Job: Life and Environmental Sciences Division Director

Department: DGE – Global Ecology, DPB – Plant Biology, EMB – Embryology



Life and Environmental Sciences Division Director

The Carnegie Institution for Science seeks nominations and applications for an exciting position for a visionary researcher and leader to serve as the Director of the Division of Life and Environmental Sciences. The Division will be based in Pasadena at a soon to be built state-of-the-art research facility.

The Carnegie Institution for Science was founded on the principle that powerful results can be achieved when great scientists have the freedom and resources to follow their curiosity, pursue novel ideas, and tackle big questions that capture their imaginations and inspire their best work.

Carnegie Science is committed to diversity in our workplace and, at this pivotal moment in our history, we are seeking an eminent, ambitious, strategic, dynamic, and collaborative scientist and leader who will inspire our researchers in Life and Environmental Sciences to achieve even greater success, and who will identify and recruit a new and diverse generation of brilliant scientists to make Carnegie Science their intellectual home.

This position represents an exceptional opportunity to establish and lead an internationally renowned research center focused on deepening our understanding of the most pressing scientific questions of our time and shaping innovative solutions to a broad range of issues, with an urgent focus on understanding and mitigating global climate change from molecular to global scales.

We are seeking a Director who can provide insight and support across a wide range of research interests, building on Carnegie’s existing strengths in developmental biology and embryology, plant biology, and global ecology. Today, scientists in this Division are deeply engaged in research across a wide range of interests, including terrestrial ecology, plant physiology, embryogenesis, climate science, water resources, nutrient cycling, aquatic ecology, and molecular mechanisms underlying symbiosis and adaptive strategies in animals and plants. Our scientists are taking leading roles in finding innovative applications of experimental methodologies, to investigate pressing and urgent scientific problems. We seek a Director who can provide expert guidance to lead and support these ongoing efforts and help our researchers achieve high-impact results.

Carnegie’s Life and Environmental Sciences Division’s scientists also play key roles in our interdisciplinary efforts across our divisions. For example, Carnegie scientists are working collaboratively to understand the transition from chemical evolution to biological evolution on the early Earth, with the ultimate goal of assessing the potential for life on other planets. Several of our investigators are deeply involved in space missions, extrasolar planet detection and characterization, as well as observing using our state-of-the-art telescopes in Chile. The new Director will be charged with working in partnership with the President and research staff to find further possibilities for potentially transformational research and facilitate bringing together scientists across the institution and disciplinary boundaries to seek discoveries that will revolutionize our understanding of life itself.

In selecting the new Director, we will be guided by our vision: To be America’s leading independent research laboratory, bringing together a diverse community of exceptional investigators who work across disciplinary boundaries to deliver unconventional, high-impact results in space, Earth, and life sciences, in the pursuit of new knowledge and for the benefit of humanity.

To achieve and sustain our plan for expanding the work of this vital Division, the new Director must be committed to protecting Carnegie’s unique institutional character and promoting a culture of intellectual freedom, collegiality, and uncompromising scientific excellence. The Director’s responsibilities will include leadership of the Division’s transition from Palo Alto and Baltimore to a new site in Pasadena, near Carnegie’s astronomers and astrophysicists and adjacent to the Caltech campus. The Director will be asked to participate meaningfully in the design of a new Carnegie Science building in Pasadena. They also will be tasked with taking a leadership role in developing our recently announced alliance with Caltech and in supporting stronger ties between Carnegie Science researchers and their Caltech peers.

Our new Pasadena location will enable us to expand upon existing Carnegie research relationships with the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab, which offers access to real-time satellite views of changing weather patterns and shifts in ecosystems for climate and ecology research and provides opportunities for participation in space missions that can extend our biological research to the furthest reaches of our solar system and beyond. The expansion of the Carnegie Science presence in Pasadena also will create broader opportunities for research partnerships throughout Southern California, including the potential for broad collaborations in global ecology, environmental science, and plant biology with the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens. Through this expansion and these affiliations, Carnegie Science seeks to make a powerful contribution to Los Angeles’ growing reputation as a preeminent research hub.

