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Mechanical Engineer, Hardware Systems - Card Lab

Howard Hughes Medical Institute
New York, New York
Competitive with great benefits
Closing date
Jan 4, 2023
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The Card Lab at the Mortimer B. Zuckerman Institute at Columbia University seeks a creative, experienced, independent Systems Engineer to support groundbreaking research in the neural circuits underlying visually-guided decision-making in the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster.  More information about Dr. Card and the lab’s research can be found by visiting           

About the Systems Engineer role:
You will be a general-purpose engineer, working closely with neuroscientists and biologists to develop and support custom hardware systems for behavioral and neurophysiological experiments in fruit flies. The position will entail providing engineering support for existing behavioral assay systems, including a custom robot for maintaining fly stocks, as well as designing and building new experimental setups. 

A comfort with, and basic understanding of, mechanical and electronic-circuit design, alongside fabrication methods (milling, lathing, etc.) is expected. Strong candidates will also have software experience with coding in MATLAB and databases such as MySQL and will be able to work both independently and closely with biologists to accomplish a complete project cycle, from design through fabrication.


What we provide:

  • A competitive compensation package with comprehensive health and welfare benefits

  • Working with a dynamic team of neuroscientists and a small core of engineers to design next-generation experimental systems to unravel the mysteries of the brain

  • A collaborative, intellectually stimulating work environment

  • Opportunities for professional development and growth


What you’ll do:

  • Provide engineering support for the design, development, and maintenance of fly behavioral assay systems.

  • Design and fabrication of fly widgets for use in behavioral assays and physiological experiments

  • Work with microcontrollers to coordinate hardware/software systems.

  • Adapt existing machine vision algorithms to extract fly behaviors in real time and offline.

  • Develop computational tools and analysis pipelines for processing and interpretation of behavioral assay results.

  • Perform complete project cycles, from design to fabrication, with support from a small engineering core in the university’s fabrication and machining facility.

  • Perform mechanical maintenance and database support for fly stock maintenance robot.


What you bring:

  • A Bachelor's degree (or higher) in engineering, math or physics.

  • Comfort designing and building small mechanical and electronic devices

  • Experience writing code in MATLAB and with MySQL databases, including creating, querying, and troubleshooting databases.

  • Experience in data analysis and visualization

  • Strong attention to detail, accuracy, and precision in day-to-day work

  • An interest in neuroscience

  • An interest in working closely with biologists on engineering approaches

  • A willingness to rapidly assimilate new fields of knowledge, including optics, machine vision algorithms, and software/hardware integration, for the purpose of building functional electro-mechanical devices.

  • The ability to clearly communicate engineering principles, design, and coding with biologists and the capacity to work collaboratively with members of the lab to optimize systems and coding as experimental needs require.

  • The ability to multitask and assist in the design and optimization of different systems simultaneously to support multiple ongoing and evolving projects


The salary for this role in the city of New York is:
Mechanical Engineer I - $67,390 (minimum) - $84,200 (midpoint) - $109,480 (maximum) 
Mechanical Engineer II - $77,740 (minimum) - $97,200 (midpoint) - $126,385 (maximum)


HHMI’s salary structure is developed based on relevant market data. HHMI considers a candidate's education, previous experiences, knowledge, skills and abilities, as well as internal equity when making job offers. Typically, a new Mechanical Engineer is compensated between the minimum and the midpoint of the salary range. 


Physical Requirements

Remaining in a normal seated or standing position for extended periods of time; reaching and grasping by extending hand(s) or arm(s); dexterity to manipulate objects with fingers, for example using a keyboard; communication skills using the spoken word; ability to see and hear within normal parameters; ability to move about workspace. The position requires mobility, including the ability to move materials weighing up to several pounds (such as a laptop computer or tablet). Work may involve possible exposure to malodorous vapors, low dose radiation, contamination by toxic chemicals and acids and presence of carcinogenic substances or other hazardous materials.


Persons with disabilities may be able to perform the essential duties of this position with reasonable accommodation. Requests for reasonable accommodation will be evaluated on an individual basis.


Please Note:

This job description sets forth the job’s principal duties, responsibilities, and requirements; it should not be construed as an exhaustive statement, however.  Unless they begin with the word “may,” the Essential Duties and Responsibilities described above are “essential functions” of the job, as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act.


Compensation and Benefits

Our employees are compensated from a total rewards perspective in many ways for their contributions to our mission, including competitive pay, exceptional health benefits, retirement plans, time off, and a range of recognition and wellness programs. Visit our Benefits at HHMI site to learn more. 


HHMI is an Equal Opportunity Employer

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