Emergence of Metabolism and Mineral-Organic Chemistry on Early Earth and Ocean Worlds Postdoc

Pasadena, California (US)
Oct 09, 2018
Nov 08, 2018
Planetary Sciences
Career Level
Education Level
Relocation Cost
No Relocation
Sector Type

New ideas are all around us, but only a few will change the world. That’s our focus at JPL. We ask the biggest questions, then search the universe for answers—literally. We build upon ideas that have guided generations, then share our discoveries to inspire generations to come. Your mission—your opportunity—is to seek out the answers that bring us one step closer. If you’re driven to discover, create, and inspire something that lasts a lifetime and beyond, you’re ready for JPL.

Located in Pasadena, California, JPL has a campus-like environment situated on 177 acres in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and offers a work environment unlike any other: we inspire passion, foster innovation, build collaboration, and reward excellence.


JPL's Planetary Ices group (3227) invites applications for a postdoctoral position to work on origin of life and planetary habitability research efforts.  Dr. Laurie Barge, JPL research scientist in Astrobiology, will serve as JPL postdoctoral advisor to the selected candidate. The appointee will carry out research in collaboration with the JPL advisor and other lab members, resulting in publications in the open literature. The position is joint between the NASA Astrobiology Institute Icy Worlds project and the NASA-NSF Ideas Lab “Becoming Biotic” project, working in the Origins and Habitability lab team at JPL. The selected candidate will work with Dr. Barge on experiments to simulate how minerals affect emergence of metabolism and habitability on early Earth and ocean worlds.

The successful candidate will:

  • Simulate planetary environments in the laboratory and test organic reactions under prebiotic conditions. Contact Dr. Barge for more information; the appointee will lead completion of specific experiments for ongoing projects and will also have the opportunity to develop their own experimental plans.
  • Work collaboratively with other lab group members including fellow postdocs, graduate / undergraduate students, and JPL colleagues; participate in and help develop new mission-relevant research projects.
  • Assist with general lab management, supervision/mentoring of student researchers, and helping to develop lab safety protocols and procedures.

JPL's main business is building and operating robotic spacecraft to observe the Earth, explore the Solar System, and map the universe. Cross-discipline teamwork is standard here, and we work often with colleagues across JPL's science and engineering sections. We emphasize the importance of partnering across discipline boundaries and creating a friendly, constructive work environment to overcome space exploration's challenges. Postdoctoral researchers at JPL benefit from an annual conference showcasing their results, exposure to diverse career paths, and social connections across the JPL and Caltech community for advice on housing, childcare and other aspects of living in southern California.

Qualifications Candidates should have a recent PhD in chemistry, geology, biology or related fields. The ideal candidate will be enthusiastic about astrobiology and participating in mission-relevant research, and in being a collaborative member of a lab group that studies how life emerges and thrives in planetary environments.

Desired qualifications: Experience with or willingness to learn analytical techniques (liquid NMR, Raman spectroscopy, electrochemistry, spectrophotometry). Experience with or willingness to learn anaerobic methods and handling of hazardous materials.

Candidates who have received their PhD within the past five years since the date of their application are eligible. Postdoctoral Scholar positions are awarded for a minimum of one-year period and may be renewed up to a maximum duration of three years.