Research Assistant – Aquatic Microbial Ecology

Employer: Dr. Katherine McMahon and Dr. Karthik Anantharaman

Contact: Patricia Tran ( (she/her/hers)

Description:  (FILLED)

We are looking to hire one undergraduate research assistant to assist graduate student Patricia Tran collect and process samples from Lake Mendota as part of her PhD thesis. A typical fieldwork day generally consists of going to Lake Mendota, collect environmental (e.g. temperature, dissolved oxygen), biological (microbes) and chemical (nutrient) data. Upon return on shore, the research assistant will assist in processing the samples in the laboratory. Additionally, the research assistant will aide in routine sampling on Lake Mendota as part of the Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Microbial Observatory. Besides field work, the research assistant will have the opportunity to learn and gain hands-on training in laboratory work, analytical machines and computational work.

We are explicitly committed to creating an inclusive and diverse environment and encourage folks from all backgrounds to apply. No prior experience in field work is required. Patricia is engaged to closely mentoring the research assistant and provide them with necessary training.


  • Drive a boat and be on a boat for ~2-3 hours at a time.
  • Perform limnological sampling
  • Process samples in the (microbiology) laboratory
  • Follow scientific protocols
  • Collect, record and process data
  • Prepare or maintain field equipment
  • Communicate findings


  • Good notetaking and recordkeeping
  • Coursework or interest in biology, environmental science, microbiology, or aquatic sciences
  • Willingness to work outdoors for some days per week (maximum 2 days per week)
  • Be comfortable to work on the water, a field day will involve carrying equipment between buildings on campus (see Location details).
  • Excellent attention to detail
  • Work in teams
  • Take initiative
  • Ability to work independently and with minimal supervision (upon appropriate training period)

It is not mandatory to have this experience prior to starting:

  • Boating (boat safety training will be paid for by the employer, but will have to be completed before the first field day)
  • Laboratory Safety Training (provided by UW-Madison at the start of appointment period)
  • Training will be provided for necessary sampling and laboratory techniques


  • Number of positions: 1
  • Start datemid-late May 2020
  • End date: late August 2020
  • Pay: $11.25-no experience; $11.50-some experience; $11.75-very experienced
  • Regular work hours: Monday to Friday, approximately from 9:00am to 5pm, 1 hour lunch break (~35 hours per week)


The hired research assistant will have an office in the Microbial Science Building (1550 Linden Drive, Madison, WI) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s main campus.

All fieldwork will be performed locally on Lake Mendota, Madison, WI. All the equipment (boat, field gear) is provided in collaboration with the UW-Center for Limnology.

Lab sample processing will be performed at the Microbial Sciences Building. Sample analysis may occur at Microbial Sciences Building, Engineering Hall (1415 Engineering Drive) or Water Science and Engineering Laboratory (660 N Park St) all on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.

Housing is not provided.

How to apply:


The CFL is an equal opportunity employer and is dedicated to an inclusive and positive working environment for all.