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Postdoctoral Research Associate Positions

Postdoctoral Research Associate Positions – University of Montana

One or two Postdoctoral Research Associate positions in tissue engineering are available immediately at the University of Montana, in the lab of Dr. Monica Serban as part of an academia-industry partnership focused on the development of a noise-level triggered drug dosing and delivery system to prevent cochlear damage. This is an excellent opportunity to join an Office of Naval Research funded project and gain experience in both academia and industry, as part of the work will be conducted at our partner company in Massachusetts. We are looking for highly motivated candidates with a strong working knowledge of tissue engineering, biomedical engineering, tissue processing, cell culture and assays, microscopy, with a solid understanding of biological systems.

The Postdoctoral Fellows will work under the supervision of Dr. Monica Serban to complete exciting research on in vitro organotypic models of ear tissues and novel therapeutics development against hearing loss. This is a unique opportunity to research a new technology to prevent and/or treat hearing loss in military personnel and general population. The positions involve substantial full-time research and the appointees have the freedom, and are expected, to patent/publish the results of his or her research or scholarship during the period of the appointment. Basic Qualifications: Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering, Biomaterials, Biomedical Science or related field (current or within 3 months for current graduate students).

Preferred Qualifications: The appointee is expected to be both highly independent and collaborative, and s/he will have significant leeway in the scope and design of projects. A key requirement is that the individual have the ability to see intellectually and technically complex projects through to their conclusion, which will involve developing methodological approaches and reviewing, analyzing, and interpreting scientific data and results from the project. Great autonomy and ability to exhibit independent decision making is expected in designing and implementing strategies for achieving company research goals. The appointee will write papers for publication based on research, compose projects reports and contribute to grant applications; present at seminars and national meetings; and participate in research group meetings with project partners, that may include oral and/or written brief reports. The appointee may be asked to supervise research personnel including undergraduate and/or graduate students, providing training and guidance with regard to specific techniques. The appointee may assist students/interns in their research efforts, acting as a resource and a mentor. This requires good communication and teaching skills and thorough knowledge of the technical aspects of the various scientific procedures to be conducted.

Preferred Skills and Experience:
Demonstrated experience and/or knowledge in the following techniques:
• Tissue processing, cell isolation, maintenance and proliferation
• Biomaterial formulations and three-dimensional cell culture matrices
• Analytical characterization of formulated tissue models
• Analytical method development and troubleshooting
• Experimental design with appropriate controls included
• Ability to use experimental data to rationally develop the next experiment
• Demonstrated experience of excellent research capabilities required to carry out innovative and insightful
research
• Ability to identify, analyze and summarize relevant literature
• Ability to devise and articulate a research plan with defined goals, and design sound experimental
strategies with appropriate controls
• Proven record and ability to produce research to a high publication standard
• Ability to learn and apply new skills appropriate to conduct necessary research
• Knowledge and experience in laboratory environment
• Proven ability to communicate complex ideas and concepts (both orally and in writing) to scientific and
non-scientific audiences
• Ability and willingness to undertake collaborative research
• Ability to supervise and mentor undergraduate and graduate students
• Ability to maintain a safe working and learning environment
• Ability to achieve project goals within time and budget
• Ability to prepare competitive manuscripts and grant applications

About the Serban Lab and UM
The Serban Lab is led by Dr. Monica Serban, who joined UM in 2015 after spending close to 5 years in the medical device industry. Her research also gained national attention recently when was the subject of a press release from the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) News Service Weekly PressPac. She has 15 patents/patent applications and numerous peer reviewed scientific publications. The lab currently has several funded projects focused on translational research and commercialization of developed intellectual property. The lab culture is focused on collegiality, collaboration, efficient communication and team spirit.

UM is located in Missoula, a culturally vibrant community of about 70,000, surrounded by mountain grandeur which was recently ranked in the “top 20 best college towns with a population of less than 250,000” by the American Institute for Economic Research and ranked 9th in Outside Magazine’s “The 16 Greatest Places to Live in America” in 2014. Many national publications recognize Missoula for its high quality of life. Abundant recreational opportunities in surrounding state and national forests and nearby Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park complement a thriving intellectual atmosphere.

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I began studying the vestibular system during my dissertation research at the Università di Pavia with Professors Ivo Prigioni and GianCarlo Russo. I had two postdoctoral fellowships, first at the University of Rochester with Professor Christopher Holt and then at the University of Illinois at Chicago with Professors Jonathan Art and Jay Goldberg.

My research focuses on characterizing the biophysics of synaptic transmission between hair cells and primary afferents in the vestibular system. For many years an outstanding question in vestibular physiology was how the transduction current in the type I hair cell was sufficient, in the face of large conductances on at rest, to depolarize it to potentials necessary for conventional synaptic transmission with its unique afferent calyx.

