Research Assistant III, Root Phenotyping and Microscopy, Dr. Julie Law

  • Salk Institute for Biological Studies
  • La Jolla, CA 920371002, USA
  • Apr 07, 2022
Full time Biology/Biotechnology/Life Sciences

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. Incomplete information could disqualify you from further consideration.

Job location is in Salk North  East (Torrey Pines) &  LC Encinitas


The CO2 Removal on a Planetary Scale (CRoPS) project aims to develop crop plants that sequester more carbon via extensive root systems containing recalcitrant carbon polymers to fight climate change. A major component of this research is to conduct genetic and genomic analysis to identify and understand traits relevant for this project.

The Research Assistant III (RAIII) will work with other members of the CRoPS project and with the Law laboratory to characterize plants with roots that store more carbon biopolymers while maintaining normal root function and morphology using various molecular biology and microscopy techniques. The RAIII will work with and manage a 2-3 person team responsible for (1) staining, sectioning and embedding root samples for various types of microscopy, (2) imaging and quantifying the levels of different plant polymers in root tissue, and (3) phenotyping plants for root morphology and function. Initial screening will be done with Arabidopsis thaliana and Lotus japonicus with later stages expanding into select crop species. The RAIII will also carryout basic molecular biology and genetics experiments to confirm the genotypes and expression phenotypes of various plant lines.

The RAIII will conduct scientific research (bench work), manage multiple projects, analyze data, and report findings as needed. Specific responsibilities include, but are not limited to: (1) managing a 2-3 person team, including projecting project time lines, scheduling and prioritizing experiments, and reporting on progress and/or bottlenecks (2) designing and overseeing all the root imaging and phenotyping experiments, (3) keeping track of DNA constructs and transgenic lines, (4) coordinating with greenhouse staff regarding projected space needs, (5) overseeing the budget allocated to this project, and (6) ordering the materials need for conducting all experiments. The RAIII is expected to carry out their duties without close technical supervision. In summary, the RAIII will oversee multiple projects, encompassing many research areas and direct Research Assistant I personnel while summarizing the progress, challenges, and future priorities to the PI as needed.


(45%) Root Phenotyping and Microscopy

  •  Clearing and fixation root samples
  • Root staining
  • Root mounting, embedding (agar or paraffin) and sectioning (free hand sectioning and slice sectioning using microtome)
  • Light and confocal microscopy
  • Root phenotyping

(25%) Molecular biology and Plant genetics

  • Isolate DNA and RNA from plant lines.
  • Genotype plant lines using PCR based assays
  • Assess gene expression patterns in plant lines using qPCR methods.
  • Screen and propagate transgenic lines using drug selection

(20%) Research Oversight  

  • Record all data and observations in appropriate electronic lab notebook.
  • Generate protocols for experiments and assays.
  • Generate detailed experimental plans across the team (RAIII and RAI(s)) that span from daily/weekly tasks to more long-term activities involving plant growth cycles.
  • Generate biweekly reports that summarize progress, identify any difficulties, and assess next steps
  • Direct Research Assistant I in research goals.
  • Collaborate with and discusses results with the rest of the research team.

(10%) Lab Support  

  • Assist the PI and the lab coordinator in organizing the lab. 
  • Assist in the maintenance and creation of lab databases.
  • Train necessary staff on protocols and use of lab databases.
  • Assist in ordering general supplies and preparing stocks and reagents for common use.
  • Prepare PowerPoint slides and written summaries detailing the progress of the team.
  • Attend lab meetings and assist in general problem solving.



  • A minimum of 4 years of experience as a research assistant or equivalent related experience.
  • Demonstrated experience in root confocal microscopy and root phenotyping.
  • Experience in molecular or cellular biology with proficiency in standard molecular biology techniques including DNA and RNA extraction, PCR based methods, and agarose gel electrophoresis.
  • Demonstrated experience in plant biology including the generation, growth and propagation of plant lines.


  • Experience with in situ hybridization techniques.
  • Minimum 1 year of experience in a supervisory role.
  • Experience working with the plant model Arabidopsis thaliana.



  •  Bachelor's degree in biological sciences or equivalent


  •  Master's degree or PhD in biological sciences or equivalent with a plant biology focus


  • Ability to manage and track large numbers of samples meticulously without mix-ups or cross- contamination.
  • Ability to perform complex experiments and techniques with a high level of reliability and accuracy within time constraints.
  • Demonstrated ability to conduct and oversee independent research, to design experiments, troubleshoot protocols, prioritize between multiple projects, and generate recommendations for next steps and alternative approaches as needed.
  • Demonstrated ability to plan and develop meaningful objectives to work toward the overall goals of the CRoPs project.
  • Skill in the operation of common lab equipment.
  • Proficiency with common office software applications as well as software applications used for research, recording, and analysis.
  • Highly organized, effective at multitasking, adept at juggling changing priorities and able to prioritize.
  • Proven ability to work both independently and also as part of a collaborative team.
  • Excellent communication skills, both oral and written.
  • Strong interpersonal skills, including tact, diplomacy, and flexibility.


  • 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 requires constant handling, seeing, sitting, touching/feeling, analyzing, calculating, reasoning and working inside. 

Application Details

Apply Here:


 Equal Opportunity Employer/Protected Veterans/Individuals with Disabilities


When inquiring or applying for positions at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, please also reference

Applicants with dual-career considerations can find university jobs such as professor jobs, dean jobs, chair / department head jobs, and other faculty jobs and employment opportunities at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and at other institutions of higher education in the region on