Process Engineer, Biological Plastics Recycling

94734 Requisition #

Cochran Lab: Engineering Biocatalysts for Plastics Recycling

We are in the midst of a plastic pollution crisis. Over 360 million tons of plastic waste are generated annually, of which more than 90% goes unrecycled, and an overwhelming 200 million tons accumulate in the environment as pollutants. In the Cochran lab, we are applying our decades-long expertise in protein engineering towards this global problem and are developing a novel screening platform to rapidly identify enzyme mutants with enhanced plastic-degrading activity. Plastic recycling is difficult today because consumer products contain plastic mixed in with many other types of materials; collection and transport of plastic waste are also problematic. Biology can overcome these challenges because it is complex enough to specifically target plastic in multi-material waste, yet simple enough to deploy directly where the waste is being generated.


We are seeking a Process Engineer to help lead execution of day-to-day screening workflows, identify and validate improved enzyme variants, and apply the best-performing variant in a scaled-up recycling process. Using our screening platform, we have already identified several promising candidate enzymes with improved plastic-degrading performance, and we are eager to expand and accelerate the platform to its full potential.


Our ideal applicant will be passionate about sustainability; alarmed by how many natural resources are being lost to landfills; sees an urgent need for better recycling technologies; and enthusiastic about applying biotechnology towards creating a circular chemical industry.


This is a unique and exciting opportunity to work on a research project that spans the fields of synthetic biology, sustainability, and materials science. As a key team member, you will work alongside other highly motivated researchers in a fast-paced, mission-driven work environment. Through this role, you will innovate at the cutting edge of fundamental science with the goal of creating tangible impact at the societal level.


Please note that this is a one-year fixed term position with option to renew.


Department of Bioengineering

Stanford Bioengineering is a dynamic and rapidly growing department within the Stanford’s School of Engineering and School of Medicine. For more than a decade, we have sought to advance bioengineering as a fundamental engineering discipline grounded in basic sciences and powered by a unique set of engineering concepts and principles, capable of realizing many diverse applications. Our community ranges broadly and includes some of the world's most successful leaders in bioengineering technology and business. Our staff are critical to supporting our organization’s goals and enabling our ongoing mission to conduct cutting-edge research, educate the next generation of leaders and scientists, and continue to formulate innovative solutions to global challenges.


Your responsibilities include:

  • Plan and execute experimental workflows as part of the screening process
  • Assist in developing and managing automation of the screening process
  • Analyze experimental and sequencing data to identify improved enzyme candidates
  • Experimentally validate and characterize improved enzyme candidates
  • Scale up production and purification of top-performing enzyme candidates for application in liter-scale reactions
  • Assist in developing a market-ready recycling process
  • Plan approach to experiments in support of research projects in lab and/or field based on knowledge of scientific theory.
  • Independently conduct experiments; maintain detailed records of experiments and outcomes.
  • Apply the theories and methods of a life science discipline to interpret and perform analyses of experiment results; offer suggestions regarding modifications to procedures and protocols in collaboration with senior researcher.
  • Review literature on an ongoing basis to remain current with new procedures and apply learnings to related research.
  • Contribute to publication of findings as needed. Participate in the preparation of written documents, including procedures, presentations, and proposals.
  • Help with general lab maintenance as needed; maintain lab stock, manage chemical inventory and safety records, and provide general lab support as needed.
  • Assist with orientation and training of new staff or students on lab procedures or techniques.
  • Flexibility with other tasks as assigned.



Bachelor's degree in biosciences-related field.


Preferred Qualifications:

At least one year of direct experience in a biology-related wet lab environment.


Knowledge, Skills and Abilities:

  • DNA cloning (PCR, assembly, etc.)
  • Microbial cell culture
  • Protein expression and purification
  • Protein characterization (SDS-PAGE, etc.)
  • General understanding of scientific principles. Demonstrated performance to use knowledge and skills when needed.
  • Demonstrated ability to apply theoretical knowledge of science principles to problem solve work.
  • Ability to maintain detailed records of experiments and outcomes.
  • General computer skills and ability to quickly learn and master computer programs, databases, and scientific applications.
  • Ability to work under deadlines with general guidance.
  • Excellent organizational skills and demonstrated ability to accurately complete detailed work.



