of reducing catastrophic risks from biology;
  • Experience in multiple fields supporting our primary research interests (see above);
  • Experience clearly articulating their work to diverse technical and non-technical audiences;
  • Basic familiarity with bioinformatics; data visualization; and best practices for scientific computing;
  • Enthusiastic about mentorship and helping others learn.

Starting salary: $95,000/yr minimum, more with experience

To apply, please visit MIT's careers at  and search for job ID number 21692

How to Apply

Find open positions at MIT by career area, location, full- or part-time, keyword and more.

More Job Opportunities