We're hiring! The Phelps Lab currently has several complementary projects funded by NIH and NSF. At the moment, we're looking for people with a strong foundation in molecular biology or genomics who are interested in social behavior.

Postdoctoral opportunity: Developing genomic tools for prairie voles. The lab was recently awarded an NSF EDGE grant for a project led by Dr. Zoe Donaldson at University of Colorado at Boulder. Our contribution will be to perform directed evolution experiments to make new AAV vectors with useful properties. We are looking for someone with an interest in social behavior and a strong record that includes mastery of molecular biology basics -- PCR, qPCR and cloning. The project itself will use advanced methods that build on these fundamentals. Experience in genomics and other molecular methods is desirable but not required.

This postdoc will also contribute to a project using DREADDs to manipulate memory and bonding in prairie voles. Trainees will have the opportunity to learn the latest in whole-mount immunohistochemistry and automated microscopy methods through our collaboration with Dr. Pavel Osten at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Additional opportunities include training and projects in genomics and field work.

Postdoctoral opportunity: Evolutionary epigenomics of behavior. We are also looking for a postdoctoral trainee to investigate the adaptive evolution of gene regulation in non-model systems. The project seeks to identify adaptations in neuronal gene regulation associated with the emergence of monogamy in prairie voles. The successful candidate will have experience with genome-wide tests of selection and comfort with standard tools of bioinformatics. This is an excellent opportunity for a recent graduate with a background in bioinformatics, phylogenetics or population genetics looking to expand into functional measures of sequence evolution, neurobiology, or animal behavior. Although not required, the applicant will have the opportunity to become proficient in a variety of advanced molecular methods, including ChIP-seq, meDIP, conformation capture and other techniques.

UT-Austin is a wonderful place to be. There is a vibrant community of researchers working at the interface of brain, behavior and evolution, an excellent sequencing facility, and extraordinary computational resources.

The lab has 2+ years of funding available for each of these positions, with subsequent years contingent on progress in the first. Pay is at the NIH standard rates. The start date is flexible, and the positions will remain posted here until filled. Applications should include a current CV along with a cover letter that provides a short (~1 page) statement of research interests and contact information for three references. Please submit applications by email to sphelps@mail.utexas.edu, with the subject line POSTDOC APPLICATION.


If you're interested in becoming a graduate student (here or anywhere else), here are a few things to think about.

Are we right for you?

We try to get at the big picture by assembling information from smaller scales; you don’t have to work at all of these levels, but you have to think all of them are interesting and worthwhile. As a result, I look for students with broad interests and a passion for details.  Many prospective students may be excited about one part of our work, but find other aspects either uninteresting or intimidating. If you find molecular biology to be tedious or evolution to be soft, you won't like our lab. At the moment, our focus is on combining some cutting edge tools — whole-brain imaging & automated cell counting, whole genome analyses of selection — with evolutionary and ecological analyses of behavior. I generally advise students to get a head start by beginning to learn Python. The CodeAcademy course is a good place to start.

I look for evidence of a strong work ethic and independence – including an ability to seek out needed expertise and a willingness to press on when help is unavailable. Because our work is diverse, it is important that students work well on collaborative projects. Traits that help in collaboration include fastidiousness, curiosity, and a desire to see the best in others.

Before you apply, it is worth considering a few questions. What are you looking for in a mentor? What kind of lab environment do you want? Do you want a graduate program with rotations? How much coursework would you like to do in graduate school?

More advice on getting into graduate school can be found in our Mentoring section. Specifically here.

Still interested? Please read a few of our papers. If you already have and you're not dissuaded, then perhaps you should put together a CV and write me an email introducing yourself (sphelps at mail . utexas . edu). Looking forward to hearing from you!