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EPA Internship on High Throughput Ecotoxicology

*Applications may be reviewed on a rolling-basis and this posting could close before the deadline. Click here for information about the selection process.

EPA Office/Lab and LocationA research opportunity is available at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Office of Research and Development (ORD), Center for Computational Toxicology and Exposure (CCTE), Great Lakes Toxicology & Ecology Division (GLTED) located in Duluth, Minnesota.

Research ProjectAn important aspect of EPA's mission is to protect human health and the environment from harmful effects of chemicals. Hazards that chemicals pose to humans or wildlife have traditionally been assessed using toxicity tests in which animals are exposed to a chemical of interest for days to weeks and then effects on survival, growth, reproduction, or health outcomes are evaluated. While effective, these approaches are costly and time-consuming, making it impractical to collect toxicity data for tens of thousands of chemicals currently in commerce and present in the environment. In order to address this challenge, there has been a strong interest in employing advances in biotechnology, miniaturization, robotics, and computing to collect chemical safety information in a more rapid and cost-effective manner. This has been termed high throughput toxicology. In recent years a number of pioneering high throughput toxicology programs such as ToxCast and Tox21 have generated data for thousands of chemicals. However, to date, these programs have focused solely on human health. Unique aspects of the physiology of aquatic organisms, invertebrates, plants, and many other taxa are currently not considered in the high throughput testing batteries, leaving potential gaps when it comes to detecting hazards a chemical may pose to wildlife and ecosystems. 

The research participant will be trained in the development and application of high throughput assays for detecting potential hazards that chemicals may pose to wildlife and ecosystems. The research participant will also engage in development and organization of the scientific evidence that provides the foundation for applying data collected from the nascent high throughput methods in risk-based decision-making, using the adverse outcome pathway (AOP) framework.   

Learning ObjectivesWith guidance from the mentor, the research participant may be involved in any or all of the following training activities:

  • Adapting existing toxicity testing methods with aquatic vertebrates, invertebrates, plants and/or algae to high throughput formats.
  • Optimizing assay conditions.
  • Developing high throughput approaches for collecting phenotypic data from exposed organisms.
  • Developing high throughput techniques for collection, batch processing, and analysis of biofluid and tissue samples suitable for molecular, biochemical, and/or histological analyses.
  • Designing workflows and data analysis pipelines for automated and standardized analysis of large data sets.
  • Developing and implementing a data archiving and storage system.
  • Identifying statistical and performance-based measures of assay and data quality and implementing quality assurance and quality control.
  • Using laboratory automation systems to deliver test chemicals, organisms, culture solutions, etc. to test vessels and/or to aid sample collection and processing.
  • Using analytical chemistry methods to verify chemical concentrations, purity, and availability/partitioning in the test vessels.
  • Applying in vitro to in vivo extrapolation and reverse toxicokinetic models to estimate environmental concentrations equivalent to conditions in the test vessels.
  • Generating samples for transcriptomic and metabolomic analyses and applying statistical and bioinformatic tools to analyze DNA microarray and/or DNA/RNA sequencing results.
  • Conducting statistical analyses on experimental data.
  • Compiling and synthesizing data from the peer-reviewed literature and on-line data sources and organizing it according to the AOP framework in order to aid interpretation of test results.
  • Analyzing gene expression using real-time polymerase chain reaction and developing novel primers, probes, and standards for gene expression analyses.
  • Analyzing steroid hormones and plasma proteins using radioimmunoassay (RIAs) and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs)
  • Presenting research results at regional, national, and/or international conferences and workshops.
  • Contributing to the preparation of peer-reviewed journal articles and disseminating research results to project partners and stakeholders.
  • Conducting field-based research outdoors and/or at remote laboratory locations other than the primary training location, including involvement in planning and logistics associated with remote activities.

Mentor(s)The mentor for this opportunity is Kevin Flynn ( If you have questions about the nature of the research please contact the mentor(s).

Anticipated Appointment Start Date: December 18, 2022. All start dates are flexible and vary depending on numerous factors. Click here for detailed information about start dates.

Appointment LengthThe appointment will initially be for one year and may be renewed up to three additional years upon EPA recommendation and subject to availability of funding.

Level of ParticipationThe appointment is full-time.

Participant StipendThe participant will receive a monthly stipend commensurate with educational level and experience. Click here for detailed information about full-time stipends.

EPA Security ClearanceCompletion of a successful background investigation by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is required for an applicant to be on-boarded at EPA.

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 EPA. Participants do not become employees of EPA, 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 see the FAQ section of our website. After reading, if you have additional questions about the application process please email and include the reference code for this opportunity.


The qualified candidate should have received a bachelor's degree in one of the relevant fields (e.g. Biology, (Eco)Toxicology, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Genetics, Bioinformatics, Computational Biology, Computational Chemistry, Chemistry), or be currently pursuing the degree with completion before January 1, 2023. Degree must have been received within five years of the appointment start date.

Preferred skills:
  • Previous experience working with aquatic organisms such as fish, crustaceans, insect, plants, or algae.
  • Cell culture experience (e.g., plating, maintaining, freezing animal cells using aseptic technique).
  • Computational skills (e.g., programming, R-based statistics)
  • Experience with analytical chemistry instrumentation and extraction methods
  • Experience with basic molecular biology techniques used for analysis of proteins and nucleic acids (e.g., gel electrophoresis, PCR, quantitative real-time PCR, use of thermocyclers and/or bioanalyzers, etc.)
  • Course work in biostatistics and/or bioinformatics