Postdoc in marine bacteria-invertebrate symbiosis

Looking for an opportunity to develop a new symbiosis model system with great potential for your career growth and future research? Are you fascinated by intracellular bacterial symbionts, like those that support the iconic deep-sea hydrothermal vent and cold seep communities? These and similar symbionts support enormous quantities of biomass throughout the oceans by giving their hosts superpowers, like the ability to use hydrogen sulfide, methane, hydrogen and cellulose as nutrient and energy sources. But research has been hampered by one important fact. None of these marine intracellular symbionts or hosts have been successfully grown in pure culture -until now. This new project will generate and use genetically modified symbiont strains to study symbiont acquisition, maintenance and the development of symbiont communities in shipworms (marine wood-eating bivalves), the only marine intracellular bacterial symbiosis in which both host and symbionts can be grown in laboratory culture. 

The Distel Laboratory at the Northeastern University Marine Science Center seeks a postdoctoral researcher to take a leading role in research exploring the interactions between wood-eating teredinid bivalves (shipworms) and their intracellular cellulolytic bacterial endosymbionts. Shipworms provide an extraordinary model system for investigating symbiont acquisition and intracellular infection as both the hosts and their symbionts can be cultured in the laboratory. Their symbionts are a rich source of secondary metabolites, including antimicrobials and antibiotics that likely play a key role in shaping and defending their microbiomes. They are also the only marine animals known to grow and reproduce with wood (lignocellulose) as a sole food source. Hence the system has relevance to symbiotic and pathogenic infection, drug discovery, microbial community assembly, lignocellulose degradation and biofuel/biomass conversion. The current project aims to advance understanding of symbiont acquisition and host-symbiont interaction at molecular, physiological, and ultrastructural levels by tracing acquisition of genetically modified symbionts. The Distel lab is located at Northeastern University’s Marine Science Center in Nahant, Massachusetts, on Boston’s beautiful North Shore. The anticipated term of the appointment is 1.5 years with possibility of extension based on performance. The appointment is available to start immediately.

Responsibilities: The successful candidate will utilize molecular techniques to (1) explore host-symbiont interactions in the shipworm symbiotic model system, (2) perform laboratory and field research, (3) lead and assist with the preparation of research papers and grant proposals, (4) assist with overall management of the Distel Laboratory and (5) help supervise and train students.

Qualifications:  A PhD or equivalent in microbiology, bacterial molecular biology, or a related biological discipline is required. Candidates must be able to undertake substantial full-time research and scholarship under the supervision of a senior scholar and must be knowledgeable in one or more of the following disciplines: molecular biology, genomics, bioinformatics, microbiology, invertebrate zoology, symbiosis.

Preferred experience/skills:  

  • Proficiency with microbial genetic techniques.
  • Proficiency with basic bioinformatics and microbial genomics/metagenomics.
  • Ability to work with a team and act as a mentor to graduate and undergraduate students.
  • Knowledge of fundamental concepts in microbiology, microbial physiology and microbial ecology.
  • Experience working with microbial cultivation: pure culture and/or microbial communities.
  • Experience in various micrographic techniques e.g., fluorescent in situ hybridization, confocal microscopy, microCT, electron microscopy.
  • Ability to SCUBA dive within the AAUS framework is a plus.

Additional Information

Compensation and Benefits

Northeastern University offers a wide array of complementary and affordable benefit options, to meet the financial, educational, health, and wellness needs of you and your family. Eligibility varies by position and FTE.

  • Competitive salary range dependent on the candidate's experience.
  • Comprehensive insurance plans including medical, dental, vision, and prescription coverage.
  • Generous paid time off work options including vacation, sick leave and annual holidays.
  • Tuition remission is available for employees and their eligible dependents.
  • Enjoy discounts for on and off-campus activities and services.

Northeastern University is an equal opportunity employer, seeking to recruit and support a broadly diverse community of faculty and staff.  Northeastern values and celebrates diversity in all its forms and strives to foster an inclusive culture built on respect that affirms inter-group relations and builds cohesion. 

All qualified applicants are encouraged to apply and will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, religion, color, national origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, disability status, or any other  characteristic protected by applicable law.

To learn more about Northeastern University’s commitment and support of diversity and inclusion, please see

To apply, please go to:


For more information, feel free to contact: Dan Distel,, 617-373-2576

Application deadline: Open until filled
Start date: ASAP
Location: Northeastern University Marine Science Center, Nahant, MA