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USDA-ARS Research Field Crop Scientist Internship

ARS Office/Lab and LocationA postdoctoral research opportunity is available with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Agricultural Research Service (ARS), located in Urbana, Illinois.

The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific in-house research agency with a mission to find solutions to agricultural problems that affect Americans every day from field to table. ARS will deliver cutting-edge, scientific tools and innovative solutions for American farmers, producers, industry, and communities to support the nourishment and well-being of all people; sustain our nation’s agroecosystems and natural resources; and ensure the economic competitiveness and excellence of our agriculture. The vision of the agency is to provide global leadership in agricultural discoveries through scientific excellence.

Research ProjectThe vision of this project is to transform US grain farmland into a net-negative component of a circular bio-economy and reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. Research aims to create a Circular Economy that Reimagines Corn Agriculture (CERCA), converting maize to an earlier season annual crop with reduced environmental impacts through increased uptake and recycling of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizer. 

The candidate will be expected to assist with field experiments to screen diverse maize germplasm for candidate traits including germination cold tolerance, seedling cold tolerance, and cold C4 photosynthesis. The candidate will assist with design of field trials, planting field trials, measurements of germination, development, growth, chlorophyll fluorescence, photosynthesis, and pigment analysis. 

Learning ObjectivesThe candidate will learn about biological mechanisms contributing to cold tolerance. The candidate will collaborate with the USDA ARS CERCA team. The candidate will participate in CERCA meetings as well as ARS unit meetings. 

USDA-ARS Contact: The mentor for this opportunity is Lisa Ainsworth ( If you have questions about the nature of the research, please contact the mentor(s).

Anticipated Appointment Start Date: December 2022. Start date is flexible and will depend on a variety of factors.

Appointment LengthThe appointment will initially be for two years, but may be renewed upon recommendation of the mentor and ARS, and is contingent on the availability of funds.

Level of ParticipationThe appointment is full-time.

Participant StipendThe participant(s) will receive a monthly stipend commensurate with educational level and experience.

Citizenship RequirementsThis opportunity is available to U.S. citizens, Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR), and foreign nationals. Non-U.S. citizen applicants should refer to the Guidelines for Non-U.S. Citizens Details page of the program website for information about the valid immigration statuses that are acceptable for program participation.

ORISE InformationThis program, administered by ORAU through its contract with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to manage the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE), was established through an interagency agreement between DOE and ARS. Participants do not become employees of USDA, ARS, DOE or the program administrator, and there are no employment-related benefits. Proof of health insurance is required for participation in this program. Health insurance can be obtained through ORISE.

Questions: Please visit our Program Website. If you have additional questions about the application process please email and include the reference code for this opportunity.

The qualified candidate should be currently pursuing or have received a bachelor's or master's degree in one of the relevant fields.

 Candidate who are familiar with field work, data collection and organization, and communication with a team of researchers are encouraged to apply.

Preferred Skills:

  • Prior experience working in a plant biology or crop sciences laboratory as well as field experience with row crop agriculture.
  • Experience with farm equipment is preferred. 
  • Experience measuring photosynthesis and/or leaf optical properties is preferred.
  • Experience working with a team to accomplish scientific goals is preferred.