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Post Doctoral Research Associate - DiRenzo Lab

University of Massachusetts Amherst
UMass Amherst

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Job Details

Job no: 509311
Work type: Post Doc (Amherst Only)
Location: UMass Amherst
Department: Environmental Conservation
Union: Post Doc
Categories: Postdoctoral Research Associate, College of Natural Sciences

About UMass Amherst

UMass Amherst, the Commonwealth's flagship campus, is a nationally ranked public research university offering a full range of undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. The University sits on nearly 1,450-acres in the scenic Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts, and offers a rich cultural environment in a bucolic setting close to major urban centers. In addition, the University is part of the Five Colleges (including Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, and Smith College), which adds to the intellectual energy of the region.

Job Summary

Management decisions for emerging infectious diseases, endangered species, and invasive species depend on the true state of the system and must be made quickly to maximize opportunities for control. However, molecular detection methods, like any diagnostic test used in the detection of pathogens, may occasionally yield false negatives (i.e., when a sample appears negative but is truly positive) as well as ‘ambiguous,’ ‘uncertain,’ or ‘equivocal’ results (i.e., an inability to confidently classify a sample as negative or positive). Therefore, we are seeking to recruit a postdoctoral researcher that will develop quantitative tools to improve pathogen surveillance in the white nose syndrome (WNS) system. Specifically, we are looking for a postdoc to extend a novel statistical model that accounts for both imperfect and ambiguous pathogen detections and to apply this model to already collected WNS field data for parameter estimation. This is a one-year postdoctoral position with the possible extension to a second-year dependent on performance and funding.

This work is a collaboration among the USGS Amphibian Research Monitoring Initiative, USGS National Wildlife Health Center, the University of Vermont, and the Massachusetts Cooperative Research Unit. The postdoctoral researcher will explore optimal sampling designs for determining pathogen absence or eradication and will use simulations to explore the model’s accuracy, precision, bias, and coverage. This model will use both negative and uncertain detections to make inference about a site’s disease state, and the postdoc will extend this model to include temporally and spatially varying covariates that can improve estimation of model parameters. The model will be incorporated into a surveillance model to improve inference on the distribution of WNS and its causative agent, Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd). PIs on this project work in several other disease systems, and while this project is focused on the WNS system, we will help to ensure that this model can be used to improve the detection and management of emerging pathogens and invasive species more broadly.

Essential Functions

Examples of duties:

  • Develop a statistical model that accounts for imperfect detection and misclassification error, while including biological realism (e.g., detection probability as a function of pathogen load).
  • Explore the properties of the statistical model using simulations and Bayes Theorem (i.e., explore model accuracy, precision, bias, and coverage with variable sampling designs and parameter values).
  • Apply the statistical model to available surveillance data of WNS across the US, which will provide an estimate of the probability of pathogen occupancy given the number of negative and uncertain samples at each location (i.e., risk assessment)
  • Provide decision support for sites at risk of WNS, where the true state of the system determines the optimal decision
  • Other Functions

  • Work collaboratively and effectively to promote teamwork, diversity, equality and inclusiveness.
  • Work in partnership with colleagues within the CNS community and across the campus to support the Dean’s strategic priorities.
  • Perform other duties as assigned in support of the mission and goals of the College of Natural Sciences.
  • Minimum Qualifications (Knowledge, Skills, Abilities, Education, Experience, Certifications, Licensure)

  • PhD in ecology, epidemiology, biology, math, statistics, wildlife, or other related field.
  • Physical Demands/Working Conditions

  • Typical office environment.
  • Work Schedule

    • Monday – Friday 8:30am – 5:00pm.

    Salary Information

    Salary will commensurate with experience.

    Special Instructions to Applicants

    Submit a letter of application, resume and contact information for three professional references. Apply by August 1, 2021 in order to ensure priority consideration. Search may remain open until a suitable candidate pool has been identified.

    As part of a commitment to their own multicultural community, CNS seeks an individual with a demonstrated commitment to diversity and one who will understand and embrace university initiatives and aspirations. (

    UMass Amherst is committed to a policy of equal opportunity without regard to race, color, religion, gender, gender identity or expression, age, sexual orientation, national origin, ancestry, disability, military status, or genetic information in employment, admission to and participation in academic programs, activities, and services, and the selection of vendors who provide services or products to the University. To fulfill that policy, UMass Amherst is further committed to a program of affirmative action to eliminate or mitigate artificial barriers and to increase opportunities for the recruitment and advancement of qualified minorities, women, persons with disabilities, and covered veterans. It is the policy of the UMass Amherst to comply with the applicable federal and state statutes, rules, and regulations concerning equal opportunity and affirmative action.

    Advertised: Jul 22 2021 Eastern Daylight Time
    Applications close:


    The University of Massachusetts Amherst is one of the preeminent public research universities in America. Nestled in idyllic Amherst, Massachusetts—often called “The top college town in North America”—the campus is consistently ranked among the top public research universities in the nation, and offers a rich cultural environment in a rural setting close to major urban centers. 

    As one of the nation's top public research universities – as measured by national and international rankings, academic citations, and research funding – the campus spends more than $180 million on research each year, demonstrating its contribution to the nation’s position as a technological and economic leader. The university works in conjunction with academic, government, and private partners to translate new knowledge and scientific discoveries into technical innovations and scholarly works that create opportunities for students, faculty and the public. 

    Eight schools and colleges offer more than 85 undergraduate majors, 68 master’s and 48 doctoral degree programs, many counted among the top programs in the nation and world. UMass Amherst is also home to New England's premier honors college.

    The 1,159 full-time faculty members are dedicated teachers and world-renowned researchers and the campus has regularly been listed among the top performers in terms of faculty awards. With over 24,000 students from all 50 states and over 70 countries, the student body is the most academically successful in the history of the campus. Students participate in 240 organizations, 21 NCAA Division I athletic teams, extensive intramurals, living-learning residence halls, community service, and internships. With one of the largest residential life systems in the nation, UMass Amherst houses approximately 12,000 students on campus. The university is enjoying a facilities renaissance, including new buildings in the sciences, the arts, and recreation. UMass Amherst is part of the Five College consortium with Smith, Mount Holyoke, Hampshire and Amherst colleges.

    As an employer, the University of Massachusetts Amherst is a national leader in developing family-friendly policies, benefits and amenities designed to help faculty members develop both productive careers and satisfying personal lives. The university offers one of the nation’s most generous parental leave policies. The university is also part of the Academic Career Network, a regional consortium formed to serve dual-career couples and encourage greater diversity in the academy.


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