Biomaterials Research Scientist

Title: Researcher 6 Biomaterials Research Scientist
Job ID: 359076
Location: Duluth
Job Family: Research-Researchers
Employee Class: Acad Prof and Admin

About the Job

This position is responsible for initiating and managing new bio-based and biodegradable materials discovery, development, and testing programs. This includes developing the vision, strategic plan, and operational plans for a materials biodegradation test laboratory that serves the needs of University and Industry researchers by screening new materials at an early stage of development for their potential commercialization and licensing. This position will develop University-Industry relationships in biodegradable and compostable materials. Additionally, the Research Scientist will directly support collaborative renewable materials development programs led by NRRI and the Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering (BBE) Department of the University of Minnesota’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS).

Responsibilities include the development of a robust, funded research program in biobased materials, including designing and operating standard and novel biodegradability testing facilities, and execution of fundamental research into biodegradation mechanisms. Additional responsibilities will include supervising research staff and students, writing and procuring grants and contracts, and soliciting clients for the biodegradation testing laboratory. This position will work with industry, institutional, agency, and university researchers to identify opportunities for collaboration.

The knowledge, skills, and aptitudes required for this position include but are not limited to; research leadership, program development, project management, employee development, experimental design, problem-solving, data management, statistical analysis, report writing, oral/visual presentation, and peer-reviewed publication.

The Research Scientist integrates work across several University of Minnesota research units to solve complex research problems, receives minimal guidance from leadership, and consistently works to ensure the achievement of NRRI Core Values and Strategic Initiatives.

Leadership/Team Building (10%)
Responsible for developing the operational plan, budget, and funding for the research program and individual research program staff, including objective setting, project management, personnel development, and performance management. The position promotes, recruits, and assigns/re-assigns staff as appropriate to achieve goals and devotes adequate time to developing and maintaining a professional team dynamic.

Research Program Development & Execution (40%)
Develop and maintain a robust, funded, sustainable biodegradation research program  that assists industry and academic programs in developing new sustainable materials such as bio-based monomers, polymers, composites, nonwovens, and the like made from renewable feedstocks. The research program will be guided by industry and market needs for more sustainable materials. 
Prepare and contribute to preparing research plans, contracts, technical reports, annual reports, grant proposals, peer-reviewed manuscripts, and patent applications.

Biodegradation Research Facility Development & Operation (50%)
Develop and operate a biodegradation research laboratory and program concerning the biodegradation of materials in soil, water, and composting environments that offers services to laboratories developing new sustainable materials at the University of Minnesota, private industry, and collaborating academic and government laboratories.

Job Duties: 

  • Develop and maintain a robust, funded, sustainable material biodegradation research program leading to new sustainable materials including, but not limited to, bio-based monomers, polymers, composites, nonwovens, and alloys made from renewable feedstocks. 
  • Develop operational plans, budgets, and funding streams for the research program and individual research program staff.
  • Recruit, hire, and assign/re-assign staff to achieve goals and ensure resources and technical capabilities align with initiative and program requirements. Ensure staff members have the proper training, tools, and equipment to perform job tasks.
  • Set expectations to develop and maintain a professional team dynamic.
  •  Assist commercialization efforts of the University Technology Commercialization Office and NRRI Partnership Development Office to identify licensing and sponsored research opportunities. 
  • Employ project management practices to ensure the effective planning, execution, and oversight of unique projects and programs, such as maintaining high safety and quality standards, research rigor, ethics, and peer review in all research group activities and collaborations.
  • Prepare and/or contribute to preparing technical reports, annual reports, grant proposals, peer-reviewed manuscripts, test reports, and patent applications.
  • Represent the strategic plan and capabilities of the NRRI and its research partners to internal and external partners, collaborators, and stakeholders.
  • Build collaborative alliances – internal (NRRI, UMD, UMN) and external (industry, government, academia, other) - to pursue research programs and funding that lead to improved sustainable materials and testing methods. 
  • Represent NRRI on University technical or governance committees as defined by NRRI leadership.


Required Qualifications:

  • Master’s degree with substantial research and publication record or a Ph.D with evident research and publication record in a relevant field of study: Biochemistry, Materials Science, Chemical Engineering, Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering, Microbiology, Wood Science, Paper Science, or related.
  • Demonstrated record of research accomplishments relevant to sustainable materials development and biodegradation.
  • Demonstrated ability to manage and oversee data collection, analysis, and interpretation.
  • Evidence of excellent written and oral communication skills via peer-reviewed publications, reports, patents, and presentations.

