Post-Doc in Environment Sciences & Engineering

Thursday, July 22, 2021
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UNC Chapel Hill
Job Description: 

The Water Institute ( at the Gillings School of Global Public Health at UNC seeks a postdoctoral fellow for experimental research in the field of environmental microbiology.

The postdoctoral research associate will be based full-time in Chapel Hill. She/he will be active on following lab projects, from the design to experiment execution and analysis of results. This work will be done in collaboration with faculty members in the environmental sciences and engineering (ESE) department, and in collaboration with a team of undergraduate and graduate students and research assistants she/he will supervise. Primary responsibilities will include:

  • Ensuring undergraduate and graduate research assistants and students are familiar with basic laboratory safety protocols and procedures, and prioritizing laboratory safety at all times;
  • In collaboration with the direct supervisor and other faculty members at ESE, supporting the creation of a Water Science Innovation Lab and ‘Learning Community’;
  • Examining how extreme weather events impact drinking water quality in private wells, and how proximity to potential sources of environmental contamination may contribute to these impacts. Based on the results/findings, generate recommendations for increasing the resilience of small water systems;
  • Comparing different novel, low-cost methods for rapid, on-site decontamination of personal protective equipment (PPE, e.g. facemask) for emergency reuse (using non-pathogenic bacteriophages and well-characterized non-infectious animal coronaviruses as performance indicators). The aim of this work is to identify methods for reducing (SARS)CoV-2 environmental transmission and transmission of other airborne viruses;
  • Evaluating the residence time, survival, and viability of coronaviruses (using non-pathogenic bacteriophages and well-characterized non-infectious animal surrogate coronaviruses) in airborne respirable particles and the effects of light, ozone, temperature, and humidity on these parameters;
  • Understanding/mitigating airborne transmission of (SARS)CoV-2 via sub-micron airborne particles (aerosols) – this work may include some analysis of samples containing (SARS)CoV-2 under BSL2+ conditions and in biological safety cabinets wearing full PPE (negotiable if this poses a problem for the applicant);
  • Authoring, co-authoring, and/or supporting publications and research proposals related to the above activities, with a target of contributing to 2-4 publications per year.

Fieldwork will be largely in NC. Lab work will be primarily in BSL2 and BSL2+ laboratories. The qualified candidate is expected to have a PhD in a relevant field of study and should have interests and previous experience in environmental health, epidemiology, and/or environmental public health microbiology. She/he will have strong skills and demonstrated research experience in public health, medical and/or environmental bacteriology and/or virology and infection control. Basic knowledge of molecular biology techniques, including sample preparation in the laboratory and the use of relevant laboratory instrumentation is required. Previous knowledge of metagenomic or other sequencing techniques to analyse microbial communities, such as high throughput sequencing (‘next generation sequencing’), such as use of sequencers and performing data analysis and interpretation (i.e., bioinformatics) would be an advantage.

Fluency in R, Stata, Python, or Matlab, and experience in statistical methods relevant to analysis of environmental and/or epidemiological data with limited supervision would be also helpful. Prior GIS experience is a plus, but not required. Resources are available to support further development of statistical skills and/or GIS skills if these are functional but not fully inclusive of all items above.

Knowledge of antimicrobial resistance and one-health concepts, and basic culture-based and/or molecular AMR environmental microbiology analyses and/or detection methods is preferred. Experience in infectivity/culture-based methods to assay bacterial and viral indicators and applied environmental research experience working with drinking water and/or sewage and the microbes therein are considered a plus.

Prior knowledge/experience on how to assay the target microbes is advantageous. Preferred candidates will have experience in working with pathogenic or potentially infectious bacteria and viruses in wastewater, drinking water, and/or other environmental samples.

In collaboration with the lead PI, the candidate will be required to recruit junior lab members and train them to be proficient in the above-mentioned techniques.

To apply, please send the following items to Dr. Emanuele Sozzi ( by email as a single .pdf file, with subject line “Water Institute post-doc”:

  • Brief cover letter describing interests and motivation
  • Curriculum vitae including a list of publications
  • Names and full contact information for three references
  • One example publication

Review of applications will begin immediately and will continue until the position is filled. The one-year position is available starting July 1, 2021, though the start date is negotiable. Please send any questions about the position to Emanuele Sozzi at