Advanced Microscopy Research Associate – Advanced Imaging Center

Advanced Microscopy Research Associate – Advanced Imaging Center

Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI)

Ashburn, VA, United States

Job Description

Job Summary:

Recent technological advances have vastly increased the complexity of microscopes and likewise the level of sophistication involved in quantitative imaging experiments, with many new microscopes requiring extensive expertise to operate successfully. The rapidly rising cost and specialization of modern instruments has turned imaging centers into important shared resources where optical physics, instrumentation, life science, mathematics and computer science intersect. Microscopy facilities are now mostly managed by PhD-level scientists who are expected to provide technical consultation on experimental design and sample preparation, as well as user-training on microscope operation. Many of these scientist-managers are also required to provide advanced data analysis to researchers on microscopy related projects and be responsible for securing instrumentation grants at the federal level. Likewise, core facility management has become one of the fastest growing careers in academia. Yet, there is a disproportionate paucity of positions that provide experience that integrates technical/scientific guidance with the business and managerial skills needed to run a successful core facility. The latter is an important aspect in this career to which most scientists are not exposed in their training. For many, their first exposure to management is in a facility manager or director position, where management skills are immediately expected and required.


The Advanced Imaging Center (AIC), jointly sponsored by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, is the nexus of such technological revolution, where emerging technologies are immediately disseminated to the scientific world with minimal delay. The AIC continues to serve as a fertile platform in developing and optimizing all aspects of biological imaging, from sample preparation and protocol development to imaging and analysis, for a broad variety of scientific studies.


The AIC Advanced Microscopy Research Associate program offers early career scientists (recent graduates from PhD programs) a unique opportunity at Janelia Research Campus to apply their expert skills in advanced quantitative microscopy techniques including single-molecule imaging, super-resolution microscopy, light sheet microscopy, focused ion-beam scanning electron microscopy, data handling, and image analysis, while learning the key skills needed to manage a large, international, heavily-used core facility. The ideal candidate should have a focused career goal of becoming an integral part of an shared imaging center in the future. The Research Associate will learn to provide technical consultation to users in selecting and applying the appropriate techniques to a wide range of biological specimens using a variety of experimental approaches, and how to strategize quantitative approaches to imaging. The Research Associate also has the opportunity to identify additional responsibilities that match his/her interests, such as: organizing and teaching microscopy lectures and workshops; organizing microscopy discussion groups/journal clubs; developing protocols for testing equipment performance; designing and/or implementing novel or custom imaging or analysis techniques. The Research Associate will also have superb opportunities to establish contact with visiting scientists from all over the world, paving the way for a successful career path.

This is a term position with a two-year initial appointment, with the opportunity for a one-year extension.


Principal Responsibilities:

The Research Associate will work hands-on in the laboratory with AIC users.  The Research Associate will learn to be a primary source of applications knowledge and expertise for all AIC users, and will become expert in the operation and use of various AIC instruments, as well as processing and analysis of the resulting data.

Specific responsibilities include:

  • Provide technical consultation to prospective applicants to the AIC prior to proposal submission.
  • Learn to serve on AIC Technical Review Panel to review the feasibility and technical justification of the submitted proposals.
  • Collaborate with AIC users to understand the objectives and requirements of their scientific imaging needs, planning for effective visits to the AIC.
  • Coordinate with Janelia shared resources and other ancillary support divisions to facilitate sample shipments into the AIC.  
  • Work hands-on with AIC users to prepare, fix, label, mount, and image samples, often involving multiple iterations of optimization and evaluation. Analyze samples and approaches to evaluate technical suitability of AIC systems for individual visiting scientists.
  • Prepare application-specific tools and techniques to enable imaging, analysis, and data representation to meet user needs.
  • Learn to operate, maintain and troubleshoot AIC microscopes at expert level for the benefit of users.
  • Optimize microscope configurations for a wide variety of imaging applications and samples.
  • Interpret microscopy results to propose and perform subsequent experiments and procedures.  This will involve a combination of software analysis tools, collaboration with AIC users, and intuition developed through training and experience in biological imaging.



  • Ph.D. in Biology, Biochemistry, Optical Physics or related field, or equivalent in education and experience
  • Hands-on experience in biological sample preparation
  • Ability to troubleshoot and resolve issues with sample preparation, imaging system performance, configuration and usage, in order to produce superior imaging results for AIC users
  • Experience using super resolution, selective plane, confocal, multifocal imaging technologies and/or EM tomographic techniques preferred
  • Experience in building microscopes if education is in physics or engineering
  • Experience in image processing and analysis methods, including development of custom algorithms, is preferred
  • Experience in using scripting languages (e.g. Java, Matlab, Python, C+) is preferred.
  • Ability to effectively communicate both remotely and in-person (written and verbal) with AIC users, sharing outcomes of evaluations and experiments, and guiding future efforts to optimize results required
  • Ability to evaluate proposals for technical feasibility and manage progress on many projects concurrently required
  • Ability to perform long, iterative sessions of imaging and analysis and data interpretation required. 


Additional Information:

Please send a cover letter, three references, and salary requirements along with your resume.



HHMI is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

Required Skills

Required Experience

Please apply via recruiter’s website.

Quote Reference: Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI)-hhmi-818-908