JOB OPENING: Postdoctoral Researcher in Evolutionary Biomechanics (closed)

Postdoctoral Researcher in Evolutionary Biomechanics

This position is closed.

The Patek Lab at Duke University seeks the unifying principles that guide, limit and promote the evolutionary diversity of biomechanical systems. Our research yields discoveries of new biological phenomena, original tests of macroevolutionary hypotheses, and new frameworks for understanding the mechanical foundations of biological diversity. We conduct innovative outreach that enhances equity, access, and transparency for diverse participants in research.


Movement in biology is most often associated with motor-like mechanisms, such as muscle contractions in animals or hydraulics in plants.  However, organisms have another option for generating movement:  they can use motor-like mechanisms to load energy into elastic structures, such that pre-loaded elastic structures generate the movement, rather than motors. Latch-mediated spring actuation generates movement largely or exclusively using stored elastic energy and incorporates latches to mediate energy release.  You will join a research team to examine how organisms navigate a mass-based transition between movement driven by stored elastic energy versus by direct motor action.  Our broader goal is to establish the principles by which biological systems navigate physics-based limits and transitions through developmental and evolutionary processes. You will engage the broader public through a Research Experience for Teachers program and the development and implementation of the open source Muser program which provides a structured process for equitable and transparent access to undergraduate research experience.


●  Join an exciting team of integrative and comparative biologists with interests and expertise including biomechanics, behavior, evolutionary analyses, mathematical modeling, and materials testing.  

●  Travel to collaborator labs for field work experience and training in physics-based mathematical modeling.

●  Build outreach and broader impact skills through working with high school teachers and implementing structural changes in academic research to enhance inclusiveness through Muser.

●  Access cutting-edge high-speed imaging cameras (Photron Fastcam SA-X and SA-Z models), dynamic materials testing (Electropuls Instron), high resolution light microscopy, confocal microscopy, SEM, ESEM, CLSM, and microCT facilities, multi-material maker facilities, acoustic test chamber, and tropical and temperate saltwater aquarium facilities.

●  Become part of a diverse and inclusive lab and university, with outstanding job benefits in a culturally diverse and affordable geographic region.


Education:  Ph.D. in Biology, Physics, Materials Science, or Engineering is required.

Skills: A journal publication record is required to demonstrate existing skills in completing and publishing research projects.  You must be comfortable working with live organisms.  You must have previous experience in at least one of the following areas: biomechanical analysis, mathematical modeling, materials testing, digital image analysis, morphological visualization, developmental/scaling analyses, or evolutionary analysis.

Characteristics:  A strong interest in the evolutionary or physical principles of biological movement is essential.  Patek Lab postdocs establish and lead their projects - creativity, self-sufficiency and motivation in your work are essential.  A commitment to building skills for enhancing and engaging broader communities in research is essential.


●  Lead a postdoctoral research project focusing on the transitions between motor-driven and spring-driven movement within and across organisms.

●  Collaborate with participating labs for marine fieldwork and mathematical modeling aspects of the project.

●  Lead outreach and broader impact activities.

●  Communicate research through team meetings, conference presentations, and journal publications.

●  Supervise projects involving undergraduates and graduate students.

●  Contribute to lab animal care, acquisition, and general lab operations.


Applications are currently being accepted and will be evaluated on a rolling basis with the goal of hiring as soon as possible.  The position is available starting 9/1/2020, although the start date is negotiable and can begin at a later date.  The position is based on funding for a three year position. The initial appointment will be for 12 months with the possibility for renewal contingent on performance and continuing funding availability for up to 3 years.  Salary starts at $52,704. Contact Prof. Patek via email for additional information.

The job application must be submitted to Academic Jobs Online using this link (do not email applications to Prof. Patek) and should include:

  1. Cover letter including information about specific research interests in this position, how previous research provides a strong foundation for this position, how this research connects to career goals, and aspects of the Patek Lab’s research program that are of particular interest.
  2. C.V.
  3. List of three references including contact information and the basis of the relationship to the candidate. Letters of recommendation will be requested later in the review process.


Duke University, located in Durham, North Carolina, is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer committed to providing employment opportunities without regard to an individual’s age, color, disability, genetic information, gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation, or veteran status. We value diversity in all of its many facets and meanings.

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