Applications will be reviewed on a rolling-basis, and this opportunity will remain open until filled.

A research opportunity is currently available in the Division of Veterinary Services at the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER), Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in Silver Spring, Maryland.

An ORISE fellow will be instrumental to advancing the progress on high impact projects for automated tracking and behavior detection of research animals. The fellowship will offer an exciting opportunity for the fellow to gain in-depth knowledge in the fields of computer vision and deep learning. The work involves tailoring the latest algorithms developed by leaders in the field for object detection and pose estimation to track and potentially uniquely identifying multiple animals per cage. Additional work includes adapting behavior detection methods to profile general behaviors (e.g., walking, eating, rearing, climbing) as well as behaviors of special interest to different investigators (e.g., breathing rate detection for COVID-19 hamsters, sociability, seizure detection, etc). The work will allow the fellow to gain and solidify skills in in Python and deep learning packages such as PyTorch. The fellow will acquire experience in cloud computing to streamline processing for large and/or long-term animal studies. The projects also offer an opportunity to gain familiarity with 3D CAD design, along with fabrication and prototyping when needed for novel system design for specialized animal studies.  The research effort will be summarized in conference and journal publications for which the ORISE fellow will get authorship recognition. Some projects target quantification and evaluation of the activity of laboratory mice and hamsters in their home cages within animal facilities. Such systems would allow the behavioral effects of experimental treatments or genetic manipulations to be easily demonstrated and analyzed by investigators at the FDA White Oak Animal Research Program. The effects of genetic manipulations and novel treatments on murine behavior are largely hidden from animal users because assessment is specialized and labor intensive and much of it occurs after the animal room lights go out at night. The systems in development open up the potential for large-scale and wide-range use of automated video monitoring in animal facilities.

Several video-monitoring systems, utilizing depth cameras and conventional video, have been designed and built in collaboration with NIH researchers. The optimized mechanical design of the systems allows high-quality video acquisition for rodent cages housed within ventilated racks. The systems low cost and suitability for use in existing animal facilities with minimal modification to animal husbandry procedures or housing setup, renders it scalable and potentially easy to use in the research environment, including specialized containment caging when infections are present. The ORISE fellow, with support from engineers from the NIH National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, will work on several aspects of the system development and new video processing and analysis tools.

Anticipated Appointment Start Date: May 2023; start date is flexible

This program, administered by ORAU through its contract with the U.S. Department of Energy to manage the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, was established through an interagency agreement between DOE and FDA. The initial appointment is for one year, but may be renewed upon recommendation of FDA contingent on the availability of funds. The participant will receive a monthly stipend commensurate with educational level and experience. Proof of health insurance is required for participation in this program. The appointment is full-time at FDA in the Silver Spring, Maryland, area. Participants do not become employees of FDA, DOE or the program administrator, and there are no employment-related benefits.

Completion of a successful background investigation by the Office of Personnel Management is required for an applicant to be on-boarded at FDA.  OPM can complete a background investigation only for individuals, including non-US Citizens, who have resided in the US for a total of three of the past five years.

FDA requires ORISE participants to read and sign their FDA Education and Training Agreement within 30 days of his/her start date, setting forth the conditions and expectations for his/her educational appointment at the agency.  This agreement covers such topics as the following:

– Non-employee nature of the ORISE appointment;
– Prohibition on ORISE Fellows performing inherently governmental functions;
– Obligation of ORISE Fellows to convey all necessary rights to the FDA regarding intellectual property conceived or first reduced to practice during their fellowship;
– The fact that research materials and laboratory notebooks are the property of the FDA;
– ORISE fellow’s obligation to protect and not to further disclose or use non-public information.

The qualified candidate must have received or be currently pursuing a BS or MS in one of the relevant fields. The degree must be received before the start of the appointment and within 5 years of the appointment start date.

Preferred skills/ knowledge:

– Programming languages/tools: Python, C/C++
– Deep learning tools: PyTorch
– Image and video processing algorithm development, testing, and validation
– Three-dimensional computer aided design (3D CAD)
– Mechanical design, fabrication, and assembly
– Animal experiments setup and validation