Job Details

Pennsylvania State University
  • Position Number: 3232364
  • Location: University Park, PA
  • Position Type: Agriculture - Environmental Science, Ecology & Forestry

Postdoctoral Scholar in Engineering Ethics

The Rock Ethics Institute (REI) and the College of Engineering at Penn State seek applicants for a Postdoctoral Scholar position to support engineering ethics education and contribute to ongoing research initiatives. The duties of the position will be divided roughly 50/50 between ethics education initiatives within the College of Engineering and research initiatives with REI faculty. Possible research areas (described below) include sustainable agriculture; water resources management, climate change, and environmental ethics; machine ethics; and neuroethics. The successful candidate will engage in collaborative research and produce publications, as well as receive training and mentorship. Postdoctoral scholars may receive experience working on grants. They will also receive support to allow them to participate in seminars and conferences appropriate to their personal career goals.

The postdoctoral scholarship is a twelve-month, full-time (40 hours per week) appointment, from the date of hire. This limited-term appointment may be continued for a second year, contingent upon the needs of the College and the Institute. The salary will be based on experience and qualifications. Applicants must have completed the requirements for their Ph.D. by the appointment date. In addition, successful candidates must either have demonstrated a commitment to building an inclusive, equitable, and diverse campus community, or describe one or more ways they would envision doing so, given the opportunity.

The education portion of the position will involve collaborations with the Leonhard Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Education to enhance the ethics education of upper-division engineering undergraduates and of engineering graduate students. The Postdoctoral Scholar will become part of a team to develop and offer workshops to prepare faculty members to integrate ethics into their courses. Depending on the interests and expertise of the successful candidate, there will be opportunities to engage in the development of new approaches to ethics education for undergraduate and graduate engineering students and in the evaluation of the effectiveness of ethics education and the process through which faculty are supported to integrate ethics into their courses.

The Rock Ethics Institute (REI) embodies Penn State's goal of providing world leadership in ethics-informed interdisciplinary research and the integration of ethical literacy throughout the university curriculum. Currently, REI shares 15 tenure-line faculty with eight colleges spanning the sciences, social sciences, humanities, law, and engineering. Based in the College of the Liberal Arts, the Institute sponsors innovative ethics research with a focus on the areas of data and technology, health, social justice, and sustainability.

The successful Postdoctoral Scholar would work directly with REI faculty on one of the following four projects:

1. Ethical Perspectives in Sustainable Agriculture (Principal Investigator - PI: Chris Costello,

There are numerous ethical perspectives from which to approach the meaning of "sustainable agriculture." For instance, whether humans or ecosystems are paramount in the pursuit of sustainability can lead to solutions that don't adequately address both perspectives. The ethical lenses held by researchers are rarely made explicit within interdisciplinary research teams leading to lack of clarity about what and/or who is to be sustained by agricultural systems, ultimately leading to inefficient collaborations. This position will lead documentation of the ethical perspectives held by researchers in sustainable agriculture and will synthesize how these differences play out in corresponding research. These efforts are intended to support more productive and inclusive identification of sustainable solutions.

2. Water Resources Management, Climate Change, and Environmental Ethics (PI: Caitlin Grady,

This postdoctoral position will focus on studying values influencing governance across issues of climate change adaptation and transboundary water resource management. Our lab is currently exploring governance values driving megacity climate adaptation planning. We are also interested in launching new collaborations exploring how transboundary water resource management will evolve under changing climates. We are seeking a candidate with a background in relevant fields including but not limited to geography, civil or environmental engineering, or those from fields such as public policy, sociology, political science, or international affairs who also have an affinity for data science.

3. Machine Ethics (PI: Alan Wagner,

This postdoctoral position will focus on research related to machine ethics. Machine ethics explores how to create robots that act ethically. This position will contribute to the creation of ethical robots. Our lab is currently exploring a variety of different methods for creating ethical robots including the use of machine learning, approaches involving multiple ethical frameworks, and methods that consider moral emotions. Application areas for this research include emergency evacuation in which robots must make triage decisions and the development of a set of ethical principles governing how a robot should evacuate people during an emergency.

4. Neuroethics (PI: Laura Cabrera,

This postdoctoral position will work in the Neuroethics lab on projects that utilize philosophically informed and empirical social science research to study the ethical, legal, social, and cultural implications of neurotechnology and advances in neuroscience. The successful Postdoctoral Scholar will be able to participate fully in the Neuroethics lab, participating in regular lab and project meetings, facilitating lectures and events, and assisting with at least one research project. The scholar will have full access to the intellectual resources of the Penn State community. We seek a candidate with a background in a relevant field, such as bioethics, sociology, public health, philosophy, engineering ethics, or behavioral science.


A complete online application will include the following materials:
  • A cover letter detailing the candidate's qualifications, including how their background and experience qualify them for both the curricular development and research aspects of this position. The statement should clarify for which research project(s) the applicant wishes to be considered
  • A current curriculum vitae
  • A scholarly paper or dissertation chapter (not to exceed 12,000 words) representing the applicant's scholarly achievement or potential
  • The names and contact information for three references.

System limitations allow for a total of 5 documents (5mb per document) as part of your application. Please combine materials to meet the 5 document limit.

To ensure full consideration, complete applications should be received by August 15, 2022, but applications will be considered until the positions are filled. The selection committee will begin reviewing applications immediately and incomplete applications may be at a disadvantage.

Penn State is committed to and accountable for advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in all of its forms. We embrace individual uniqueness, foster a culture of inclusion that supports both broad and specific diversity initiatives, leverage the educational and institutional benefits of diversity, and engage all individuals to help them thrive. We value inclusion as a core strength and an essential element of our public service mission.

Apply online at

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Penn State is an equal opportunity, affirmative action employer, and is committed to providing employment opportunities to all qualified applicants without regard to race, color, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability or protected veteran status.

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