Local recruitment: Microbiologist (Wastewater Surveillance)

California Department of Public Health/Heluna Health

Richmond, CA, USA 🇺🇸

Heluna Health and the California Department of Public Health’s (CDPH) Drinking Water and Radiation Laboratory Branch (DWRLB) seeks a Microbiologist (Wastewater Surveillance) to begin work immediately to support the CDPH wastewater surveillance (WWS) laboratory. The CDPH DWRL WWS laboratory tests wastewater, or sewage, for fragments of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and other infectious diseases. Results are used to supplement existing public health surveillance and monitor infectious disease trends and outbreaks. The CDPH WWS program is a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Wastewater Surveillance System (NWSS) and is recognized as a national Center of Excellence (CoE). This position is funded under the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity (ELC) cooperative agreement.

The Microbiologist will perform laboratory testing using PCR-based molecular platforms (e.g., digital droplet PCR) to detect and identify the SARS-CoV-2 virus and related variants in wastewater, as well as other pathogens of public health importance (e.g., influenza, respiratory syncytial virus, Mpox), as a public health surveillance tool for routine and outbreak monitoring. The project involves routine environmental sample (wastewater) handling, concentration, and analysis, as well as evaluation of new methods and applicationor instance, different wastewater matrices (e.g., influent, solids) to enhance detection sensitivities.

Under supervision of the DWRL Microbiology Unit Supervisor, the Microbiologist will also support data formatting, quality assurance/control, and reporting to other CDPH programs and the CDC. The Microbiologist will work with the WWS laboratory team and laboratory tech/coordinator to maintain inventories and equipment. Collaboration with other programs, including the CDPH wastewater surveillance epidemiology team and the CDC, are expected. The Microbiologist will work to implement laboratory operational improvements as necessary, under the supervision of the DWRL Microbiology Unit Supervisor, and contribute to documentation of processes (e.g., standard operating procedures) as necessary.

Applicant should possess approximately two years of relevant laboratory experience and possess a bachelor’s degree in a biological science, molecular biology, or biochemistry. A certified Public Health Microbiologist or having specific relevant microbiological and/or environmental laboratory training can substitute for some work experience. The incumbent must be experienced in working with microorganisms and molecular techniques, exercise standard precautions, and be experienced with applied PCR-based methods. Maintaining an organized, neat, and clean work environment, working well in a team environment, and being detail-oriented are essential.

If hired for this position, applicant will be required to provide proof of full vaccination for COVID-19 prior to the start date or have a valid religious or medical reason qualifying the applicant for an exemption (that may or may not require accommodation).


  • Performs, interprets, and reports diagnostic and reference and pilot testing for pathogen detection in environmental wastewater samples, focusing on PCR-based methods according to standard operating procedures (SOP) and established protocols.
  • Develop and implement novel molecular and genomic assays targeting SARS Cov-2 variants, and other pathogen subtypes of concern.
  • Archives laboratory test results using LIMS or other related database systems.
  • Provides operational training of laboratory systems to research assistants and laboratory technicians.
  • Coordinates data reporting and formatting with other CDPH programs and the CDC.
  • Adheres to DWRL quality assurance project plans and quality systems.
  • Maintains laboratory records of and archives of wastewater samples, nucleic acid samples, and environmental specimens, controls stocks, and laboratory reagents.
  • Conducts routine equipment maintenance and QC monitoring, scheduling of preventative maintenance services and repairs.
  • Provide back-up support to lab tech/ coordinator with sample management and communication with wastewater utilities sites.
  • Performs other related duties as assigned


  • Knowledge and extensive experience with laboratory work environments, sterile technique, and PCR-based molecular methods is highly desirable.
  • Primer 3 plus application, or other equivalent software experience for assay design is highly desirable.
  • Experience with standard precautions for working with potentially infectious environmental specimens.
  • Ability to perform micromanipulations such as pipetting small volumes and other fine measurements using laboratory instrumentation and equipment.
  • Demonstrated attention to detail.
  • Solid written and verbal communication skills.


  • Possession of a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited university with course work in chemistry, microbiology, and molecular biology.
  • One to two years of relevant experience working with wastewater, environmental and/or microbiological samples and molecular testing is highly desired.


  • Desirable, but not required, to possess a Public Health Microbiologist certificate, or have the ability to acquire one.

 Other Skills, Knowledge, and Abilities

  • Computer skills (Microsoft Office Suite: Word, Access, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Teams)
  • Experience with GraphPad Prism, Primer 3 plus, BioRad QuantaSoft and QIAgen platforms desired
  • Ability to effectively communicate verbally and in writing.
  • Ability to work independently and adapt to varied work settings
  • Ability to work effectively with a team of diverse individuals






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