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Senior Research Associate – Invasive Plant Treatment (Student Services Contractor) with U.S. Geological Survey in Vicksburg, MS

Type of position Student Services Contractor
Employer U.S. Geological Survey
Location Vicksburg, MS
Description of Location U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineering Research and Development Center
Salary $35.64-$42.73 per hour depending on qualifications and experience
Benefits N/A
Closing date of competition April 10th, 2023
Date position available May 8th, 2023
Description of duties

Duration of position:  This is a contract position that will begin as early as May 8th, 2023. The intended duration is one year (May 8th, 2023 – May 7th, 2024) with possible extension dependent on funding.


Project:  Developing innovative RNAi-based treatments targeting invasive Phragmites during drought, floods, and other climate-induced stresses


Position Description: The student contractor will serve as a Research Associate supporting the ongoing development of innovative RNAi-based biotechnologies and other novel methods to design, test, refine and apply gene silencing agents to mitigate the invasive Phragmites australis during drought, floods, and other climate-induced stresses (e.g., increased environmental temperature). The contractor will be based primarily at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) in Vicksburg, MS and play a critical support role for the collaborative USGS-US Army ERDC research by assisting with a variety of duties (to be determined by qualifications and experience) that may include, but are not limited to:

  • Conducting a literature review to establish a baseline understanding of how Phragmites and other invasive plant species respond during periods of drought, flooding, and other climate stresses.
  • Contributing to the design, development, and refinement of multiple classes of gene silencing agents (GSAs) for species- and gene-specific knockdown of essential genes to inhibit the growth of invasive australis through herbicidal mode of action and eventually destroy the population without impacting non-target species or the native non-invasive P. australis.
  • Collaborating with a multidisciplinary, multi-institution research consortium team spanning genetics, genomics, bioengineering, plant pathology, molecular biology, bioinformatics, nanotechnology, chemistry, and ecology.
  • Performing benchtop and greenhouse studies to test multiple classes of gene silencing agents (GSAs) individually or in combinations for their efficacy in inhibition of target genes and desired phenotypic changes.
  • Evaluating and optimizing the composition, dosage, and application methods of GSAs as a bioherbicide for controlling the invasive australis in response to climate-induced stresses.
  • Assisting the research team in permit application and field studies to assess the formula and application frequency of candidate GSA-based bioherbicides.
  • Collecting experimental data, giving oral presentations, and preparing technical reports and peer-reviewed publications



Qualifications sought

Education/Experience Requirements: The successful candidate must be currently enrolled as a student or must have received a degree within one year prior to beginning the contract. The candidate must have a Master’s degree and/or PhD in molecular biology, bioengineering, genetic engineering, plant genetics/genomics/virology or a related field, and an ideal candidate will have:

  • A valid U.S. driver’s license
  • Hands-on experience with molecular cloning, DNA sequencing, quantitative RT-PCR, RNA interference (RNAi)-based gene knockdown, bioinformatics, and virus-induced gene silencing (preferred but not required)
  • Great attention to detail, a desire to learn, and the ability to work in an efficient and self-directed manner
  • High motivation with the ability to multi-task and work collaboratively in a team setting
Application procedure  
Submit what Resume; Cover Letter; 3 professional references
Submit to Spenser Widin; [email protected]
Additional Information Other Details: This contract covers a 52-week period with an anticipated start date of May 8th, 2023. The student contractor cannot receive holiday pay, annual leave, or health care benefits, nor can they receive overtime pay for hours worked in excess of 80 within a two-week period. However, hours in excess of the established 80 per two weeks will be paid at the regular hourly rate.

 Non-U.S. citizens and individuals without a Social Security Number (SSN) or with restrictive markings on their Social Security Card must provide documentary evidence from USCIS of authority to work in the United States. Foreign students in the U.S. under F-1 visas are usually not able to participate in this program, due to USCIS restrictions on off-campus work [8 CFR 214.2 (f)(9)].

The student will report to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineering Research and Development Center, Vicksburg, MS for all duties, unless otherwise specified.

Office work will occur in an office equipped with a computer workstation. Moving expenses will not be paid. Lodging will only be provided when in travel status.

The successful candidate will be hired as an independent contractor. This is not a government position, and time does not count toward time-in-service.