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.


The successful applicant will support annual deployments of instrument platforms, including maintenance of electrical and communication systems, transport of platforms by trailer to deployment sites, and organization for and participation in multiple research cruises per year. The individual may also be asked to coordinate additional field surveys on an as-needed basis.  Good troubleshooting skills, effective time management, ability to work independently, and attention to detail are essential.


The Brosnahan lab at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is seeking a new member for its technical team. The successful candidate will be hired as a Research Assistant at a grade that is commensurate with their level of training and experience. This person will support efforts to deploy in situ imaging and toxin measurement sensors to support research efforts throughout the U.S. and abroad. Prior experience in sensor applications and development, computer networking, and/or mooring deployments is desirable but not required. Candidates should have relevant experience in biological oceanography, phytoplankton research, and operation/maintenance of small boats.


The lab currently deploys or supports installation of robotic instruments and observatory platforms in the Gulf of Maine (GOM), Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Florida. These include installations of the Imaging FlowCytobot (IFCB) and the Environmental Sample Processor (ESP), both manufactured by McLane Research Labs, Inc. (MRL, Falmouth, MA). These sensors are deployed from various platforms including moorings, observatory barges, and autonomous boats.


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

Research Assistant II: With some supervision, employs established laboratory procedures, standard equipment, and fundamental concepts to conduct research tasks determined by field of study and scope of individual research project.

  • Maintains records related to the research and/or research equipment.
  • Executes designated research tasks, making use of selected laboratory experiments, equipment, field work, library research, data acquisition and processing, statistical analyses or other investigative techniques;
  • Organizes and summarizes acquired data, using scientific and statistical techniques including computer programs;
  • Organizes and/or drafts material for the preparation of research papers, manuscripts, or other documents for publication and/or presentation;
  • Participates in the design of experiments or field work.

Research Assistant III: With little supervision, applies a broad knowledge of laboratory principles, equipment, and procedures to the completion of moderately difficult assignments determined by field of study and scope of individual research project.

  • Coordinates research projects, using selected laboratory experiments, equipment, field work, library research, data acquisition and processing, statistical analyses or other investigative techniques;
  • Organizes, interprets, and summarizes acquired data using scientific and statistical techniques including computer programs;
  • Assists in preparation of proposals, manuscripts or other documents for publication and/or presentation;
  • Participates in the design of experiments or fieldwork and may suggest modifications to current procedures;
  • Acts as information source on specific research techniques and trains others in technical procedures and equipment operation;
  • May supervise the activities of other support staff



  • Maintain and prepare IFCB sensors for dockside, barge, and autonomous boat-based deployments, e.g. cleaning of fluidic components, optical alignment, and installation of reagents;
  • Transport of small boats and research platforms by trailer to/from deployment locations; operation of small boats to support installation and recovery of systems;
  • Preparation of observatory platforms supporting IFCB and ESP sensors;
  • System troubleshooting as needed in coordination with other lab members and/or WHOI and MRL engineers;
  • Organizing for and participating in cruises to support sensor deployments and event response efforts on an as-needed basis;
  • Command line computing, script editing to configure systems for research related tasks; and
  • Contribute to preparation of annual reports, scientific publications, research proposals, and documentation of methods and procedures.


  • As deemed necessary by supervisor

Education & Experience


Applicants must have a B.S./M.S. in Biology, Environmental Science, Engineering, or related fields and relevant experience including:  

  • Involvement in research programs targeting harmful algal blooms or phytoplankton;
  • Must have a valid driver’s license;
  • Experience operating small boats;
  • Familiarity with Linux operating systems and at least one coding language (e.g., bash, python, ruby, MATLAB); and
  • Prior research cruise/field research experience.
  • Operation of Imaging FlowCytobot, or similar flow cytometric or in situ imaging systems;
  • Data visualization and analysis;
  • Testing and troubleshooting of electrical and fluidic systems;
  • Water sampling, sediment coring and molecular sample processing, and other oceanographic field collection methods;
  • Work in small teams; and
  • Record of accomplishment doing independent work.

Applicants with especially relevant experience and/or graduate-level training may be considered for appointment at the Research Assistant III level.

Special Requirements

  • TWIC
  • Must be a US Citizen
  • Person Drives WHOI Vehicle 
  • WHOI has a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy in effect, where you must register your full vaccination status [vaccination plus booster] in order to begin your employment. The registration process is confidential and entails submitting your official vaccination records, or requesting to engage in the interactive exemption process for either a medical or religious reason. 

Physical Requirements

Physical duties for this position include but are not limited to, ability to lift/carry up to 40 lbs 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 near, far, peripheral, depth perception, and ability to distinguish basic colors. Hearing requirements include the ability to hear and respond to instructions, communicate effectively in loud areas (pier/dock, warehouse), talk and travel. Other physical tasks include occasional prolonged standing/walking; use of hands for basic /fine grasping and manipulation, repetitive motion, reaching above and below the shoulders, pushing, pulling, kneeling, bending, twisting, and stooping. Other occupational requirements include talking, traveling, working around others, and with others in a lab setting and at sea, as well as alone. Will be exposed to dust or other irritants and electrical/mechanical/power equipment hazards. 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 work plans. 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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