Senior Research Scientist (Soil), Laboratory of Dr. Wolfgang Busch
La Jolla, CA 
Posted 29 days ago
Job Description

Application Instructions:

Employment History Include your last ten (10) years of employment history, or length of your employment history if less, including all positions (even those that are not relevant to this position) and periods of unemployment.

The Salk Institute's Harnessing Plants Initiative (HPI) is an innovative, scalable, and bold approach to fight climate change by optimizing a plant's natural ability to capture and store carbon and adapt to diverse climate conditions. HPI aims to understand which genes and molecular processes determine root traits that potentially increase carbon sequestration, as well as to test plant lines with such traits in lab, greenhouse and field environments and assess their effect on soil carbon accumulation and permanence. This research is directly leveraged in the pioneering CRoPS project that aims to develop crop plants that sequester more carbon via extensive root systems containing recalcitrant carbon polymers to fight climate change. For this we are working to enhance the carbon sequestration capacity in several important crop species throughout different soil types and geographies.

The Senior Research Scientist will join a vibrant group of molecular biologists, plant geneticists and computational biologists to work in a team that is determined to address a global problem with the power of plant biology and soil science. The Senior Research Scientist will lead an interdisciplinary team to develop and implement methods that will allow to determine the effect of root traits on retention and persistence of plant-derived organic compounds, as well as tracing the fate of plant derived carbon in agricultural soils.


(80%) Experimental Research

  • Make innovative contributions pertaining to laboratory experiments according to the goals of the research project.
  • Design & execute experimental procedures, including new technologies, according to the research goals, with critical evaluation of research results.
  • Work on problems in which analysis of situations or data requires an in-depth evaluation of various factors.
  • Exercise judgement within broadly defined practices and policies in selecting methods, techniques, and evaluation criteria for obtaining results.
  • Perform data collection and analysis, soil analysis, root phenotyping in the field, laboratory maintenance.
  • Make meaningful and significant progress on independent research projects conceived by and in collaboration with the laboratory PI.
  • Bring new ideas and methods to existing areas of interest with the laboratory and work to integrate them successfully into laboratory programs.
  • Troubleshoot and optimize experiments to the level required for their utility on specific projects.
  • Perform experiments reliably and reproducibly.
  • Multi-task, including the ability to manage multiple simultaneous long-term projects and the ability to time and perform multiple experiments to maximize efficiency.
  • Contribute experimental support to other projects in the laboratory as a collaborator

(10%) Laboratory Collaborative Contributions

  • Will supervise a team of research assistants or technicians.
  • Interface with several collaborating plant and soil scientists.
  • Oversee and coordinate the work at multiple field research sites.
  • Provide intellectual input onto other projects within the laboratory.
  • Actively participate in laboratory meetings when compatible with schedule.
  • Meet with less experienced laboratory members to discuss their research data, results, and plans
  • Train laboratory members in new research methods.
  • Contribute computational and/or experimental support to other projects within the laboratory.
  • Contribute to shared laboratory tasks, as needed.

(10%) Scientific Communications

  • Assist with manuscripts and grants being prepared within the laboratory.
  • Provide editing assistance on grants and manuscripts
  • Prepare original research manuscripts detailing research methods and procedures, findings of research efforts, and that meaningfully place the work in context with prior work done in the field.
  • Contribute to the preparation of research grants related to work performed in the laboratory in the forms of preliminary data generation and/or writing aims, and sub aims.
  • Prepare and give scientific presentations that clearly communicate research findings.
  • Communicate with scientific and non-scientific audiences interested in laboratory research.



  • Minimum of 5 years of related research experience or equivalent relevant experience.
  • Experience in in Soil Science, Biogeochemistry, Biology, or related fields.


  • Strong track-record of managing a substantial project in the area of soil science or plant-soil relations.
  • Strong experience with writing research manuscripts and grants.



  • PhD in in Soil Science, Biogeochemistry, Biology, or related fields.



