Home » Jobs » Postdoc Fellowship (Biotechnology Innovation & International Security): Stanford University – California

Postdoc Fellowship (Biotechnology Innovation & International Security): Stanford University – California

Megan J. Palmer, Executive Director of Bio Policy & Leadership Initiatives at Stanford University, Adjunct Faculty in the Department of Bioengineering, and Affiliate of the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC), along with David Relman, Senior Fellow at CISAC, have openings for 2-3 postdoctoral fellows for 1-year positions, each renewable up to 3 years.

The postdoctoral fellows would be working on a set of ongoing and new projects focused on the science of innovation policy, risk management and social responsibility in biological science and engineering.

Fellows will be affiliated with the larger fellowship program at the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) at Stanford University. Fellows will also be affiliated with the new Bio Policy and Leadership in Society (Bio.Polis) Initiative and the Department of Bioengineering.

We welcome fellows from a wide range of backgrounds who are keen to work across disciplines. We are currently looking to recruit for two complementary areas of expertise across 2-3 postdoctoral fellows. We especially welcome candidates who bridge these two areas:

  • Area 1: Expertise in quantitative social science methodologies and programming skills, with an interest in making contributions in computational social science and the science of science and innovation policy. Should have comfort handling large heterogeneous data sets not originally designed for research purposes, and leveraging historical analyses to design future studies and interventions. A background in the biological sciences and engineering and risk analysis is beneficial but not required.
  • Area 2: Expertise in biological science and/or engineering with an interest in the conceptualization and management of biosafety, biosecurity and risks in science and technology development. A background in social science methods and/or knowledge of the social organization of science is beneficial but not required.
    Postdocs will receive a competitive salary and benefits for postdoctoral fellows in the San Francisco Bay Area, but we expect to work remotely until COVID-19 conditions improve. Stanford’s Office for Postdoctoral Affairs has additional information and resources on life as a postdoc at Stanford.

Although we are primarily looking for postdoctoral fellows, we are also open to more junior or senior group members, so please reach out if interested. We especially encourage applicants from underrepresented backgrounds and communities.

Group & Projects

Innovation in biological sciences and engineering has the potential to address pressing global problems, but also carries risks of accidents and misuse. Megan J. Palmer’s group at Stanford University is currently working on a set of collaborative projects analyzing the conception and management of innovation and security in the life sciences. Our work seeks to inform policy and organizational practices across government, academia, industry and civil society.

Group members conduct a mix of applied research and program development in collaboration with organizations such as the International Genetically Engineered Machines competition (iGEM), the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI).

Postdoctoral fellows would join a team of junior and senior faculty collaborators from a variety of disciplines, including life science, network science, sociology, biological engineering, ethics, and psychology.

Postdoctoral fellows would take key roles in one or more of the two projects below, and also have the opportunity to develop their own projects and ideas in related areas.

Project 1: Analyzing innovation and risk management

Our group is leading an ongoing project to develop strategies to improve the governance of biological science and technology and to reduce the risks of misuse.  The project leverages the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM), a synthetic biology competition in which teams from around the world compete to engineer organisms to perform useful functions. Established in 2004, it is the largest training program in genetic engineering: in 2019, over 6000 participants in 340 teams from 48 countries participated. iGEM also serves as a forum for many leading researchers, entrepreneurs and policy makers to discuss the governance of life-science innovation and risk management.

We are analyzing a large and unique dataset from the history of iGEM in order to identify factors (e.g. training, disciplinary background, collaborative environments) that might motivate scientists and engineers to attend to potential risks of their work.

Work in this project is primarily computational social science, with potential for novel data collection both within the competitional and in complementary testbeds.

Project 2: Assessing and piloting improved risk assessment practices

Our group is leading a new project in partnership with the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) Biosecurity Innovation and Risk Reduction Initiative (BIRRI) to develop improved processes for risk assessment in biological research, along with mechanisms to encourage their uptake across the research ecosystem.  Currently, biosecurity risk assessment and management is not consistently conducted for research projects at the funding or publication stages. When it is conducted, it is typically not standardized or shared, and it does not consider new forms of risk beyond a narrow set of recognized areas of concern.

The work required is primarily a mix of field interviews and literature review on existing risk-assessment processes, prototype development, and feedback-gathering sessions with researchers, funders, publishers, biosafety officers, and other stakeholders.

How To Apply & Inquiries

Applications are being accepted via the CISAC Fellowship Application Portal and will close on January 15th.

Please contact Megan Palmer (mjpalmer@stanford.edu) with any questions.

General questions pertaining to the fellowship application process and portal can be directed to cisacfellowship@stanford.edu.



Lio Tariman

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