Preferred Qualifications:

  • Master’s degree with at least eight years of relevant professional experience or a Ph.D with two years of professional experience in a relevant field of study.
  • Experience as a primary investigator on an extramural grant leading a team of researchers.
  • Experience in client engagement with industry, agency, and/or academic scientists.
  • Demonstrated excellent verbal communication skills.
  • Evidence of experience in building, leading, and/or contributing to multidisciplinary teams.

About the Department

The Natural Resources Research Institute was established by the Minnesota legislature in 1983 as an applied science and engineering research organization to inform state citizens and decision-makers while leveraging the power of the University of Minnesota. NRRI is guided by the forward-looking charter provided by the Legislature to foster the economic development of Minnesota’s natural resources in an environmentally sound manner to promote private-sector employment.

NRRI’s mission is to deliver integrated research solutions that value our resources, environment, and economy for a sustainable and resilient future. We are a mission-driven, project-focused team working to create opportunities for natural resource stewardship.
With industrial-scale facilities in Duluth and Coleraine, MN, NRRI works across five strategic research platforms. These platforms address Minnesota’s soil, forest, water, and mineral resources:

1. Applied Ecology and Resource Management
2. Minerals and Metallurgy
3. Materials and Bioeconomy
4. Data Collection and Delivery
5. Commercialization Services


Working at the University

At the University of Minnesota, you’ll find a flexible work environment and supportive colleagues who are interested in lifelong learning.  We prioritize work-life balance, allowing you to invest in the future of your career and in your life outside of work.

The University also offers a comprehensive benefits package that includes:

  • Competitive wages, paid holidays, and generous time off
  • Continuous learning opportunities through professional training and degree-seeking programs supported by the Regents Scholarship
  • Low-cost medical, dental, and pharmacy plans
  • Healthcare and dependent care flexible spending accounts
  • University HSA contributions
  • Disability and employer-paid life insurance
  • Employee wellbeing program
  • Excellent retirement plans with employer contribution
  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) opportunity
  • Financial counseling services 
  • Employee Assistance Program with eight sessions of counseling at no cost

Please visit the Office of Human Resources website for more information regarding benefits.

How To Apply

Applications must be submitted online.  To be considered for this position, please click here and follow the instructions.  Search for Job ID: 359076. You will be given the opportunity to complete an online application for the position and attach a cover letter and resume.

Additional documents may be attached after application by accessing your "My Job Applications" page and uploading documents in the "My Cover Letters and Attachments" section.

To request an accommodation during the application process, please e-mail or call (612) 624-UOHR (8647).


The University recognizes and values the importance of diversity and inclusion in enriching the employment experience of its employees and in supporting the academic mission.  The University is committed to attracting and retaining employees with varying identities and backgrounds.

The University of Minnesota provides equal access to and opportunity in its programs, facilities, and employment without regard to race, color, creed, religion, national origin, gender, age, marital status, disability, public assistance status, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.  To learn more about diversity at the U:

Employment Requirements

Any offer of employment is contingent upon the successful completion of a background check. Our presumption is that prospective employees are eligible to work here. Criminal convictions do not automatically disqualify finalists from employment.

About the U of M

University of Minnesota, Duluth (UMD)

The University of Minnesota, Duluth (UMD) consistently ranks among the top Midwestern, regional universities in U.S. News and World Report's "America's Best Colleges" issue.

Overlooking Lake Superior, UMD provides an alternative to both large research and small liberal arts environments and attracts students looking for a personalized learning experience on a medium-sized campus of a major university.  A firm liberal arts foundation anchors a variety of traditional degree programs, as well as professional and graduate students that draw on UMD's many research institutes and labs.

At the University of Minnesota, we are proud to be recognized by the Star Tribune as a Top Workplace for 2021, as well as by Forbes as Best Employers for Women and one of America’s Best Employers (2015, 2018, 2019, 2023), Best Employer for Diversity (2019, 2020), Best Employer for New Grads (2018, 2019), and Best Employer by State (2019, 2022).

Strategic Initiatives