Opportunities for postdocs

Updated February 11, 2022

We are re-opening our search for a postdoctoral researcher to join our NSF funded project investigating the ecological and evolutionary responses of marine species to climate change. This position is a two year appointment, with a renewal for the second year provided satisfactory progress after year one. Specifically, this research combines evolutionary ecology and ecophysiology to understand the mechanisms underlying local adaptation in Atlantic oyster drills (Urosalpinx cinerea) in their native (Atlantic coast United States) and introduced range (Pacific coast United States). The research is focused on temperature dependency of physiological traits (thermal tolerance, growth, consumption, metabolic rate, phenotypic plasticity) using laboratory and field approaches. The position will co-lead the field team, oversee laboratory experiments, and lead manuscript writing. The postdoc will work directly with the Marine Global Change Ecology Lab (PI Brian Cheng) and collaborate closely with the Molecular Ecology and Conservation Lab (PI Lisa Komoroske) and another postdoctoral researcher leading a genomics aspect of the project. Interested candidates can read more about this project and system in this recent paper (Villeneuve et al. 2021).

We hope to have the researcher begin in spring 2022 but there is some flexibility in the start date. The position will be based out of Amherst, MA. Compensation for this position is dependent on experience but begins at $52,024 annual salary plus benefits.

To apply, candidates should email Brian Cheng (bscheng@umass.edu) with one combined PDF including: a (1) cover letter, (2) CV, (3) two example writing products (published or forthcoming manuscripts), and (4) contact information for two references. For first consideration, candidates should apply by February 28, 2022 but this position is open until filled.


For postdocs who wish to seek their own funding, I am also happy to collaborate on proposals for institutional or external funded opportunities.

Opportunities include:

A strong conceptual fit means that we share complementary or similar (but not necessarily identical) interests in research questions. A strong practical fit means that we can collaborate well together. For example, postdoc candidates will be able to focus at least 80% of their time on our potential collaboration. In other words, manuscripts or projects from prior PhD or postdocs will be mostly complete prior to starting at UMass. As a junior faculty member, successful collaborations require demonstrated productivity and mentoring that is fairly rapid. This is not only helpful for me but for the candidate as well! Postdocs need to demonstrate that they can be independent and effective scientists!

Potential postdocs who identify as under represented in STEM should contact me about possibilities at UMass. 

General advice

First, it’s helpful to know what kinds of opportunities are available for postdocs in ecology and evolution. There are three types:

  1. Institutional postdocs are funded by an organization and are awarded to the candidate to do independent research. These positions typically have a mentor. The application usually includes a proposal, CV, letters of support from the mentors. Examples include Smithsonian Postdoctoral Fellowships, STRI Tupper, and SIO.
  2. External postdocs are funded by an organization to do work at a proposed location. Examples include Smith Conservation Fellows, and National Science Foundation.
  3. Grant funded postdocs are for already established projects. Hiring is done by the principal investigator and application materials include a CV, letters of recommendation, and an interview process. Although some grant funded postdoc positions may have an already named candidate, I think this is usually not the case in ecology and evolution. Most of the time, PIs are looking for the best available candidate for the job.

Check out this impressive list of postdoc opportunities.


I recommend applying strategically so that you can give yourself as many options as possible. What does strategically mean? Your application is a balance between your current competitiveness (skills and publication record) and your ability to craft a compelling proposal. Of course, your finite resource is time. On the one hand, maybe you should just focus on publishing your PhD or current postdoc work so you are as competitive as possible? On the other hand, you need to write a compelling proposal and this will take time! My personal strategy was to spend time on a few postdoctoral proposals/applications that I thought I had a reasonable chance of getting. In fact, I remember applying for 3 postdocs around the same time frame. Importantly, I applied for my first opportunity a year earlier, but I thought it was extremely helpful to have gone through the “rodeo” at least once before.

How do I find a mentor?

Finding a postdoc mentor is in some ways similar to applying for graduate school with some important differences. It is similar in that you need find a mentor that is a good fit for your interests and the way you work. Once you have identified this mentor, you need to cultivate the relationship. Think of this part as collaboration building. Don’t just email the mentor and say “Hi, i’m interested in your work and I want to postdoc with you.” You want to create a compelling argument for 1) you as an up and coming postdoc, 2) why there is a good fit between you and the mentor, and 3) what is the interesting work that can be done. More on this soon…