  • Frequently stand, walk, twist, bend, stoop, squat, grasp lightly, use fine manipulation, grasp forcefully, perform desk-based computer tasks, use telephone, write by hand, lift, carry, push and pull objects weighing over 50 pounds.
  • Occasionally sit, kneel, crawl, reach and work above shoulders, sort and file paperwork or parts.
  • Rarely climb, scrub, sweep, mop, chop and mix or operate hand and foot controls.
  • Must have correctable vision to perform duties of the job.
  • Ability to bend, squat, kneel, stand, reach above shoulder level, and move on hard surfaces for up to eight hours.
  • Ability to lift heavy objects weighing up to 50 pounds.
  • Ability to work in a dusty, dirty, and odorous environment.
  • Position may require repetitive motion.

* - Consistent with its obligations under the law, the University will provide reasonable accommodation to any employee with a disability who requires accommodation to perform the essential functions of his or her job.



  • Requires work in an environment where animals are used for teaching and research.
  • Position may at times require the employee to work with or be in areas where hazardous materials are present.
  • Employee must perform tasks that require the use of personal protective equipment, such as safety glasses and shoes, protective clothing and gloves, and possibly a respirator.
  • May require extended or unusual work hours based on research requirements and business needs.



  • Promote Culture of Belonging, Equity and Inclusion: Demonstrates a commitment to treat all coworkers with respect, that everyone is different and brings a unique perspective that they can learn from.
  • Promote a Culture of Growth: Demonstrates a commitment to growth and understanding that “failure” is just part of the job, so it is not actually “failure”, they are “desired difficulties” if we can all learn from it. Demonstrates honestly about failure and careful analysis to learn, grow and teach as much as possible from it.
  • Interpersonal Skills: Demonstrates the ability to work well with Stanford colleagues and clients and with external organizations.
  • Promote Culture of Safety: Demonstrates commitment to personal responsibility and value for safety; communicates safety concerns; uses and promotes safe behaviors based on training and lessons learned.

Subject to and expected to comply with all applicable University policies and procedures, including but not limited to the personnel policies and other policies found in the University's Administrative Guide,


Why Stanford is for You

Imagine a world without search engines or social platforms. Consider lives saved through first-ever organ transplants and research to cure illnesses. Stanford University has revolutionized the way we live and enrich the world. Supporting this mission is our diverse and dedicated 17,000 staff. We seek talent driven to impact the future of our legacy. Our culture and unique perks empower you with:

  • Freedom to grow. We offer career development programs, tuition reimbursement, or audit a course. Join a TedTalk, film screening, or listen to a renowned author or global leader speak.
  • A caring culture. We provide superb retirement plans, generous time-off, and family care resources.
  • A healthier you. Climb our rock wall, or choose from hundreds of health or fitness classes at our world-class exercise facilities. We also provide excellent health care benefits.
  • Discovery and fun. Stroll through historic sculptures, trails, and museums.
  • Enviable resources. Enjoy free commuter programs, ridesharing incentives, discounts and more!


How to Apply

We invite you to apply for this position by clicking on the “Apply for Job” button. To be considered, please submit a cover letter and résumé along with your online application. Your one-page cover letter should briefly describe your background in customer service and provide examples of your experience with attention to detail, responsiveness, and decision-making.


*The job duties listed are typical examples of work performed by positions in this job classification and are not designed to contain or be interpreted as a comprehensive inventory of all duties, tasks, and responsibilities. Specific duties and responsibilities may vary depending on department or program needs without changing the general nature and scope of the job or level of responsibility. Employees may also perform other duties as assigned.


*Stanford is an equal employment opportunity and affirmative action employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, protected veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by law.

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