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Research Assistant I - Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory, Dr. Kenta Asahina

Salk Institute for Biological Studies
La Jolla, CA

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Employment Type
Full Time
Institution Type
Four-Year Institution

Job Details

This position is a part of a research team focused on understanding the genetic and neural control of animal behavior. Under the supervision of the Principal Investigator (PI) and a postdoctoral scholar, incumbent executes experiments and aids laboratory management. The main duty is a support role for the histological and behavioral experiment using the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster). Additional tasks include behavioral data analysis using machine vision and machine learning-based programs, molecular cloning, immunohistochemistry, and maintenance of the transgenic Drosophila strains. Demonstrated skills to conduct experiment in the lab and to keep records are essential. He or she will need to communicate with various personnel in and outside of the laboratory for the smooth operation of scientific research.


(30%) Laboratory Support

  • Assisting post-docs with maintenance of molecular biology reagents and Drosophila
  • Restocking consumables such as disposable plasticware, gloves and other personal protective equipment, etc.
  • Managing day-to-day activities within the research laboratory, including ensuring operation of essential equipment, making sure adequate supplies are available for routine experimental procedures.

(40%) Drosophila husbandry and behavior experiments

  • Maintenance of Drosophila strains by periodically transferring the flies to new media.
  • Monitoring the general health of the colonies.
  • Assays on various social behaviors, such as courtship, aggression, and locomotion.
  • Quantitative behavior data analysis using software developed in MATLAB environment.
  • Monitoring of fly lifespan under various genetic, social, and nutritional conditions. This includes preparations of specific Drosophila media and periodical transfer of the flies to new media.

(30%) Immunohistochemistry of Drosophila brains

  • Analyzing distribution of target proteins by fluorescent immunohistochemistry in the fly brains.
  • Perform dissection, fix, antibody application, wash, and mounting following the established protocol.
  • Capture and document the image of fluorescent signals using confocal microscopy.



  • No professional experience required.


  • Minimum one year of experience of research activity in the laboratory setting. This includes laboratory courses, seasonal intern, paid research assistant position.
  • Demonstrated experience with general laboratory maintenance, including cleaning, stocking supply inventory, and ensuring the maintenance of a sterile environment.
  • Demonstrated experience in using MATLAB, Python, R, or equivalent data analysis/programming package.
  • Demonstrated experience in handling of Drosophila melanogaster in the lab.
  • Demonstrated experience in performing behavioral experiments, including data analysis using Drosophila melanogaster in the lab.
  • Demonstrated experience and application of immunohistochemistry.



  • Bachelor’s degree in natural sciences, engineering, or information technology.  Bachelor's degrees in a different discipline and a minimum of 2 years of experience in a scientific role will be considered in lieu.



  • Ability to conduct a biological experiment independently. This includes the ability to (a) develop a clear and tangible goal of an experiment, (b) gather background information, both in concepts and techniques, by searching through printed and online publications, research articles, protocols, webinars and personal communications, (c) develop strategies and technical approaches, (d) design experiments with proper positive and negative controls, within the limit of time and available resources, (e) prepare necessary reagents and conduct reliable, reproducible and accurate experiments, (f) critically assess the results, develop an alternative approach and troubleshoot protocols if the goal is not accomplished, (g) document the entire process of the project in a professional format, and (h) communicate results openly with PI and those interested.
  • Excellent written communication skills and knowledge of English language, including grammar, usage, spelling, and punctuation.
  • Ability to effectively communicate scientific ideas, techniques and data with other scientists. This includes performing written, oral and visual presentation of project plans and results, compiling results in a professional format, and integrating critic and comments from other scientists to improve protocol and experimental approaches.
  • Strong inter-personal skills. This requires communicating effectively, patiently and tactfully in writing, in-person and on the phone conversations with a variety of people in research environment including professors, scientists, students, administrators, sales representatives, industry technical experts, clinicians and media personnel. Ability to establish and maintain strong professional relationship with people with diverse personality and cultural background is required.
  • Strong commitment to scientific integrity. This requires proper assessment of skills and available resources, adherence to written protocols and safety regulations, setting adequate timelines and estimate on workloads, detailed records of every scientific activities, honest and timely communication of ongoing tasks, and flexibility in work schedule to achieve the goal within deadline.
  • Proficiency in basic computer software and Internet usage, both in MAC and PC systems. This includes information search on Internet-based databases, operation of basic software including Microsoft Office, and Internet communications using e-mails, Zoom, Slack, and other methods.
  • Conceptual and practical understanding of the safe operation of laboratory equipment, including centrifuge, incubators, microscopy, deep freezers etc.
  • Understanding of animal genetics, and handling of Drosophila melanogaster. This includes basic understanding of genetic methods to manipulate Drosophila neurons. 


  • Demonstrated knowledge of quantitative animal behavior, including (but not limited to) the variable nature of animal behavior, possible sources of such variabilities, and methods to quantify complex animal behaviors using computer-based approaches.
  • Demonstrated skills on microsurgery on laboratory animals.
  • Demonstrated knowledge and experience on basic statistical analyses. This includes the concept of statistical significance, confidence intervals, Type-1 and Type-2 errors, parametric and non-parametric tests, as well as applications of various statistical tests using software such as Excel, MATLAB and Prism.
  • Demonstrated knowledge and experience in large data management and network management.

The salary range for this position is $18.03-$21.00 per hour


  • Must be willing to work in an animal-related research environment.
  • Satisfactory completion of the Institute’s background investigation.
  • Must be willing to sign a confidentiality agreement.


 This position requires constant adjusting focus, grasping, handling, reaching, working in confined areas, and working inside. 


Working at Salk Institute for Biological Studies

The Salk Institute for Biological Studies is one of the world's preeminent basic research institutions, where internationally renowned faculty probe fundamental life science questions in a unique, collaborative, and creative environment. Focused on both discovery and mentoring future generations of researchers, Salk scientists make groundbreaking contributions to our understanding of cancer, aging, Alzheimer's, diabetes, and cardiovascular disorders by studying neuroscience, genetics, cell and plant biology, and related disciplines.

Faculty achievements have been recognized with numerous honors, including Nobel Prizes and memberships in the National Academy of Sciences. Founded in 1960 by polio vaccine pioneer Jonas Salk, M.D., the Institute is an independent nonprofit organization and architectural landmark.

Salk Equal Opportunity and Non-Discrimination Statement

The Salk Institute for Biological Studies is committed to providing equal access to opportunities for students, employees, applicants for employment and other persons.

Our policies prohibit harassment or unlawful discrimination against individuals on the basis of sex, gender, marital or parental status, pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, medical conditions/disabilities related to pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation age, ancestry, color, religion (including religious dress and grooming practices), family and/or medical care leave status, disability (mental or physical), registered domestic partner status, legally protected medical condition, genetic information, military or veteran status (disabled veteran, veteran of the Vietnam era, other covered veteran status), national origin (including language use restrictions and possession of a driver’s license), race, religion or any other classification protected by local, state or federal laws.

The Salk Institute participates in the E-Verify program.

Reasonable accommodation is available for qualified individuals with disabilities and for individuals with religious restrictions.

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