  • Demonstrated ability to conduct and oversee independent research. This includes the ability to (a) develop, maintain, execute, and complete research projects of varying size and scope; (b) critically read, understand, and extract information from published medical and biological literature to prepare background information for scientific abstracts, manuscripts, lectures, and grant proposals; (c) perform basic data and statistical analysis; and (d) produce high-quality abstracts, manuscripts, lectures, and grant applications.
  • Expertise of soil processes including soil biogeochemistry and carbon and nutrient measurements in soils, and/or in leveraging advanced phenotyping approaches to determine root traits and root-soil interactions in the field.
  • Expertise in soil carbon analysis (like wet chemistry, dry combustion/elemental and isotopic analyses, spectroscopy, and a range of soil analyses) and soil carbon dynamics, as well as knowledge of region-specific factors such as climatic conditions and soil type, or a plant biologist with a very strong track record of work on plant-soil interactions in field settings.
  • Ability to conduct experimental plant biology.
  • Ability to independently design experiments.
  • Ability to manage and track large numbers of samples meticulously.
  • Ability to perform reproducible experiments.
  • Ability to read, interpret, and synthesize the published literature relevant to ongoing projects and have it inform ongoing experimental efforts.
  • Demonstrated ability to independently evaluate administrative goals, prioritize plan for implementation, establish timelines, secure and oversee the participation of appropriate contributors, organize materials and ensure quality product within established deadlines.
  • Familiarity with scientific and biological technology. Ability to analyze and interpret data and assist with writing scientific papers and grants.
  • Demonstrated knowledge and experience with MAC operating systems, commonly used software and tools, such as Microsoft Office, electronic mail, and the internet.
  • Strong interpersonal skills. Ability to establish and maintain effective working relationships; interact with all levels of management and employees across multiple departments. Demonstrated ability to supervise and train students and other technicians.
  • Knowledge of standard laboratory management and safety procedures.
  • Ability to make independent decisions, analyze situations, solve problems, and initiate actions for the effective management of a large and complex department.
  • Strong analytical and critical thinking skills to identify problems and develop innovative solutions.
  • Excellent writing skills, including grammar, usage, spelling, and punctuation.
  • Excellent oral communication skills. Demonstrated ability to communicate clearly, effectively, tactfully, and patiently in person, on the telephone, and in writing to a diverse group of people (including researchers, health care providers, patients, research participants, administrators, industry representatives) in the academic, scientific, and commercial communities.


  • Must be willing to work in an animal-related research environment.
  • Must be willing to work an adjusted schedule to support research needs.
  • Successful completion of the Institute's background investigation.
  • Must be willing to sign a confidentiality agreement.


This position will be constantly keying, seeing, sitting, standing, analyzing, calculating, communicating, reading, reasoning and working inside.

Equal Opportunity Employer/Protected Veterans/Individuals with Disabilities

The contractor will not discharge or in any other manner discriminate against employees or applicants because they have inquired about, discussed, or disclosed their own pay or the pay of another employee or applicant. However, employees who have access to the compensation information of other employees or applicants as a part of their essential job functions cannot disclose the pay of other employees or applicants to individuals who do not otherwise have access to compensation information, unless the disclosure is (a) in response to a formal complaint or charge, (b) in furtherance of an investigation, proceeding, hearing, or action, including an investigation conducted by the employer, or (c) consistent with the contractor's legal duty to furnish information. 41 CFR 60-1.35(c)

he Salk Institute for Biological Studies is committed to providing equal access to opportunities for students, employees, applicants for employment and other persons.

Our policies prohibit harassment or unlawful discrimination against individuals on the basis of sex, gender, marital or parental status, pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, medical conditions/disabilities related to pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation age, ancestry, color, religion (including religious dress and grooming practices), family and/or medical care leave status, disability (mental or physical), registered domestic partner status, legally protected medical condition, genetic information, military or veteran status (disabled veteran, veteran of the Vietnam era, other covered veteran status), national origin (including language use restrictions and possession of a driver’s license), race, religion or any other classification protected by local, state or federal laws.

The Salk Institute participates in the E-Verify program.

Reasonable accommodation is available for qualified individuals with disabilities and for individuals with religious restrictions.


Job Summary
Start Date
As soon as possible
Employment Term and Type
Regular, Full Time
Required Education
Required Experience
5+ years
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