Single-cell Genomics and Genetics of Embryonic Cell Fate Decisions


The Unit on Cell Specification and Differentiation is recruiting for a postdoctoral position in the lab of Dr. Jeffrey Farrell. The lab combines single-cell genomics, imaging, genetic, and classical embryological approaches to investigate how cell types are specified and then how cells differentiate during vertebrate embryogenesis. We focus on zebrafish embryos as a model system to study these questions, because among vertebrates, they are easy to culture, image, and manipulate both embryologically and genetically. We are located on the extremely collegial NIH campus, in Bethesda, MD, which is part of the greater Washington D.C. area.

We recently used single-cell RNAseq to profile zebrafish embryos during early development and developed a computational approach to reconstruct the gene expression trajectories that cells traverse during early cell fate decisions (Science 2018). We also extended these approaches to profile development in Hydra (Science 2019) and during zebrafish brain development (Neuron 2020). The lab’s current research interests involve extending these approaches to a longer period in development, profiling the cascades of gene expression that direct cells to differentiate and acquire unique morphological and functional properties, and to continue to study early embryonic cell fate decisions, including how those decisions are shaped by cells’ environmental histories (such as response to DNA damage) and developmental histories (such as multiple paths to the same cell fate). Post-docs in the lab will pursue these questions using a combination of experimental and computational approaches and have broad freedom to design their projects. Further details and a list of publications can be found at:


  • Interested candidates must have a PhD and/or MD.
  • Applicants are expected to be prepared to conduct research fairly independently, but also function as part of a multi-disciplinary team.
  • Applicants should have excellent communication and interpersonal skills.
  • Experience in developmental, cell, or molecular biology and/or computational biology experience is preferred, but not required
  • Experience with zebrafish is preferred, but not required

To apply, submit (via email) a cover letter (2-4 paragraphs describing your desired start date, research experience, why you would like to join us, and your future career goals), curriculum vitae, and the names and contact information of three references to:

Dr. Jeffrey Farrell
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
National Institutes of Health
Building 6B, Room 4B412
Bethesda, MD 20814

The NIH is dedicated to building a diverse community in its training and employment programs. Women and underrepresented minorities are especially encouraged to apply.

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