Mathematical and Computational Biology Research - Post-Doctoral
The Environmental Laboratory (EL) is one of the seven laboratories of the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (USACE-ERDC), which is the Army Corps of Engineers' integrated research and development (R&D) organization. EL provides solutions to environmental challenges for the U.S. Army, the Department of Defense and the Nation through environmental science and engineering research and development. Researchers in EL conduct research in ecosystem science and technology, environmental resiliency, environmental sensing, ecological modeling and forecasting, risk and decision science, environmentally sustainable material, systems biology, climate change, computational chemistry, environmental chemistry and environmental security. For more information about the US Army Engineering Research and Development Center (ERDC) Environmental Laboratory (EL), please visit https://www.erdc.usace.army.mil/.
The incredible diversity in per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) structures and their environmental transformation products (>4500 chemical structures) makes individual testing of a chemical’s biological effect a great challenge. To meet this need, the Department of Defense (DOD) has funded a multi-year effort to model how these chemicals interact with the molecular biology of tissues, and how these cell and tissue effects propagate across biological levels of organization to manifest with whole-organism level effects. Constructing such models necessarily requires advanced mathematical and computational approaches to predict an adverse organism response from typically low exposure concentrations. Our plan is to move beyond the 1 structure to 1 toxicity paradigm toward a class-based modeling assessment. This approach has invigorated potential based on recent observations by Vogs et al. (Vogs C, et al. (2019). Environ Sci Technol 53(7):3898-3907), which identified that similar PFAS structural classes tended to have similar adverse effects which vary at the intracellular concentration level. Computational approaches include, but are not limited to machine learning models (e.g., Bayesian Network models), Aggregate Exposure Pathway (AEP) models, and other types of dynamic network model approaches.
In the course of this project, the participant will learn how to conceptualize and develop multi-scale mathematical and computational models that correlate biochemical interactions within the noisy cellular environment to adverse outcomes exhibited by an entire population of exposed organisms (e.g., behavioral effects, reproductive effects). In addition, the participant will collaborate within a multi-disciplinary team of physicists, chemists, computational biologists, cell biologists, and toxicologists not typically encountered in an academic setting. During the course of this research, the participant will come to understand how diverse datasets found in the literature can be organized and interpreted to inform next-generation mathematical and computational biology models. The participant will have an opportunity to help guide experimental design to best inform model development, and will leverage DoD supercomputing resources to make substantial contributions to the science of predictive toxicology and computational biology. He or she will have an opportunity to communicate the results of their research to high level sponsors from the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (OUSD) through white papers, peer-reviewed journal articles, and oral presentations.
This appointment is a twelve month research appointment, with the possibility to be renewed for additional research periods. Appointments may be extended depending on funding availability, project assignment, program rules, and availability of the participant.
Participants will receive a stipend to be determined by USACE. Stipends are typically based on the participant’s academic standing, discipline, experience, and research facility location. Other benefits may include the following:
- Health Insurance Supplement. Participants are eligible to purchase health insurance through ORISE.
- Relocation Allowance
- Training and Travel Allowance
Nature of Appointment
The participant will not enter into an employee/employer relationship with ORISE, ORAU, DOD, or any other office or agency. Instead, the participant will be affiliated with ORISE for the administration of the appointment through the ORISE appointment letter and Terms of Appointment.