Postdoctoral Research Position in Cognitive Science with an Emphasis in Biology Education at Northeastern University

Invitation to Apply for a Postdoctoral Research Position in Cognitive Science with an Emphasis in Biology Education at Northeastern University

John D. Coley, Director of the Categorization & Reasoning Laboratory at Northeastern University in Boston MA, invites applications for a unique Postdoctoral Research Associate in Cognitive Science Research with an emphasis in Biology Education. The position is renewable for up to 2 years and may begin as early as January 1, 2016.

The Team

This Postdoctoral Research Associate position, funded by a National Science Foundation Education Core Research award, will be under the direct supervision of Dr. John D. Coley at NU, with extensive opportunities for collaboration with and supervision by Dr. Kimberly Tanner, Director of SEPAL�the Science Education Partnership and Assessment Laboratory�at San Francisco State University (SFSU). We also anticipate appointing a second Postdoctoral Research Associate who will be based at SFSU. The Postdoctoral Research Associate at NU and SFSU, along with PIs Coley and Tanner, will form the core of an interdisciplinary research team that will collaboratively investigate the influence of informal understandings about biology on formal learning of biological concepts.

The Project

Research and theory development in cognitive psychology and science education research remain largely isolated. Biology education researchers have documented persistent scientifically inaccurate ideas, often termed misconceptions, among biology students across biological domains. In parallel, cognitive and developmental psychologists have described intuitive conceptual systems�teleological, essentialist, and anthropocentric thinking�that humans use to reason about biology. We hypothesize that seemingly unrelated biological misconceptions may have common origins in these intuitive ways of knowing, and that relations between the two have important implications for biology education. To test these hypotheses, we are assembling and interdisciplinary team to investigate linkages between intuitive ways of thinking and biological misconceptions.

Prior publications related to the research effort can be found at:

The Position

The Postdoctoral Research Associate�s responsibilities will include collaborating in designing measures of intuitive biological thinking and scientific misconceptions, collecting data from populations including but not limited to undergraduate biology majors, non-majors, and faculty, supervising data coding and entry, conducting analyses to gauge the relations between intuitive thinking and biological misconceptions, and co-authoring publications. In addition, the Postdoctoral Research Associate will have opportunities to pursue other professional opportunities at Northeastern, including participating in the intellectual life of the department, mentoring undergraduates in cognitive science research, and developing and pursuing related lines of independent research.

Required and Preferred Qualifications

Required qualifications are a Ph.D. in cognitive or developmental psychology, cognitive science, or a related field, and a strong interest in developing excellence in interdisciplinary scholarship and research at the intersection of cognitive science and STEM education. The abilities to prioritize tasks, to engage in long- and short-term planning, to collaborate with many stakeholders, and to handle a variety of demands simultaneously are critical. Candidates must be willing and able to work a flexible schedule, including occasional travel, weekends, and extended hours during periods of intense activity. The following attributes, experiences, and knowledge are preferred: experience developing measures of conceptual understanding, quantitative and qualitative analysis skills, experiencing supervising and mentoring undergraduate researchers, a successful record of publishing graduate research, and an in-depth knowledge of the literature on intuitive biological thought. We seek self-motivated, creative, curious individuals who have excellent communication skills (interpersonal, written, and public speaking), and who can work both independently and as part of a team effort.

Salary and Appointment

This Postdoctoral Research Associate position is a full-time, salaried, and benefited position at Northeastern University. The position is annually renewable, dependent on performance and continued grant funding, which is anticipated. Salary is competitive and commensurate with professional experience and qualifications of the candidates. Northeastern University offers excellent benefits packages.

Northeastern University is an Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action Educational Institution and Employer, Title IX University. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability status, protected veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by the law. Northeastern University is an E-Verify Employer.

Application Procedure

To apply for the CRL Postdoctoral Research Associate position, please use the following link:

You will be asked to upload the following documents:

1. A letter of interest in the position (no more than 2 pages).

2. A current curriculum vitae.

3. A statement of long term research interests and career goals (no more than 2 pages and need not be specific to the project described above).

4. A statement of teaching philosophy (no more than 2 pages).

5. The names of three professional references, including their current position, relationship to the applicant, and phone and email contact information.

Application Review Timeline

Review of applications will begin on Wednesday, October 1, 2015, and will continue until the position is filled.


Questions about the position should be directed to John D. Coley, Associate Professor of Psychology and Principal Investigator (