The Director will report to President Eric D. Isaacs and will be responsible for all aspects of the Division’s research activities, fundraising, federal awards oversight, financial management, outreach, and other operations. As a member of the Carnegie Institution for Science leadership team, the Director also will work closely with fellow Directors and professional staff to manage Division programs and resources in furtherance of the Carnegie Institution’s scientific and organizational goals. In addition, the new Director will have the opportunity to maintain an active research portfolio and typically be able to dedicate 20-40% of their time to those endeavors.

The successful candidate will present a distinguished record of achievement in research and administration, including experience leading an organization through periods of change. They will demonstrate impeccable scientific judgment, an uncompromising commitment to research excellence, a demonstrated commitment to diversity in all its forms, exceptional interpersonal skills, clarity in oral and written expression, and a deep commitment to and understanding of, interdisciplinary collaboration. They will bring an ability to think strategically about the future of American science and about the ways in which Carnegie can expand its role as an innovative leader of the scientific enterprise. The Director also must be a strong and persuasive communicator who will work with the Carnegie Institution’s leadership to further build its organizational reputation and secure resources to advance its strategic priorities, now and in the years to come.

Opportunities and Challenges for the Position

The Director of the Division of Life and Environmental Sciences will be expected to build on Carnegie’s exceptional national and international reputation and fulfill the new Division’s potential for even greater achievements.

The President and the search committee have identified the following leadership opportunities for the new Director:

Strengthen diversity and inclusion: The Carnegie Institution for Science is fully committed to making this organization a welcoming, supportive, inspiring environment. The new Director will be expected to ensure that the Division is an equitable, diverse, and inclusive place to work, and must hold every staff member accountable for creating a community that actively opposes racism, discrimination, and harassment.

Develop a strategic vision for research excellence: In close collaboration with the President and scientific staff, the Director will lead the development of a robust strategic vision for the Division of Life and Environmental Sciences that is grounded in research excellence and driven by our organizational mission of scientific discovery in service to humanity. The Director must have the interpersonal skills and leadership abilities necessary to build consensus around a variety of issues, including prioritization of resources and support of interdisciplinary programs. These decisions will be guided in part by the Carnegie Institution’s commitment to work with Caltech in planning the new Resnick Sustainability Resource Center, which will focus on core research initiatives in Global Ecology and Biosphere Engineering, Climate Science, and Water Resources. The Director’s strategic vision also should include opportunities for the Carnegie Institution for Science to deepen its engagement with other researchers and institutions throughout Southern California.

Expand and strengthen the Division by leading recruitment and retention of talented researchers: The new Director must be exceptionally skilled in identifying a diverse group of talented and productive researchers and working in collaboration with colleagues within the Division to recruit next generation talent to Carnegie. The Director also is charged with ensuring that researchers have the scientific and financial resources necessary to support their work, enhance their productivity, and foster their retention throughout their complete terms. This effort will require creative, strategic thinking and strong leadership skills to provide a full range of incentives for successfully retaining top talent.

Provide leadership for postdoc education and research: Our postdocs are an integral part of the Carnegie Institution for Science and its tradition of excellence. During their postdoc years, these bright, talented and creative individuals bring fresh ideas, diverse viewpoints, and boundless energy to our shared work, making important contributions to our research efforts. As they move forward in their careers, they serve as ambassadors for Carnegie Science and burnish our reputation as one of the world’s premier scientific organizations. The Director will be responsible for oversight of postdoc recruitment in the Division, to assure that our program continues to attract the world’s most promising young scientists and seeds the field with diverse talent. The Director also will be expected to provide supervision, guidance, and advocacy for these talented individuals throughout the terms of their postdoctoral fellowships. In particular, the Director will be tasked with successful management of the Division’s postdoctoral program during the transition from Palo Alto to Pasadena.

Manage resources to support world-leading research across key topics and disciplines through a period of expansion: The Division of Life and Environmental Sciences is poised for a period of historic growth. This expansion and transition will require a Director who has a sophisticated understanding of budgets and financing, as well as a demonstrated history of developing financially sustainable models for aligning resources with research excellence and an ability to work in collaboration with peers and staff to find innovative solutions and implement financial plans.

Increase resources through fundraising: This Division’s expansion, with its urgent focus on environmental solutions, provides a compelling story to enlist new supporters and deepen our engagement with current donors. The new Director will work closely with colleagues in the Carnegie Institution for Science Office of Advancement to identify development opportunities and to take an active part in fundraising and community engagement. This responsibility will require an innovative and entrepreneurial approach to align potential donors with opportunities to support crucial research.

