Research Assistant III - Laboratory of Dr. Maria Margarita Behrens
Salk Institute for Biological Studies

La Jolla, California

Posted in Education and Training

Job Info

The Research Assistant III is responsible for all lab managerial duties in support of the Principal Investigator’s (PI) studies along with a focus on brain slicing and dissection, nuclei production and sorting for multiomics analysis, protein biochemistry and image analysis.  Duties include establishing and performing independent research, brain slicing, nuclei production and sorting, neuronal imaging, and analysis, and specific techniques and methods in order to execute experiments that include advanced molecular biology techniques, assisting the PI with experimental design and direction, assisting in hiring new staff, supervising lab staff (junior technicians, students and volunteers), training staff in molecular biology techniques and all other techniques as necessary, writing animal protocols, equipment upkeep and repair, ensuring compliance with all Salk policies, and managing any scientific or interpersonal issues that may arise.  Incumbent is also responsible for all lab materials including tissue storage, plasmid DNA, DNA and custom primer data, chemical inventory list, freezer/fridge contents, and frozen tissue inventory. Assists PI with budget management, department ordering, act as lab representative/point man regarding all lab issues and ensuring lab safety.

The overall goal of the research is to understand the developmental regulation of DNA methylation in neurons and the long-term consequences of its alteration.


1)         (10%) Tissue Culture

  • Independently maintains cultures of neuronal/glial cells obtained from differentiation of embryonic neural precursors.

2)         (15%) Molecular Biology Techniques

  • Perform various techniques in molecular biology such as: RNA extraction and analysis.
  • DNA extraction and analysis.
  • PCR and rtPCR.
  • Maxi preps.
  • Gel Electrophoresis.
  • Recombinant DNA techniques.
  • lmmunoprecipitation for mass spectrometry

3)         (10%) Histology

  • Perform various immunofluorescence protocols on fixed brain tissue.
  • Analyze cells/spines using various fluorescent and confocal microscopes for high power imaging.

5)         (25%) Tissue dissection and nuclei preparation

  • Independently slices and dissects brain tissue.
  • Independently prepares cellular nuclei from brain tissue

6)         (40%) Lab Management

  •  Manages resources/supplies, assigns responsibility for daily laboratory duties among research and lab assistants, and coordinates research projects to achieve specific goals and timetables.
  • Identifies problems with the lab procedures, escalates to PI, and implements corrective action as needed.
  • Ensures all equipment is fully operational. Repairs equipment when possible or arranges repairs/purchase of replacement equipment. Performs regular instrument and equipment maintenance and calibration.
  • Provides technical expertise, answers research related, operational and Salk procedural questions.
  • Trains staff on specific molecular neurobiology and related techniques. Oversees and trains laboratory personnel in proper use of laboratory equipment and equipment maintenance. Assists in hiring process of new staff.
  • Oversees general lab maintenance/organization, upkeep, and compliance with safety initiatives.
  •  Manages freezer and supply inventory. Responsible for annual equipment inventory.
  • Manages, maintains, and oversees inventory of all lab research holdings/assets (i.e, cell lines, mouse lines, DNA plasmids, primers, etc.). Maintains log of samples in -80, -20 C freezers, and 4 C refrigerators.
  • Coordinates/Distributes research components and animals to local or international collaborators/colleagues.
  • Writes laboratory animal protocols for experiments and ensures their compliance within the laboratory.
  • Contributes to and oversees the development of new techniques and standardized operating protocols (SOP), utilizing new tools that lead to the modification of methodology and increased quality and reliability of research.
  •  Ensures safety information is disseminated promptly to all laboratory personnel and ensures compliance.
  • Informs new personnel of required safety procedures and coordinates attendance in training classes.
  • Inspects laboratory space for safe conditions and adherence to safety procedures.
  • Communicates and interacts with Salk departments (HR, RACT, PUR) and external vendors to conduct necessary lab business.
  • Places and approves all inventory, equipment, and animal orders while managing what funding sources to be used. Tracks spending and budget data for all laboratory supplies, equipment, and animal (purchase/upkeep) charges.



  • 4 – 6 years of related experience based on education level or equivalent combination of education and experience.
  • Demonstrated experience and knowledge of protein- and biochemistry techniques, image analysis and brain handling. Basic knowledge of cell biology techniques.
  • Proficient in the operation of standard lab equipment and computer hardware/software.
  • Demonstrated supervisory and managerial roles in a lab setting.


  • Fundamental skills in neuroscience, molecular biology, cell culture, and image analysis.



  •  Bachelor’s degree in related field or equivalent combination of education and experience. 


  • Neuroscience specialization.



  • Theoretical and hands on knowledge of histology and molecular biology techniques, as well as confocal imaging.
  • Demonstrated knowledge and experience in researching information and analyzing data to arrive at valid conclusions.
  • Ability to manage and track large numbers of samples meticulously.
  • Skill in the operation and maintenance of various lab equipment.
  • Demonstrated knowledge and experience with both PC and MAC operating systems, standard business office equipment and commonly used software and tools, such as Microsoft Office, electronic mail, and the internet.
  • Proficiency with common office software applications as well as software applications used for research, recording, and analysis.
  • Highly organized, effective at multitasking, adept at juggling changing priorities and able to prioritize.
  • Proven ability to work both independently and also as part of a collaborative team.
  • Excellent communication skills, both oral and written.
  • Strong interpersonal skills, including tact, diplomacy, and flexibility.
  • Demonstrated ability to interact effectively with diverse groups. Demonstrated skill in establishing and maintaining effective working relationships with personnel at all levels.
  • Demonstrated skill in supervisory and lab managing roles.


  •  Subcellular fractionation and cell cytometry.


  •  Must be willing to work in an animal-related research environment.
  • Must be willing to work with primary cultures obtained from mouse embryos and complete all appropriate associated training.
  • Must be willing to work independently and must have a flexible schedule to support research needs.
  • Satisfactory completion of the Institute’s background investigation.
  • Must be willing to sign a confidentiality agreement. 


This position will be constantly adjusting focus, seeing, sitting, touching/feeling and working inside. 

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