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Research Scholar - Entomology and Plant Pathology

NC State University
Crabtree Valley, NC
Closing date
Apr 11, 2024

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Doctors, Pathology
Organization Type
Posting Number:
Internal Recruitment :
Working Title:
Research Scholar - Entomology and Plant Pathology
Anticipated Hiring Range:
Commensurate with Experience
Work Schedule:
Monday-Friday, 8am-5pm (occasional longer work days or Saturday (in case of emergency))
Job Location:
Laurel, Maryland
Department :
Entomology and Plant Pathology
About the Department:
The Plant Pathogen Confirmatory Diagnostics Laboratory's mission is to provide federal confirmatory diagnostics for regulatory plant pests/pathogens; develop and validate advanced molecular and serological detection methods, and proficiency test (PT) panels for plant pests that threaten U.S. agriculture; evaluate the applicability of new, state-of-the-art technologies and methodologies in support of the agency efforts.

As part of the Land Grant University, the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology is composed of over 40 faculty that direct a diverse portfolio of programs in teaching, research, and extension components. Collectively, these strengths not only serve our clientele and our science, but also provide a rich environment for graduate education and training that can be tailored to the specific career interests of the student, irrespective of whether they prefer training in the basic sciences or are preparing for a career in extension. Our education and research programs provide graduate and undergraduate students with unique hands-on learning opportunities using the latest technologies.
Essential Job Duties:
Project Title: Quarantine Plant Pathogens Reference Material and Methods Development and Validation in support of the APHIS PPQ safeguarding mission.

As a Research Scholar, you will operate under the guidance of a Senior Scientist, contributing to the optimization and validation of various molecular assays aimed at detecting quarantine pathogens, particularly plant viruses, viroids, bacteria, and fungi. Your responsibilities will span from computational analysis to hands-on experimentation, focusing on enhancing assay performance and reliability for specific applications and sample matrices. Additionally, you will play a crucial role in developing synthetic reaction controls to ensure assay accuracy. Reporting and documentation are integral aspects of this role, involving the preparation of project reports, validation documentation, and scientific presentations.Job Responsibilities:
  • Assay Optimization and Validation: Conduct in silico analysis of genomes and primers/probes, followed by optimization of reaction conditions to enhance assay sensitivity and specificity. Validate assay performance characteristics such as precision, accuracy, diagnostic sensitivity, and specificity, ensuring suitability for intended use.
  • Synthetic Reaction Control Development: Develop and validate synthetic reaction controls to facilitate accurate and reliable assay results. Ensure the functionality and consistency of controls across different experimental conditions.
  • Project Management: Develop work plans outlining experimental procedures and timelines. Execute experiments according to established protocols, documenting procedures and recording experimental data in official laboratory notebooks.
  • Reporting and Documentation: Prepare comprehensive project reports and validation documentation summarizing experimental findings and outcomes. Generate scientific presentations to disseminate research findings to internal and external stakeholders.
  • Ring Test Organization: Organize and coordinate ring tests involving a limited number of laboratories to assess method performance and reproducibility. Analyze ring test data to support methods validation efforts and identify areas for improvement.
  • Laboratory Maintenance: Maintain plant specimens in the greenhouse and/or fungal/bacterial cultures, as well as other material inventories as assigned. Perform general laboratory maintenance tasks to ensure a clean and organized working environment.
  • Equipment Operation: Operate and maintain specialized laboratory equipment such as thermocyclers, ELISA readers, tissue grinders, and freeze-dryers. Ensure equipment functionality and troubleshoot any technical issues that may arise during experimentation.
  • Data Management: Enter and maintain experimental data in computer programs, including shared folders and databases. Generate analyses and reports to support research findings and facilitate data-driven decision-making.
  • Diagnostic Activities: Participate in ad-hoc diagnostic activities as needed, leveraging expertise in molecular assays to support the identification and characterization of quarantine pathogens.

This position is based at the APHIS-PPQ-S&T Plant Pathogen Confirmatory Diagnostics Laboratory in Laurel, MD. All hired incumbents must be a U.S. citizen or have permament residency.Other Responsibilities:

  • Manage the assigned project(s)
  • Track budget expenditures for the project work
  • Perform all research with adherence to the APHIS PPQ S&T PPCDL Quality Management System
  • Develop work instructions for the use of these diagnostic platforms by field personnel. The incumbent
Minimum Education and Experience:

  • Ph.D in Plant Pathology, Virology, Microbiology, molecular biology or other closely allied fields

  • Relevant Master's degree with at least 5 years of formal post-degree professional work experience
Other Required Qualifications:

  • Academic background and research experience studying and characterizing microorganisms and pathogens
  • Documented experience with major molecular biology technologies such as conventional and real-time PCRs, isothermal amplification, nucleic acid extractions, results visualizations, and analysis for diagnosis of microorganisms.
  • Ability to conduct extensive sequence analysis and develop primers/probes and molecular assays.
  • Attention to detail, good time management and record keeping, and excellent technical skills.
  • Understanding of good laboratory practices (GLP).
  • Ability to plan and follow planned activities independently, working knowledge of Microsoft Office, good written and oral communication skills.
Preferred Qualifications:

  • Plant pathogen identification experience
  • Experience with development and execution of conventional PCR, real-time PCR, DNA sequence analysis, plant pathogen biology and/or diagnostics of pathogens (fungi, bacteria, virus or nematodes).
  • Experience with diagnostic platform adaptation or evaluation and experience with laboratory procedures of applicable molecular biology and techniques as well as experience with experimental design.
Required License(s) or Certification(s):
Valid NC Driver's License required:
Commercial Driver's License required:
Job Open Date:
Anticipated Close Date:
Open Until Filled
Special Instructions to Applicants:
In addition to your application, applicants should submit the following: Cover Letter, CV, and contact information for three (3) professional references.

The position is based at the USDA, APHIS PPQ Plant Pathogen Confirmatory Diagnostic Laboratory (PPCDL) in Laurel, MD. US citizenship or permanent residency is required.
Position Number:
Position Type:
EHRA Non-Faculty
Full Time Equivalent (FTE) (1.0 = 40 hours/week):
12 Month Recurring
Mandatory Designation - Adverse Weather:
Non Mandatory - Adverse Weather
Mandatory Designation - Emergency Events:
Mandatory - Medical Emergencies
Department ID:
111801 - Entomology and Plant Pathology
NC State University is an equal opportunity and affirmative action employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity, age, sexual orientation, genetic information, status as an individual with a disability, or status as a protected veteran. Individuals with disabilities requiring disability-related accommodations in the application and interview process are welcome to contact 919-515-3148 to speak with a representative at the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity.

If you have general questions about the application process, you may contact Human Resources at (919) 515-2135 or

Final candidates are subject to criminal & sex offender background checks. Some vacancies also require credit or motor vehicle checks. Degree(s) must be obtained prior to start date in order to meet qualifications and receive credit.

NC State University participates in E-Verify. Federal law requires all employers to verify the identity and employment eligibility of all persons hired to work in the United States.

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