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Grand Challenges/SpillOver Postdoctoral Scholar

Position overview

Salary range: The Postdoctoral scholar salary is based upon years of experience as a postdoctoral scholar. The salary scale for this classification can be found at the following link:
Review timeline: Initial review of candidates will occur after 1/31. For full consideration, apply before this date. The posting may be extended if needed.

Application Window

Open date: January 10, 2023

Most recent review date: Wednesday, May 31, 2023 at 11:59pm (Pacific Time)
Applications received after this date will be reviewed by the search committee if the position has not yet been filled.

Final date: Friday, Jun 30, 2023 at 11:59pm (Pacific Time)
Applications will continue to be accepted until this date, but those received after the review date will only be considered if the position has not yet been filled.

Position description


Strategies are needed to identify and characterize viruses that pose the greatest risk of spillover to humans and their relative pandemic potential to inform vaccine targets. We identified risk factors contributing to virus spillover to humans, and then developed a risk ranking framework and interactive web tool, SpillOver, that estimated a risk score for wildlife-origin viruses. Awareness of the dearth of information available on emerging viruses has stimulated viral discovery work around the world. Those data are already becoming accessible, and huge volumes of new information will almost certainly be imminently available on newly-recognized viruses that can and should be incorporated into a risk-ranking framework. There is an ongoing need to constantly update data and risk rankings to incorporate new discoveries in real-time, and artificial intelligence could be incorporated into the SpillOver platform to make sure that new discoveries are ranked in near real-time.

Department Summary:

The Office of Grand Challenges provides dedicated leadership and facilitation for current and future research, education, and public service activities focused on UC Davis campus priorities for action to address the world’s wicked problems (herein “Grand Challenges”), including, but not limited to: emerging health threats, the climate crisis, reimagining the land grant university, and sustainable food systems. Grand Challenges is also planning a new built environment, conceived of as a special space that will be an ideal site for Grand Challenges programs and a focal point for transdisciplinary collaboration campus-wide.

Job Summary:

Under general direction of the Grand Challenges Vice Provost, the postdoctoral scholar will support strategically important projects, for e.g. SpillOver, within the UC Davis Institute for Pandemic Intelligence (IPI) involving computational methods by designing analytical models and implementing them in operational and research environments.

The core duties of the postdoctoral scholar will be to update the current SpillOver Program using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and other methods to increase the breadth of data incorporated in virus risk rankings and constantly update and optimize the rankings with the large volumes of new data becoming available from viral discovery efforts to inform vaccine target selection. They will be responsible for literature and dataset review and development of innovative methods for data analytics and data visualization, ongoing assessment of data gaps, and making recommendations to improve data quality and analyses. Development of peer-reviewed publications and conference presentations on updated risk rankings and high-risk viruses, based on the expanded information collected through artificial intelligence, and recommendations on updated international standards for viral risk rankings will be key.


• Contribute intellectually to the SpillOver team, including identification of subprojects and products of interest that contribute to the candidate’s career trajectory and the team’s goals and success.
• Provide data science innovation for the project, including data acquisition, cleaning, visualization and analyses.
• Develop, maintain, and document analytical models (including machine learning and other AI algorithms, spatially explicit modeling, mixed models, Bayesian methods, etc.) and software applications for synthesizing and updating SpillOver data.
• Identify high-quality sources of data relevant to zoonotic viruses and automate processes for their collection, cleaning, and analyses to maintain updated virus risk rankings.
• Provide analytical facilitation and project management support for matters relating to the day-to-day activities of the project, including potential stewardship of research personnel, educational teams, funders, and other stakeholders.
• Communicate and work with collaborators with different expertise and domain knowledge.
• Assist in preparing materials for high-level conversations and lead academic publications.


Basic qualifications (required at time of application)

• PhD in a field related to Data Science (Computer Science, Statistics, Artificial Intelligence, Information Science, etc.) OR in an applied domain with a research background that contains a significant emphasis on quantitative approaches and skillsets including data analysis and scientific computing.
• Proficiency in R and/or Python.
• Experience and interest in AI-driven applications.
• Experience in hands-on data science problem solving with real-world, complex data sets.
• Competency with code management best practices including version control (git) and reproducible analyses.
• Fluency in written and spoken English and strong written and verbal communication skills.
• Ability to work both independently and as part of an interdisciplinary collaborative team.

Preferred qualifications

• Research experience with zoonotic diseases and viruses.
• Knowledge in the area of pathogen spillover from wildlife.
• Full-stack development experience.
• Experience with web front-ends and APIs.
• Familiarity with databases and their management.
• Initiative to advance skills and knowledge as needed to fulfill assigned tasks and projects, including learning new methods and technologies.

Application Requirements

Document requirements
  • Curriculum Vitae - Your most recently updated C.V.

  • Cover Letter

  • Statement of Research

  • Statement of Contributions to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion - Contributions to diversity, equity, and inclusion documented in the application file will be used to evaluate applicants. Visit for guidelines about writing a statement and why one is requested.

Reference requirements
  • 3-5 required (contact information only)
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Campus Information

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We are an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity employer, and particularly encourage applications from members of historically underrepresented racial/ethnic groups, women, individuals’ with disabilities, veterans, LGBTQ community members, and others who demonstrate the ability to help us achieve our vision of a diverse and inclusive community. For the complete University of California nondiscrimination and affirmative action policy see:

Under Federal law, the University of California may employ only individuals who are legally able to work in the United States as established by providing documents as specified in the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. Certain UC Davis positions funded by federal contracts or sub-contracts require the selected candidate to pass an E-Verify check. More information is available at:

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As a condition of employment, you will be required to comply with the University of California Policy on Vaccination Programs - With Updated Interim Amendments. All Covered Individuals under the policy must provide proof of receiving the COVID-19 Vaccine Primary Series or, if applicable, submit a request for Exception (based on Medical Exemption, Disability, Religious Objection, and/or Deferral based on pregnancy or recent COVID-19 diagnosis and/or treatment) no later than the applicable deadline. All Covered Individuals must also provide proof of receiving the most recent CDC-recommended COVID-19 booster or properly decline such booster no later than the applicable deadline. New University of California employees should refer to Exhibit 2, Section II.C. of the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) Vaccination Program Attachment for applicable deadlines. All Covered Individuals must also provide proof of being Up-To-Date on seasonal influenza vaccination or properly decline such vaccination no later than the applicable deadline. Please refer to the Seasonal Influenza Vaccination Program Attachment.(Capitalized terms in this paragraph are defined in the policy.) Federal, state, or local public health directives may impose additional requirements.

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Job location

Davis, CA