Science careers at independent research institutes

5/3/2019 12:54:51 PM

When we think about options for research-related science careers, we often talk about a bifurcated career pathway: academia or industry. But, as we mentioned in a previous post on faculty jobs outside academia, there are research jobs available in the nonprofit sector as well. One such category is independent research institutes. These are nonprofit organizations, often founded by a prominent scientist or a philanthropic donor or family, with a mission-driven focus on specific research disciplines. Many of these institutions run their own education and training programs and sometimes are affiliated with a university. As an independently operated research community, these organizations have hiring needs for faculty, postdocs and research staff, along with administration and support positions. For this week’s post, we have provided a few resources to help you locate this type of research institute, so you can explore this option further. We also have included short profiles for a subset of these independent research institutes and a sampling of open positions as listed on each institute’s job board.  

Identifying independent research institutes  

  • As these institutes are nonprofit organizations, you can do keyword searches or browse by categories on nonprofit databases (e.g., Charity Navigator, GuideStar) to find results.  

Weekly jobs roundup  

  • The Van Andel Institute (Grand Rapids, Mich.) was established by Jay and Betty Van Andel in 1996 as an independent biomedical research institute and science education organization. VAI is composed of a research institute, education institute (focused on K–12 science outreach) and a graduate school. There are research training programs at all levels from undergraduates to physician scientists. The research division is specifically focused on elucidating the biomolecular origins of cancer, Parkinson’s and other diseases and finding effective treatments. According to Erica Gobrogge (VAI postdoctoral affairs specialist), they have started several new research initiatives and are ramping up the postdoctoral program. Currently, there are multiple openings for postdocs within neurodegenerative research areas. Project topics include neuronal death, infections as triggers of Parkinson’s disease and alpha-synuclein pathogenicity. Check out the job board for a complete listing of postdoctoral and staff positions.  
  • The Salk Institute for Biological Studies (La Jolla, Calif.) was founded by Jonas Salk, inventor of the polio vaccine, and opened in 1963 to create a collaborative environment for scientists to explore the basic principles of life and the benefits of this research for society. The institute has scientific program areas in aging and regenerative medicine, cancer biology, immune-system biology, metabolism and diabetes, neuroscience and neurological disorders, and plant biology. The Salk careers webpage lists out openings for faculty, postdoctoral and staff positions. The most recently posted staff jobs include a bioinformatic analyst, lab technicians in systems neurobiology and a research assistant in molecular neurobiology.  (Note: Most of the postdoctoral research jobs listed seem to be outdated. You may want to reach out and check if they just keep these postings up as an open call for applicants. Additionally, this webpage notes that if you are interested in working with a faculty member not listed then to contact them directly.)  
  • The Scripps Research Institute (La Jolla, Calif., and Jupiter, Fla.) was founded in 1924 by journalist and philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps as the Scripps Metabolic Clinic to treat diabetes and other metabolic disorders. Since that time, Scripps Research has become a world-renowned biomedical research institute with five interrelated departments in chemistry, immunology and microbiology, integrative structural and computational biology, molecular medicine and neuroscience. There are education and training programs (e.g., graduate program) available as well. Scripps Research also houses Calibr, a nonprofit translational research institute advancing therapeutics for unmet medical needs. Check out the job board to view all current job opportunities. These include many recent postings for research interns, research assistants and technicians and postdoctoral associates at both Scripps Research locations. Prospective postdocs also are encouraged to directly contact faculty mentors to express interest.  
  • The Wistar Institute (Philadelphia) lays claim to being the nation’s first independent biomedical research institution, originally established in 1892 as an anatomical teaching museum. The institute specializes in the research fields of cancer, immunology, infectious diseases and vaccine development. Current job openings include two research assistants in a virology laboratory focused on the mechanisms of disease in HIV-1 infection, a postdoctoral fellow in cancer biology and two postdoctoral fellow openings in an epigenetics lab. Wistar also offers a number of education and training programs. (Note: The postdoctoral program webpage indicates that scientists can reach out to a P.I. individually to express interest in postdoctoral work in their lab.)

Donna Kridelbaugh is a contributor to the ASBMB Careers Blog. She holds an advanced degree in microbiology and is a former lab manager.   

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