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Job Information

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Post Doctorate RA - Ultra-Low Background Radiation Detection in RICHLAND, Washington

Organization and Job ID

Job ID: 311874

Directorate: National Security

Division: Signature Science and Technology

Group:Detection Physics

Job Description

The Detection Physics (DP) Group within PNNL’s National Security Directorate is seeking recent Ph.D. graduates to work at the intersection of national security, environmental sciences, and nuclear/particle physics instrumentation. The DP group specializes in developing ultra-low-background techniques and instrumentation aimed at making some of the world’s most sensitive radiation detection measurements. Capabilities within the group include the Shallow Underground Laboratory, a facility that provides shielding from cosmic ray-induced radioactive backgrounds and cleanroom filtration to protect from the radioactivity found in dust. This unique research and development facility is dedicated to low-background detector system development and production. This capability is enabled by equipment and expertise in cryogenic and vacuum systems, low noise analog electronics, gas-handling systems and radiation detectors.

We are interested in one or more highly motivated, capable individuals to work in a dynamic, multidisciplinary environment making quantitative measurements in ultra-low background systems. The endeavors span from the production mechanisms in the environment to the quantitative measurements in the laboratory, and the development of all the systems that are required to perform these low-level measurements. The work will primarily focus on the production of naturally-occurring noble gas radioisotopes, collection and separation of noble gas samples, and radiometric measurements. Tritium and Ar-39 age-dating are also a focus. The position will involve significant hands-on work with low-background radiation detectors (germanium detectors, gas proportional counters, and liquid scintillators), sample collections and preparation (e.g. noble gas processing from whole air, noble gas purification, processing of water samples for tritium measurements), and the fundamental development of radiation detectors and gas separations systems.

The post-doctoral researcher will also have the opportunity to participate in the DP Group’s other applied radiation detection programs. These programs may provide bench-scale, hands-on laboratory instrumentation development opportunities, including working in the PNNL shallow underground laboratory cleanroom.

Minimum Qualifications

Candidates must have received a PhD within the past five years (60 months) or within the next 8 months from an accredited college or university.

Preferred Qualifications

  • Candidates must be highly motivated and possess the interpersonal skills necessary to work with others in a team environment.

  • They must also be capable of working independently, and able to contribute in a professional manner via written and verbal communication.

  • Successful candidates will have excellent laboratory and problem-solving skills and be able to adapt to evolving priorities.

  • They must demonstrate an aptitude for meticulous attention to detail and the discipline to closely follow established procedures to perform intricate and exacting tasks associated with the preparation and handling of high purity materials

The ideal candidate will have hands-on experience with one or more of the following:

  • Noble gas detectors (gas proportional counters and cryogenic noble liquid scintillators) and understand the challenges to low-background techniques associated with these technologies

  • Gamma spectrometry systems for radionuclide detection, preferably high-purity germanium detectors

  • Design and fabrication of radiation detectors and shielding systems

  • Low-noise analog electronics and signal processing

  • Building, operating and troubleshooting high vacuum and/or cryogenic systems

  • Ultra-sensitive detectors including silicon CCD arrays

  • Cleanroom protocols and working in low-background environments

  • Gloveboxes

  • Gas chemistry, and pressurized gas-handling systems

  • C++ and the ROOT analysis framework

  • Sample processing and measurement for stable isotope geochronology

Preferred Education

  • Relevant areas of study might include physics, nuclear engineering, nuclear/particle physics, or environmental science, with experience in low-level detection techniques, gas chemistry, and detector development.

Special/Hazardous Working Conditions or Environment

The position will require significant hands-on laboratory work with vacuum systems, pressurized gases, cryogenics, cleanrooms, radiation sources, and control/measurement systems.

Equal Employment Opportunity

Battelle Memorial Institute (BMI) at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer and supports diversity in the workplace. All employment decisions are made without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, veteran status, marital or family status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or genetic information. All BMI staff must be able to demonstrate the legal right to work in the United States. BMI is an E-Verify employer. Learn more at

If you need assistance and/or a reasonable accommodation due to a disability during the application or the recruiting process, please send a request via

Please be aware that the Department of Energy (DOE) prohibits DOE employees and contractors from having any affiliation with the foreign government of a country DOE has identified as a “country of risk” without explicit approval by DOE and Battelle. If you are offered a position at PNNL and currently have any affiliation with the government of one of these countries you will be required to disclose this information and recuse yourself of that affiliation or receive approval from DOE and Battelle prior to your first day of employment.

Other Information

This position requires the ability to obtain and maintain a federal security clearance.


  • U.S. Citizenship

  • Background Investigation: Applicants selected will be subject to a Federal background investigation and must meet eligibility requirements for access to classified matter in accordance 10 CFR 710, Appendix B.

  • Drug Testing: All Security Clearance (L or Q) positions will be considered by the Department of Energy to be Testing Designated Positions which means that they are subject to applicant, random, and for cause drug testing. In addition, applicants must be able to demonstrate non-use of illegal drugs, including marijuana, for the 12 consecutive months preceding completion of the requisite Questionnaire for National Security Positions (QNSP).

Note: Applicants will be considered ineligible for security clearance processing by the U.S. Department of Energy until non-use of illegal drugs, including marijuana, for 12 consecutive months can be demonstrated.

Directorate: National Security

Job Category: Post-Graduates and Post-Docs

Group: Detection Physics

Opening Date: 2021-03-30

Closing Date: 2021-05-21