Postdoctoral Research Associate (Papuoin and Ching Labs)

Neuroscience and Electrical & Systems Engineering

Call for application – one (1) joint postdoctoral position available in the Papouin and Ching labs at Washington University in St Louis (MO, USA) to implement artificial astro-neuronal networks with applications to reinforcement learning and machine learning.

Instructions

To apply for this postdoctoral research opportunity, please email a CV/Biosketch with list of publications and awards, if applicable, a brief statement of research interest and experience, and the contact information of at least two references, directly to Drs. Thomas Papouin and ShiNung Ching at thomas.papouin@wustl.edu and shinung@wustl.edu. Applications will be considered until the position is filled.

Position description

One joint Postdoctoral Research Associate position is open in the Papouin lab (https://sites.wustl.edu/papouinlab/) and Ching lab (http://braindynamics.engineering.wustl.edu) at Washington University in St Louis, in the Departments of Neuroscience and Electrical & Systems Engineering, to conduct groundbreaking studies on the design and implementation of neural networks and machine learning algorithms that incorporate innovative views of astrocyte biology. Astrocytes are non-neuronal cells that account for ~50% of the mammalian brain and have come to the forefront of neuroscience for their capacity to regulate neuronal activity and their instrumental roles in brain states and cognition. Yet, because they are not electrically active, astrocytes have been discounted in the modeling of brain-like neural networks and in brain-inspired algorithms.

The successful candidate will join inclusive, productive, dynamic and highly complementary teams, as part of a strong, ongoing and well-funded collaboration. Both labs offer vibrant, new and custom-designed laboratory spaces with rich intellectual environments, and hands-on mentoring and the possibility to work remotely. The Papouin lab studies the role of astrocytes in information processing in the mammalian brain at the cellular, circuit and behavioral levels. Techniques routinely employed in the Papouin lab include slice electrophysiology, optogenetics, mouse behavioral assays, electron microscopy, viral deliveries of genetic constructs (e.g. DREADDS, CalEx), molecular genetics (CRISPR/Cas9), calcium imaging, and more. The Papouin lab has recently put forward an innovative and holistic theory for how astrocytes participate in brain circuit activity. The Ching lab studies dynamics and function in neuronal circuits, with a focus on revealing the role of brain dynamics across scales in mediating information processing and higher aspects of cognition. Techniques used include computational modeling, dynamical systems analysis, and optimization theory. Outcomes of this research span impacts in theoretical neuroscience, artificial intelligence and neural engineering.

This ongoing collaboration, funded by the DoD and the NIH, aims at implementing the notion of contextual guidance, wherein astrocytes help contextualize neural networks by providing spatial segmentation and temporal hierarchy. Particular foci include the potential role of astrocytes in reinforcement learning over multiple timescales, and in enabling meta-learning in recurrent neural networks.

Being versed in the fields of astroglial biology is preferred but not necessary. The successful candidate will have experience in computational neuroscience, which may include neural circuit modeling, analysis and/or machine learning with specific emphasis on recurrent neural networks.

Funding is in hand for at least two years, but we will also provide training in grant writing for fellowship applications to various foundations and funding agencies. Overall, mentoring will be provided by both PIs through joint meetings, and the candidate will have ample opportunities for training in both labs. In addition, career and professional development training for postdoctoral researchers is provided through the Career Center, Teaching Center, Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, and campus groups. Additional information on being a postdoc at Washington University in St. Louis is found at https://postdoc.wustl.edu/prospective-postdocs-2/.

Environment

The Department of Neuroscience at Washington University is made of over 30 different laboratories, with research spanning the entire field of fundamental and translational Neuroscience, the full breadth of research models (from computation and fossils to non-human primates and human patients), and the entire breadth of techniques used in modern Neuroscience. We work closely with Cores, Centers and other Departments, such as the Departments of Anesthesiology, Genetics and Psychiatry, and have access to clinical research and human subjects, as well as tissue samples through partnerships with local hospitals. The Departments of Neuroscience and Genetics are home to a number of prominent and internationally recognized researchers.

The Preston M. Green Department of Electrical & Systems Engineering (ESE) at Washington University is the second-oldest electrical engineering department in the US. Systems Science & Mathematics (SSM) is a unique department specializing in applied mathematics, systems, control, and operations research. The ESE Department enjoys easy access to the campus at large as well as the Washington University School of Medicine. The academic environment is thus highly conducive to interdisciplinary, collaborative research and training. This is evidenced by the large population of graduate and undergraduate students engaged in research activities in the ESE department.

Washington University is ranked #20 in the World Best Universities (Shanghai ranking) and #9 in the Best Global Universities for Neuroscience and Behavior, with access to a virtually limitless array of techniques, in an exceptionally friendly, collegial and collaborative atmosphere. Our department is also proudly international in nature, with PIs and postdocs originating from Switzerland, France, Germany, U.K., Bulgaria, Italy, Spain, Canada, Russia, Korea, China, and India.

More information:

Papouin lab: https://sites.wustl.edu/papouinlab/

Ching lab: http://braindynamics.engineering.wustl.edu

Department of Neuroscience: http://neurosci.wustl.edu/People/Faculty

School of Engineering: https://engineering.wustl.edu/

Required qualifications

  • Must hold a PhD in Neuroscience or related life sciences discipline
  • Must have demonstrated ability to conduct research independently

Preferred qualifications

  • Adequate English fluency
  • Demonstrated experience with genetics approaches described above
  • Versed in the fields of astroglial biology

Salary range and benefits

Salary will be commensurate with experience and will follow the NIH postdoctoral stipend guidelines for FY2021 (https://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-21-049.html). This position qualify for full-time benefits. Please view a summary of benefits at https://hr.wustl.edu/benefits/ .

Start date

Position can start immediately but start-date is flexible.  Applications will be considered until the position is filled.

Pre-employment screening

All external candidates receiving an offer for employment will be required to submit to pre-employment screening for this position. Current employees applying for a new position within the university may be subject to this requirement. The screenings will include a criminal background check and, if applicable, other background checks, drug screen, employment and education or licensure/certification verification, physical examination, certain vaccinations and/or governmental registry checks. All offers are contingent upon successful completion of required screening.

Primary duties and responsibilities

  1. Trains under the supervision of the faculty mentors Drs. Thomas Papouin and ShiNung Ching.
  1. Assists with the development and implementation of studies.
  2. Assists and provides additional mentoring to Graduate students.
  3. Develops and leads their own project independently, leading to at least one first author publication.
  4. Develops their career plan and path to independence.
  5. Develops proficiency in career skills, including writing, public speaking, networking, and critical evaluation of scientific literature.
  6. Presents scientific work both inside and outside the University with excellent oral communication skills.
  7. Assists with grant preparation and reporting.
  8. Maintains conformity with ethical standards in research.
  9. Complies with the Papouin and Ching lab ethics, research standards and philosophy.
  10. Maintains compliance with laboratory practice including the maintenance of adequate research records.
  11. Engage in open and timely discussion with the mentor regarding possession or distribution of material, reagents, or records belonging to their laboratory and any proposed disclosure of findings or techniques privately or in publications.
  12. Collegial conduct towards co-trainees, staff members and members of the research group.
  13. Adherence to all applicable University policies, procedures and regulations. Data, research records and materials, and intellectual property generated in WashU laboratories remain the property of the University.

EOE statement

Washington University is an Equal Opportunity Employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, genetic information, disability, or protected veteran status.