Postdoctoral Fellowship in Forensic DNA Analysis of Challenging Human Skeletal Samples

Virginia Commonwealth University
Virginia, United States
Salary Not Specified
Posted Date
Jun 22, 2022

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Position Type
Faculty Positions, Science, Technology & Mathematics, Biology & Life Sciences, Other Science & Technology, Social & Behavioral Sciences, Human Development & Family Sciences, Other Social & Behavioral Sciences, Administrative, Academic Affairs, Research Administration
Employment Level
Employment Type
Full Time

At VCU, we Make it Real through learning, research, creativity, service and discovery — the hallmarks of the VCU experience. A premier, urban, public research university nationally recognized as one of the best employers for diversity, VCU is a great place to
work. It’s a place of opportunity, where your success is supported and your career can thrive. VCU offers employees a generous leave package, career paths for advancement, competitive pay, and an opportunity to do mission-driven work.
We invite applications for a postdoctoral research fellowship in the biological/forensic sciences, to support the work of the East Marshall Street Well Project (EMSWP) and its two implementation committees.

The two-year postdoc, concerning biocultural ancestry, life history and health via DNA sequencing, will develop and support research that addresses and explores key questions related to Richmond’s African American community during the 19th century and the relationship of this community to medical education and burial practices during this time period.

The East Marshall Street Well Project is a VCU initiative designed to work with the community in addressing the discovery of human bones and artifacts from the 19th century in an abandoned well uncovered during construction on Virginia Commonwealth University’s MCV Campus. The work has involved a community engagement process that encouraged learning about the human remains discovered near East Marshall Street and sought descendant community input in the formation of the Family Representative Council (FRC). The FRC served to represent the descendant community and made recommendations on behalf of those individuals whose remains were discovered to support appropriate study, memorialization and reburial with dignity. For additional information on the project, please see:

In addition to exploring research questions developed by the FRC, the post-doc will have the opportunity to develop and explore questions that intersect with their own primary lines of scholarship and that support their development as scholars and academics.

Within the EMSWP, the Research Implementation Committee is focused on ensuring that the research goals set by the FRC ( are met, using techniques that are least destructive to the skeletal remains of the EMSW Ancestors. In order to meet the goals set by the FRC, re-association of the commingled bones into individuals is necessary. Ultimately, an interment ceremony will be planned and designed to reflect the geographic and cultural (diasporic) diversity of 19th-century African American Richmonders. This public event will be intentionally inclusive, honoring a variety of faith traditions (including African indigenous practices) and engaging the diverse Richmond community in the longer-term civic project of combatting structural racism and health disparities. The postdoc will have the opportunity to participate in, work with and support the work of the Memorialization and Interment Committee.

Position Responsibilities:

>Reporting to the co-chairs of the Research Implementation Committee, the EMSW Postdoctoral Research Fellow will play a critical leadership role in the formation and operations of a transdisciplinary, trans-institutional research team including biocultural/forensic anthropology.

Specific responsibilities will include:

>Devising and completing research on the DNA-led re-association and identification of discrete individuals from the commingled bone assemblage from the East Marshall Street Well Project;
>Leading and overseeing a group of forensic biology student researchers at the MS and BS levels in the laboratory;
>Participating in the formation and shaping of a transdisciplinary research team of graduate, undergraduate and faculty researchers;
>Training and mentorship of undergraduate and graduate students working on the EMSWP;
>Drafting portions of reports for the two implementation committees, the Family Representative Council and VCU senior leadership, at the direction of the Work Group co-chairs and the project administrator;
>Other duties related to EMSW research and programming as assigned. (Fellow will have opportunities to contribute to the initiative’s public academic and community programming.)

Relevant research questions could include (but are not limited to):

• What were the most likely African ethnic and cultural backgrounds of individual EMSW Ancestors and how did these influence health practices

• Are there genetic markers of health and disease that can inform us about the life history of these individuals?
• How does the story of the Well fit into a broader investigation of medical exploitation of African Americans?

• How can study of the EMSW site contribute to an even broader understanding of enslaved and free African American life in 19th-century Richmond?

• What are the long-term and contemporary implications of the practices surrounding the well for generations of African American Richmonders, e.g., in terms of medical distrust, health decisions and outcomes? What have been the implications for VCU/MCV?

Required Qualifications:

The successful candidate will possess:

•a relevant doctoral degree;
•subject matter expertise in biological sciences/forensic biology-relevant discipline;
• Experience maintaining laboratory supply inventory including reagents and consumables involved in the forensic DNA workflow;
• Experience in use of and preferably maintenance of equipment and instrumentation and associated softwares, including thermocyclers, qPCR (QuantStudio 6), capillary electrophoresis (ABI 3500 genetic analyzer), high throughput sequencing (MiSeq FGx System);
•Preparation of manuscripts relating to the project with shared authorship as appropriate;
•Skills, experience or willingness/interest in community-engaged scholarship;
•Ability, experience and willingness to work closely, respectfully, and effectively with members of the community, including the media, as well as internal and external labs, faculty, staff, and students;
•Demonstrated experience working in and fostering a diverse faculty, staff, and student environment or commitment to do so as a staff member at VCU.

Preferred Qualifications:

•Preferred experience performing DNA extraction from human bone samples, quantitative PCR (qPCR), STR and/or SNPs analysis, traditional and high throughput sequencing methods for human DNA analysis, troubleshooting instrumentation and lab protocols, etc.;
*Experience working with ancient DNA and/or challenging samples will be preferred.

Postdoc will conduct the majority of the work in the Singh Molecular Research Lab and the Simmons Forensic Anthropology Lab in the Department of Forensic Science at VCU. (People | Department of Forensic Science | Virginia Commonwealth University (

To apply, complete the online application and upload a cover letter, statement of interest, and resume addressing the specific position responsibilities, experience, related research interests, and qualifications. '
For more information, please contact:
Kevin W. Allison, Ph.D., Professor, Psychology, L. Douglas Wilder School of
Government and Public Affairs and Senior Executive for Special Projects, Office of the President

Candidate applications will be reviewed starting June 25th and continue until the position is filled.

Salary Range: Minimum $47,476

Position Details:

Department: Department of Forensic Science
Employment Type: PD - Post Doc
Restricted Status: Yes
FTE: 100
Exemption Status: Exempt

Contact Information:

Contact Name: Dr. Kevin Allison

Contact Email:

Contact Phone:

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