Build interdisciplinary collaborations across Divisions: The Director will strengthen and expand existing internal collaborations in ways that leverage and deepen Carnegie research excellence across the entire Institution. These cross-Divisional collaborations, which often enable pursuit of unusual and non-mainstream ideas, reflect Carnegie’s distinct organizational advantage in investigating novel research directions that can emerge at the often unexplored areas where disciplines intersect and that can lead to fundamental scientific breakthroughs.

Serve as one of the Institution’s senior leaders, advocating effectively for the Division of Life and Environmental Sciences and building a more responsive, transparent, and collaborative culture: The Director of the Division of Life and Environmental Sciences must be an effective advocate for the Division in Carnegie-wide settings and must build strong relationships with members of the Board of Trustees. The Director also must provide clear, accurate, and frequent communications about recruitment, resource allocation, and other important decisions to ensure that department leaders and staff are engaged and included in the decision-making processes.


A successful candidate should have many of the following professional qualifications and personal characteristics:

Academic stature: A record of distinguished academic accomplishments and appointments appropriate to the leadership of a Division in an organization with a worldwide reputation for research excellence.

Academic leadership: Proven ability in fostering a strong commitment to the continued excellence of the Division’s research programs and respect for the talent and commitment of an exceptional scientific staff. The Director also must display robust intellectual curiosity beyond disciplinary boundaries to engage effectively and productively with peer Directors and leaders across Carnegie divisions.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion impact: Demonstrated leadership in advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in staff recruitment and retention, as well as a track record of establishing and leading a fair, equitable, and supportive workplace.

Management experience: Experience with management of complex organizational structures, and especially the ability to work effectively and build cooperative relationships. Proven ability to solve problems creatively and effectively.

Fundraising skill: Experience in successful donor development and high-level fundraising, with an enthusiastic commitment to identifying and securing new resources and engaging others in fundraising activities.

Financial sophistication: Substantial experience in financial management.

Effective communication: Accessibility and the ability to communicate transparently and effectively in a timely manner with Carnegie Institution leadership, Division researchers and staff, Trustees, donors, and other constituents.

About The Carnegie Institution for Science

The Carnegie Institution for Science is composed of three research Divisions: Life & Environmental Sciences, Earth & Planetary Sciences, and Astronomy & Astrophysics. The Carnegie Institution currently employs 65 scientific staff and 111 postdocs across its six U.S. campuses and its Las Campanas Observatory in Chile.

Carnegie’s endowment is valued at approximately $950M. The operating budget of the Carnegie Institution for Science was $93.5 million in fiscal year 2019, of which $36 million was funded through outside revenue.

The Division of Life and Environmental Sciences will build on the world-leading strengths of the departments of Embryology, on the Johns Hopkins campus in Baltimore, and Global Ecology and Plant Biology, located on Stanford University’s campus in Palo Alto. Starting in 2024, these currently spatially separated departments will begin moving to a newly built facility in Pasadena, two blocks north of the Caltech campus.

Pasadena is a flourishing and attractive community offering a wide range of amenities:

  • High-quality housing, with a median home price of $825,000 and the average rent for a two- bedroom apartment is $2,600. The city includes many architecturally significant homes and buildings.
  • Highly ranked public and private schools, including Pasadena Polytech, which is considered one of the best K-12 schools in the country.
  • Light rail access to downtown Los Angeles, with easy links to the metropolitan transit
  • Convenient access to airports. LAX is about 40 minutes away by car and the Hollywood Burbank airport is about 20 minutes.
  • More restaurants per capita than New York City and a thriving downtown offering a variety of national chains and local boutiques.

Search Process

The Carnegie Institution for Science is being assisted in this recruitment by the international leadership advisory firm Spencer Stuart and welcomes nominations or expressions of interest. To submit comments, nominations, or expressions of interest, please send an e-mail with any supporting materials to the confidential address:

The Carnegie Institution for Science is an equal opportunity employer committed to recruiting, supporting, and fostering a diverse community of outstanding researchers and staff. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment and will not be discriminated against based on gender, race/ethnicity, protected veteran status, disability, or other protected group status.