In collaboration with Dr. Art, I overcame the technical challenges of simultaneously recording from type I hair cells and their enveloping calyx afferent to investigate this question. I was able to show that with depolarization of either hair cell or afferent, potassium ions accumulating in the cleft depolarize the synaptic partner. Conclusions from these studies are that due to the extended apposition between type I hair cell and its afferent, there are three modes of communication across the synapse. The slowest mode of transmission reflects the dynamic changes in potassium ion concentration in the cleft which follow the integral of the ongoing hair cell transduction current. The intermediate mode of transmission is indirectly a result of this potassium elevation which serves as the mechanism by which the hair cell potential is depolarized to levels necessary for calcium influx and the vesicle fusion typical of glutamatergic quanta. This increase in potassium concentration also depolarizes the afferent to potentials that allow the quantal EPSPs to trigger action potentials. The third and most rapid mode of transmission like the slow mode of transmission is bidirectional, and a current flowing out of either hair cell or afferent into the synaptic cleft will divide between a fraction flowing out into the bath, and a fraction flowing across the cleft into its synaptic partner.

The technical achievement of the dual electrode approach has enabled us to identify new facets of vestibular end organ synaptic physiology that in turn raise new questions and challenges for our field. I look forward with great excitement to the next chapter in my scientific story.

 

Charles C. Della Santina, PhD MD is a Professor of Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery and Biomedical Engineering at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where he directs the Johns Hopkins Cochlear Implant Center and the Johns Hopkins Vestibular NeuroEngineering Laboratory.

As a practicing neurotologic surgeon, Dr. Della Santina specializes in treatment of middle ear, inner ear and auditory/vestibular nerve disorders. His clinical interests include restoration of hearing via cochlear implantation and management of patients who suffer from vestibular disorders, with a particular focus on helping individuals disabled by chronic postural instability and unsteady vision after bilateral loss of vestibular sensation. His laboratory’s research centers on basic and applied research supporting development of vestibular implants, which are medical devices intended to partially restore inner ear sensation of head movement. In addition to that work, his >90 publications include studies characterizing inner ear physiology and anatomy; describing novel clinical tests of vestibular function; and clarifying the effects of cochlear implantation, vestibular implantation, superior canal dehiscence syndrome and intratympanic gentamicin therapy on the inner ear and central nervous system.  Dr. Della Santina is also the founder and CEO/Chief Scientific Officer of Labyrinth Devices LLC, a company dedicated to bringing novel vestibular testing and implant technology into routine clinical care.

Andrew Griffith received his MD and PhD in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry from Yale University in 1992. He completed his general surgery internship and a residency in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at the University of Michigan in 1998. He also completed a postdoctoral research fellowship in the Department of Human Genetics as part of his training at the University of Michigan. In 1998, he joined the Division of Intramural Research (DIR) in the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). He served as a senior investigator, the chief of the Molecular Biology and Genetics Section, the chief of the Otolaryngology Branch, and the director of the DIR, as well as the deputy director for Intramural Clinical Research across the NIH Intramural Research Program. His research program identifies and characterizes molecular and cellular mechanisms of normal and disordered hearing and balance in humans and mouse models. Two primary interests of his program have been hearing loss associated with enlargement of the vestibular aqueduct, and the function of TMC genes and proteins. The latter work lead to the discovery that the deafness gene product TMC1 is a component of the hair cell sensory transduction channel. Since July of 2020, he has served as the Senior Associate Dean of Research and a Professor of Otolaryngology and Physiology in the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.

Gwenaëlle S. G. Géléoc obtained a PhD in Sensory Neurobiology from the University of Sciences in Montpellier (France) in 1996. She performed part of her PhD training at the University of Sussex, UK where she characterized sensory transduction in vestibular hair cells and a performed a comparative study between vestibular and cochlear hair cells. Gwenaelle continued her training as an electrophysiologist at University College London studying outer hair cell motility and at Harvard Medical School studying modulation of mechanotransduction in vestibular hair cells. As an independent investigator at the University of Virginia, she expanded this work and characterized the developmental acquisition of sensory transduction in mouse vestibular hair cells, the developmental acquisition of voltage-sensitive conductances in vestibular hair cells and the tonotopic gradient in the acquisition of sensory transduction in the mouse cochlea. This work along with quantitative spatio-temporal studies performed on several hair cell mechanotransduction candidates lead her to TMC1 and 2 and long-term collaborations with Andrew Griffith and Jeff Holt. Dr. Géléoc is currently Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology, at Boston Children’s Hospital where she continues to study molecular players involved in the development and function of hair cells of the inner ear and develops new therapies for the treatment of deafness and balance, with a particular focus on Usher syndrome.

Jeff Holt earned a doctorate from the Department of Physiology at the University of Rochester in 1995 for his studies of inward rectifier potassium channels in saccular hair cells.  He went on to a post-doctoral position in the Neurobiology Department at Harvard Medical School and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, where he characterized sensory transduction and adaptation in hair cells and developed a viral vector system to transfect cultured hair cells.  Dr. Holt’s first faculty position was in the Neuroscience Department at the University of Virginia.  In 2011 the lab moved to Boston Children’s Hospital / Harvard Medical School.  Dr. Holt is currently a Professor in the Departments of Otolaryngology and Neurology in the F.M. Kirby Neurobiology Center.  Dr. Holt and his team have been studying sensory transduction in auditory and vestibular hair cells over the past 20 years, with particular focus on TMC1 and TMC2 over the past 12 years.  This work lead to the discovery that TMC1 forms the hair cell transduction channel.  His work also focuses on development gene therapy strategies for genetic hearing loss.