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Research Technician Fellowship

The Research Technician Fellowship is intended to welcome undergraduate and high school students over the age of 16 who are interested in learning about tree science. No experience is necessary. Fellows will be mentored and trained as they assist in laboratory and/or field operations under close supervision. To apply, individuals will complete the online application form; while encouraged, a resume and cover letter are not required. A brief true/false survey will be sent immediately to confirm interest, followed by a required questionnaire within one week to determine project interest and allow applicants an opportunity to provide additional details. Applications will close at 5pm (Central time) on Friday, April 26, 2024.    

Project description: New Plant Development Program Lab (part-time): Translational genomics links genomic knowledge to improving crops. Gene editing speeds up breeding by adding desired traits or removing unwanted ones. However, delivering gene editing tools to crops depends on their ability to transform and regenerate, which varies among species and genotypes. This limits the commercialization of gene-edited crops due to concerns about GMO acceptance. The specialty crops under study in this project include Acer spp., Fraxinus spp., Ulmus spp., Magnolia spp., and others, ensuring our findings will be transferable to a broader range of woody plant species. Success in this research and other ongoing efforts will contribute significantly to crop improvement and urban forest sustainability.

The student will participate in a mutation breeding project utilizing clonal germplasm from living collections. This is a tissue culture-intensive project focused on understanding the characteristics, both phenotypic and genotypic, in a germplasm development project. The student will learn about in vitro cultivation techniques for woody plant species. Activities will include the development of tissue culture media compositions suitable for experimentation in regeneration experiments. The student will obtain broad training in in vitro plant propagation (a.k.a. micropropagation) while serving as an active member of the New Plant Development Program lab. While prior knowledge of plant biology and anatomy is preferred, it is not mandatory, as the techniques can be learned on the job. Candidates should be comfortable with basic chemistry and making solutions from a plan of work, and be open to new experiences and training.

Essential Functions may include: 

  • Provide support to a scientist for the implementation of research and related projects. 
  • Assist with data and sample collection, sample processing, data analysis, and record keeping on research and related projects. 
  • Operate and maintain laboratory equipment, and perform routine lab maintenance by keeping laboratory and field equipment in good working order. 
  • May maintain living plants in the field and greenhouse. 
  • May voucher and assist with the curation of herbarium specimens. 
  • Other duties as assigned.

Qualifications: Current enrollment in high school, an Associate or Bachelor’s degree program, with an interest in studying biology, environmental sciences, or a related field. Must be over the age of 16. Organization and independent working skills preferred. Willingness and eagerness to learn necessary field, laboratory, and library research skills required. Experience with database, spreadsheet, and statistical/graphics computer programs, and Google applications beneficial. Depending on the position, may require possession of a valid driver’s license, which is subject to insurability and an annual Motor Vehicle Record (MVR) report.

Success Factors: Ability and willingness to work in laboratory and field environments. Good written and oral communication skills. Clear thought, visual acuity, and manual dexterity needed. Ability to embrace and align with the organization’s employee core values to be inclusive, take ownership, work together, keep learning, and make the Arboretum exceptional.

Physical Demands and Work Environment for all positions: The physical demands and work environment characteristics described here are representative of those that must be met by an employee to successfully perform the essential functions of this job. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform these essential functions.

  • Physical Demands: Requires some physical activity: walking over varied terrain, bending, limited lifting and carrying (up to 50 lbs. assisted). Use of chemicals may be necessary. 
  • Work Environment: Office environment, Arboretum grounds, field locations, which may include state parks and forest preserves, and/or remote locations. Work is performed indoors and outdoors, in a variety of weather conditions.
  • Equipment: General office equipment, field and laboratory equipment, including specialized equipment relating to particular field of research, hand tools.

The Center for Tree Science Integrated Mentorship Program is committed to supporting students and professionals at every stage in their career. As we continue to grow a diverse and inclusive program, flexible work assignments and additional assistance may be available. We encourage applicants from schools with limited research opportunities, groups traditionally underrepresented in STEM programs, first- and second-year undergraduates, students with disabilities, and currently-enrolled veterans. 

Pay ranges from $15.50 - $16.50/hour, depending on education level. 

The Morton Arboretum is a champion for diversity, supporting a culture of inclusion that attracts, inspires, and engages people to achieve success. The Arboretum is committed to hire and develop employees based on job-related qualifications irrespective of race, religion, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, disability, or veteran status. To increase diversity in professions related to the public garden realm, we encourage applications from underrepresented minorities, persons with disabilities, and veterans.  

The Morton Arboretum is dedicated to complying with our obligations as an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer. All applicants are guaranteed equal consideration for employment.