Research Assistant

Job ID
Location : Location
US-MA-Woods Hole

Job Summary

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is currently searching for a Research Assistant to join the Biology Department. This is a regular, full-time, non-exempt position, and is eligible for full benefits.


We are seeking a highly motivated individual with prior laboratory and field experience to assist with multiple research projects.  The successful candidate will serve as the main point of contact and coordinator of Don Anderson’s lab at WHOI, and will be expected to oversee, carry out, and troubleshoot/refine laboratory techniques and approaches as needed, and will help other students/lab members with their research.  This position involves supervisory responsibilities for a part-time helper, co-supervision of a research assistant, and helping to supervise summer guest students.  The successful candidate will be involved with multiple ongoing research programs on harmful algal blooms, including projects to characterize the species diversity and structure of Gambierdiscus communities using fluorescent in situ hybridization, assess the distribution and toxicity of Alexandrium blooms in the Gulf of Maine and Arctic regions, and evaluate bloom mitigation using clay flocculation.  In addition, this RA will oversee lab-based physiology experiments and culturing efforts. This person also will also be expected to train other students and investigators in these techniques, and to assist other researchers in our lab with their projects as necessary. 


Specific field requirements include participating in a month-long oceanographic research cruise in Arctic waters as well as participation in an annual oceanographic research cruise in the Gulf of Maine.  Please visit the Anderson lab’s web-page for more information about our research programs:  


This position is full-time and is renewable annually depending on performance and funding availability. On-line application forms should be submitted, along with a detailed cover letter that outlines your prior experience as it pertains to this position and full curriculum vitae including contact information for three references.  The position is available immediately.  We would like to have the new hire in place by the end of 2021 (or earlier), so please state your availability in the cover letter.  The hiring level will be commensurate with experience.


The internal working title for this position could be either Research Assistant II or Research Assistant III. The final level of the position will be determined commensurate with the selected candidate's level of education & experience. 

Essential Functions

This person will serve as the lab manager responsible for day-to-day oversight and coordination, in addition to participating in a number of ongoing research programs.  Routine laboratory duties will include:

  • General laboratory coordination including safety related issues, oversight, and training, ordering supplies, maintaining equipment and laboratory organization;
  • Routine phytoplankton culture maintenance and maintaining the lab’s culture collection;
  • Oversee the use and maintenance of Anderson lab equipment such as microscopes, HPLC, laminar flow hood, incubators, freezers, centrifuges, and the lab’s freezer/incubator alarm system;
  • Training and assisting other staff members, graduate students, research assistants, guest investigators, and guest students;
  • Supervising a research assistant and a part-time helper; helping to supervise and train undergraduate guest students when applicable;
  • Carrying out culture-based growth experiments, including growing and harvesting mass cultures;
  • Analysis of toxin content using HPLC;
  • Identification and enumeration of HAB species in field samples using light and fluorescence microscopy;
  • Manage the Harmful Algae Facebook page, including posting daily based on four Google Alerts;
  • Maintain and update the Harmful Algae Event database (HAEDAT) on an annual basis, submit annual reports, prepare U.S. maps depicting HAB events; and prepare PowerPoint presentations based on these updates annually;
  • Oversee and coordinate field studies in the Nauset Estuary as a small boat operator and experienced technician to measure, collect and process water and sediment samples with a variety of instruments;
  • Participate in research cruises, including the annual NOAA cyst cruise in the Gulf of Maine; providing logistical oversight and support, and participating in other research cruises if needed;
  • Assisting and communicating with research collaborators, including responding to requests for information and assistance;
  • Experimental design and execution, data reduction and analysis;
  • Assist in the preparation of manuscripts and annual reports.
  • Willingness to respond to the Anderson lab’s freezer/incubator alarms on any given day at any time of the day.




  • As deemed necessary by supervisor

Education & Experience

Applicants must have a B.S. in Biology or related field (M.S. preferred), as well as excellent academic and professional references.  Prior involvement in laboratory and field research is required.


The following background experience is particularly desirable:

  • Involvement in research programs of harmful algal blooms or phytoplankton
  • Microscopic enumeration of dinoflagellate cells and cysts
  • Familiarity/experience with advanced microscopy techniques
  • Phytoplankton culture maintenance
  • Prior research cruise experience
  • Collection and processing of water and sediment samples for phytoplankton cell and/or cyst enumeration
  • Experience supervising junior personnel and/or students such as part time helper and research assistants
  • Molecular biology techniques (e.g., DNA extraction, PCR/qPCR)
  • Ability to operate small boats and field sampling equipment.

Special Requirements

  • Sea Duty required
  • Person drives WHOI vehicle

Physical Requirements


Physical duties for this position include but are not limited to ability to lift less than 25 lb per day and carry up to 10 lb per day as well as reaching above and below the shoulders, stooping/kneeling, and climbing ladders/stools. Must have the ability to use hands for basic grasping/manipulation as well as fine manipulation. Visual abilities to include depth perception, ability to adjust vision to bring objects into focus, and ability to distinguish basic colors. The occupational requirements for this position are the ability to work with and around other individuals in a lab setting and at sea, as well as alone. Visual abilities of near vision needed as well having the ability to hear, respond, talk, and travel. May be exposed to hazardous substances or specimens.  Physical duties are subject to change.

Sea Duty


May work at least 8 hours per day and, at times in excess of 12 hours per day, 7 days per week. Sleep and work hours can deviate from those on land. May be expected to work on watch schedule (such as 8 hours on and 8 hours off or 12 hours on and 8 hours off) for all or part of a cruise or to work as hours are needed to accomplish the planned work. May need to travel during holidays and for long distances to and from foreign ports. May experience rudimentary living and working conditions, with shared and basic living quarters and laboratories. May experience bad or extreme weather conditions, including heavy seas, winter weather or hot, tropical weather. Work on deck may occur in both hot and cold conditions around the clock. Sea conditions will lead to active ship motion. Should be able to climb steep and vertical ladders and able to enter and exit compartments through hatches, doors, and sills. Should be able to carry heavy gear and participate in the loading and unloading of the ship as well as in the activities on deck and in the labs during the cruise. Shipboard environment may include: confined areas, shared sleeping quarters (berths) and bathroom facilities, small and basic berthing, fixed meal times and basic menus. Modest levels of heating, cooling, ventilation, and illumination, limited or no email and internet access and limited off-duty and recreational facilities (library, lounge, movies). May be exposed to potential allergens and irritants, including paint fumes. May experience constant and intermittent loud noises, and slippery and uneven surfaces.


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