University of Washington Bothell — Postdoctoral Scholar, Biological Sciences, Hillesland Lab

Position Description

The Hillesland lab at University of Washington Bothell, in collaboration with the Kerr lab at UW Seattle would like to hire two postdoctoral scholars to test hypotheses about eukaryogenesis on a project funded by the Moore-Simons Project on the Origin of the Eukaryotic Cell. Positions are expected to begin September 1, 2020.

Over the past several years, we have used experimental evolution to generate and study a set of 46 populations and mini-communities of the bacteria Desulfovibrio vulgaris and the archaea Methanococcus maripaludis. Twenty-two communities were evolved for 5000 generations in an environment without an electron acceptor for respiration, requiring D. vulgaris and M. maripaludis to rely on a mutualistic interaction called syntrophy to survive. In addition, controls consisting of each species evolving alone were also propagated. The postdoctoral scholars will use these populations and communities to help develop and refine hypotheses about how the FECA (first eukaryotic common ancestor) developed an interdependent relationship with a bacterium that would ultimately become the mitochondria. This work involves sequencing and analysis of genomes in this study system, making mutants and testing their phenotypes, replaying evolution to test hypotheses about symbiosis, and collaborating with the Kerr lab (University of Washington, Seattle) on models of symbiosis. For more details about the work, please contact Kristina Hillesland at Opportunities for postdocs to participate in career development workshops, to mentor undergraduate researchers, to present research at conferences, and to develop their own research ideas within the framework of the grant will be provided.

The Hillesland lab is in the Biological Sciences Division in the School of STEM at University of Washington Bothell. UW Bothell is a primarily undergraduate institution that is about 12 miles northeast of Seattle and the main UW campus. The student body of UW Bothell is quite diverse and many students are the first in their families to attend college. The successful candidate will have the opportunity to work with these students on their research projects. The Hillesland and Kerr labs are both committed to providing excellent education to all of our students and postdocs, regardless of their race, gender, class, nationality, physical ability, religion, age, or sexual orientation. We recognize that science and the lab community are richer when diverse people participate.

Term of appointment: This position is a full-time, 12-month (one-year) appointment that may be extended up to a maximum of three years. The ideal start date is September 1st, 2020. The Postdoctoral Scholar title is limited to five years, including postdoctoral experience(s) at UW and other institutions.

Postdoctoral Scholars are represented by UAW 4121 and are subject to the collective bargaining agreement, unless agreed exclusion criteria apply. For more information, please visit the University of Washington Labor Relations website.


  • Prepare DNA and coordinate metagenome sequencing of mini-communities (Postdoc 1)
  • Analyze sequence data using established pipelines (Postdoc 1)
  • Adapt existing protocols for making mutations in D. vulgaris and M. maripaludis to the Hillesland lab environment (Postdocs 1 and 2)
  • Use genome sequence data to identify potential beneficial mutations and interactions between clones, and test hypotheses about this with constructed mutants (Postdocs 1 and 2)
  • Replay evolution to test hypotheses about symbiosis in microtiter plates in an anaerobic environment with clones or constructed mutants. (Postdoc 2)
  • Work collaboratively with Kerr lab members as needed on discussing parameters and using results of symbiosis model. (Postdoc 2)
  • Work collaboratively with other lab members, including undergraduate researchers from diverse backgrounds. (Postdocs 1 and 2)
  • Prepare results and lead efforts for writing peer-reviewed publications and presentations at scientific conferences. (Postdocs 1 and 2)


Minimum Qualifications:

  • PhD (or foreign equivalent) in microbiology and/or evolutionary biology or a related field
  • Competency in basic molecular biology skills or experience working with strict anaerobes
  • Good dexterity and hand-eye coordination are required to be able to work with anaerobes
  • Experience writing and publishing manuscript(s) that report original research and presenting such research at conferences
  • Demonstrated ability to work collaboratively with people from diverse backgrounds


  • Experience analyzing genome sequence data using programs such as Breseq, Bowtie, and BWA.
  • A basic understanding of what an adaptation is and how to test hypotheses about them (Postdoc 1)
  • A basic understanding of science and theory of evolution of mutualism and/or cooperation (Postdoc 2)

Instructions/How to Apply

Applicants should submit a current CV, a cover letter explaining why you are interested in the position, how it will help your career, and highlighting your qualifications; and a statement describing your experience and interests in working with diverse people.  

For more information about the University of Washington Bothell, diversity, and How to Apply see: