Director of Research Search


An Invitation to Apply for the Position of
Director of Research
Marine Biological Laboratory
Woods Hole, Massachusetts

The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), North America’s oldest private marine laboratory, seeks a strategic, creative, and ambitious individual to serve as its next Director of Research. Recognized as one of the great international centers for investigation and education in the life sciences, the MBL has for over 125 years drawn many of the world’s most accomplished biologists to Woods Hole for research and education programs that are renowned for their intellectual vitality and spirit of collaboration.

Through vibrant resident and visiting science programs, the MBL supports research and instruction spanning a broad range of subject areas. These include cell and developmental biology, climate and environmental science, evolutionary biology, genetics and genomics, regenerative biology, neuroscience, microbial community ecology, and physiology. Building on its historic strengths, the MBL is committed to strategic growth in the areas of imaging and in developing novel, genetically tractable, research organisms and accompanying tools to study said organisms. Intensive laboratory-based courses, variable-length immersive educational programs, visiting research programs, and informal colloquia are also distinguishing features and well-established strengths of the MBL, as are the collection and cultivation of marine and aquatic organisms for research and training.

In 2013, the MBL opened a new chapter in its history by formally affiliating with the University of Chicago (UChicago). This relationship links the MBL to the scientific and administrative resources of UChicago and the UChicago-affiliated Argonne and Fermi National Laboratories. Through these partnerships, the MBL has enhanced its commitment to education and is poised to pursue new programs related to the role of microbes in diverse environments; the biology of marine organisms that model or play direct roles in environmental and human health; and how life responds to an ever-changing planet.

Isaacson, Miller, the executive recruiting firm, is assisting the MBL in this recruitment. Confidential inquiries, nominations, and applications should be directed to the firm as indicated at the end of this document.


The Director of Research will be a key leader facilitating and supporting the success of MBL research and support programs, including the Resident Faculty Program, the Visiting Science Program, Research Support Services and Administration. The Director will develop and execute short and long-term strategic plans for research at the Laboratory that align with the overall institutional vision and pursue opportunities that leverage institutional strengths across all programmatic areas. The Director of Research will partner closely with the MBL Director and other senior leadership, especially the Director of Education to advance creative, innovative, and entrepreneurial programs that expand the visibility, impact, and influence of MBL within the research and academic communities. The Director of Research oversees approximately 150 research staff.


  • Work with the Director and faculty to identify and implement long range strategic plans.
  • Identify relevant funding opportunities and work closely with faculty, visiting scientists, and research administration to coordinate large-scale grant submissions.
  • Assist with the recruitment of world class faculty, as MBL expands its resident science staff.
  • Process faculty hiring, appointment, and promotion materials, and assist the Director and other relevant staff with research space management.
  • Support and coordinate collaborative research efforts between MBL resident and visiting scientists and University of Chicago faculty.
  • Work with the Director and the Development Office on fundraising efforts for the research program.
  • Work closely with the Director of Finance to develop research-related strategies that contribute to the financial health of the organization.
  • Provide general oversight of research support including, but not limited to, the marine resources center, central microscopy facility, animal care facility, and research administration and the office of sponsored programs.
  • Work effectively within a culture inclusive of individuals with diverse backgrounds, styles, abilities, and motivations, and appreciate and leverage the capabilities, insights, and ideas of all individuals.
  • Manages research and research administrative staff including ensuring effective hiring decisions, setting performance expectations, and providing timely guidance and performance feedback.
  • Represent the MBL and its resident faculty in high-level organizational meetings and committees.


The successful candidate will join a talented executive team and is expected to demonstrate significant leadership and managerial acumen.  Specifically, the search committee will be looking for evidence of the competencies and skills outlined below:

  • A broad scientific background with a Ph.D. in the sciences, preferably in the biological sciences.
  • Progressive management experience within a higher education or research facility.
  • A successful record of administrative leadership that includes creating or evolving structures and processes to meet strategic research and organizational needs and goals.
  • A track record of supporting competitive grant proposals, including as an investigator, and organizing successful teams to pursue funding opportunities.
  • A current awareness of research trends and federal funding directions; networks and relationships with sponsoring agencies.
  • Proven ability to work as a member of a tight-knit management team.
  • Strong negotiation and facilitation skills to align teams around institutional goals and priorities.
  • Familiarity with research space planning, including planning and oversight of shared facilities and research resources.
  • Excellent oral and written communications skills to support communication with staff, faculty, and students.
  • Ability to plan and support the development of individuals’ skills and abilities.
  • Knowledge of research and graduate/medical education issues is a plus.
  • Familiarity with the MBL preferred.


Since its founding in 1888, the MBL has been a driving force in biological discovery and research training. The MBL has attracted the world’s most accomplished scientists to the campus, serving as a hub for exploration, knowledge generation, and knowledge dissemination in biology, biomedicine, and environmental science. Entire fields of study—cell biology, embryology, and neurobiology—have been nurtured and developed on its grounds. Among the scientists currently affiliated with the MBL are 118 Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigators and 202 members of the National Academy of Sciences. Fifty-nine Nobel Prize Winners have been associated with the MBL since its founding.

The MBL’s activities are organized along three lines: year-round research programs, visiting research programs, and education programs that have historically focused on advanced research topics but are expanding and now include nascent programs for undergraduates from UChicago and other institutions and high school courses. The year-round research programs involve three research centers and several additional programs spanning fields ranging from microbial evolution and cellular mechanisms of camouflage and regeneration to systems ecology and global climate change. Some resident researchers work closely with scientists at nearby research institutions, such as the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the Woods Hole Research Center, and they also collaborate heavily with scientists across the US and internationally. Resident research at the MBL is funded by federal and private funding.

The intellectual energy of the year-round research program is amplified dramatically during the summer months when the MBL becomes a magnet for hundreds of talented researchers in the life sciences. The MBL is a major intellectual destination that annually hosts more than 1,500 faculty, visiting scientists and advanced students from around the globe who participate in intense, transformative research and advanced-level courses in a range of biological subjects. Freed from the boundaries of their home institutions and gathered in a densely packed scientific community, top students and creative scientists do some of their most innovative and ground-breaking work at the MBL.

Much of the MBL’s renown comes from being a crucible of novel scientific interactions in which conversations with colleagues from other institutions around the world blossom into major research collaborations. MBL researchers take great pride in their involvement with the institution and value its open and intellectually rich scientific spirit. Many scientists maintain a career-long connection to the MBL and return year after year. Scientists are drawn to the MBL for its location as well as the state-of-the-art research support facilities, including those for advanced imaging, collecting, and maintaining marine organisms, and the NIH-funded National Xenopus Resource. Woods Hole’s proximity to the cold waters of the Labrador Current and warm waters of the Gulf Stream, as well as its numerous harbors and estuaries, provides a wide range of habitats that are home to an unusually rich variety of animal and plant species, and many researchers have made extensive use of this biodiversity.

The MBL remains a separate 501(c)(3) corporation registered in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The University of Chicago is the sole member of the corporation. Robert Zimmer, President of the University, chairs the MBL’s Board of Trustees. The Trustees are appointed by the University, and the Board and its committees exercise responsibilities subject to the MBL Bylaws.


The resident research work of the MBL is made possible by approximately 25 principal investigators and over 250 year-round staff, half of which are research staff.  Resident research is organized into three Centers.

Josephine Bay Paul Center for Comparative Molecular Biology and Evolution:

Scientists in the Bay Paul Center use the tools of molecular biology, genomics, and informatics to explore the evolution and interaction of diverse organisms that play significant roles in environmental and human health. Projects span all evolutionary time scales, from deep phylogenetic divergence of ancestral prokaryotic and eukaryotic lineages to ecological analyses of how members of diverse communities contribute and respond to environmental change. The Center has pioneered the use of next-generation sequencing strategies and novel bioinformatic approaches to understand microbial diversity and phylogenetic relationships.

The Eugene Bell Center for Regenerative Biology and Tissue Engineering:

The Bell Center is a multidisciplinary research initiative that draws upon the special advantages of marine and aquatic organisms (vertebrate and invertebrate) to define and understand the natural processes by which damaged or aging tissues and organs can regenerate or be repaired, and to apply that knowledge to the design of bioengineering-based therapies. An understanding of development and regeneration in marine and aquatic animals holds promise for translation to treatments for human conditions, including spinal cord injury, diabetes, organ failure, and neurodegenerative diseases. The Bell Center includes the National Xenopus Resource (NXR), which is a national stock center for several frog species that are used for biomedical research, as well as a training center for advanced technologies using these animals. Other research foci include sensory physiology and behavior at the organismal level, as well as the development of novel imaging technologies to visualize cellular, developmental, and regenerative processes.

The Ecosystems Center:

The Ecosystems Center was founded four decades ago to investigate the structure and functioning of ecological systems and to predict their response to changing environmental conditions. Scientists at this Center work at sites around the world and carry out observations, experiments, and modeling at all scales from the gene to the globe. The knowledge gained is used to help inform policy and craft strategies for sustaining and managing the Earth’s resources. This Center serves as the home for two of the nation’s 27 NSF-funded Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) sites, one at Toolik Lake on the North Slope of Alaska and another in the Plum Island Estuary focused on wetland ecology and effects of changing sea-level along the coast.


Every year, researchers set up temporary laboratories, funded by federal and MBL sources, to establish collaborations and draw upon the MBL’s specialized resources for a few months. Visiting researchers and Grass Fellows routinely include scientists from different career levels, from senior luminaries (Nobel Prize winners, National Academy of Science Members) to postdoctoral associates beginning their careers. The MBL foci include a range of disciplines that varies annually, with traditional topics including neurobiology, behavior, cell biology and pathophysiology, muscle physiology, developmental biology, regeneration and stem cell biology, genetic regulation, and evolutionary biology. The visiting laboratories are part of a singular and highly esteemed culture of discovery at the MBL that includes both formal and informal interactions.


Applications and nominations, including a resume and cover letter, should be sent electronically to:

John Muckle, Partner
Greg Esposito, Partner
Becky Piper, Senior Associate
Isaacson, Miller
263 Summer St
Boston, MA 02210

All inquiries and expressions of interest will be held in strict confidence. The search will continue until an appointment is made. Employment will require successful completion of background check(s) in accordance with institute policies. Final candidate(s) for the position must complete a full background check process, including education, employment, credit, motor vehicle verifications, criminal, and child abuse as appropriate.

The Marine Biological Lab (MBL) does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national or ethnic origin, age, disability, or veteran status, and does not discriminate against members of protected classes under the law.