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Research Associate

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Work type: Research Faculty
Senior management: Agriculture & Life Sciences
Department: Agricultural & Applied Economics
Location: Blacksburg, Virginia
Categories: Agriculture / Life Science

Job Description

The Department of Agricultural & Applied Economics along with an interdisciplinary team of researchers with expertise in applied economics and remote sensing led by Dr. Elinor Benami and based in Blacksburg, Virginia, is seeking a highly motivated individual to join our team as a Research Associate in the Fall of 2023.

About NASA Harvest
NASA Harvest is NASA’s Global Food Security and Agriculture Program.
Our mission is to enable and advance adoption of satellite Earth observations by public and private organizations to benefit food security, sustainability, agriculture, and human and environmental resiliency worldwide. We accomplish this through a multidisciplinary and multisectoral Consortium of leading scientists and agricultural stakeholders, led by researchers at the University of Maryland and implemented through co-development with our partners across the globe.

As part of our NASA Harvest activities, our team is investigating the correspondence of remotely sensed indicators to realized losses of policyholders in a variety of agricultural insurance programs across the globe. The position requires evaluating variation in observable agro-environmental conditions as well as on-the-ground data related to yields and livelihoods. The candidate will be responsible for supporting the research efforts of our team using a variety of tools and methods. These will include preparing geospatial and administrative data for analysis, applying theory-guided statistical approaches to uncover relationships in the data, generating visualizations and maps, preparing manuscripts for submission to peer-reviewed journals, and presenting findings at meetings and conferences for academic as well as practitioner audiences.

The successful candidate will have the opportunity to use your expertise in geospatial and economic analysis to assess the potential and limits of these technologies to enhance the value of agricultural insurance to the public as well as policyholders. We anticipate occasional travel to visit relevant local partners as well as collaborators across the US and the globe for training and advancing the research program.

The ideal candidate will have an MS or PhD with work experience in a relevant quantitative field, such as remote sensing, earth system sciences, computational social sciences, or agricultural economics/risk management, and will have a strong background in geospatial analysis and economic modeling.

Required Qualifications

Masters degree in a related field; Excellent written and oral communication skills; Demonstrated experience with data analysis software, such as R or Python; Facility with version control systems, e.g., git; Interest in the scholarly as well as public policy applications and implications of computational spatial science

Preferred Qualifications

PhD in relevant field, including experience submitting academic papers for publication
Experience with geospatial cloud computing platforms such as Google Earth Engine; Prior work in insurance/risk transfer; Prior experience with techniques to measure agronomic losses

Appointment Type


Salary Information

53,500 - 61,500

Review Date


Additional Information

To apply: Please submit (1) a cover letter indicating your interests and relevant background (2) your CV (3) a link to your github profile or similar coding portfolio

The successful candidate will be required to have a criminal conviction check.


About Virginia Tech

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech pushes the boundaries of knowledge by taking a hands-on, transdisciplinary approach to preparing scholars to be leaders and problem-solvers. A comprehensive land-grant institution that enhances the quality of life in Virginia and throughout the world, Virginia Tech is an inclusive community dedicated to knowledge, discovery, and creativity. The university offers more than 280 majors to a diverse enrollment of more than 36,000 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students in eight undergraduate colleges, a school of medicine, a veterinary medicine college, Graduate School, and Honors College. The university has a significant presence across Virginia, including the Innovation Campus in Northern Virginia; the Health Sciences and Technology Campus in Roanoke; sites in Newport News and Richmond; and numerous Extension offices and research centers. A leading global research institution, Virginia Tech conducts more than $500 million in research annually.

Virginia Tech does not discriminate against employees, students, or applicants on the basis of age, color, disability, sex (including pregnancy), gender, gender identity, gender expression, genetic information, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, or military status, or otherwise discriminate against employees or applicants who inquire about, discuss, or disclose their compensation or the compensation of other employees or applicants, or on any other basis protected by law.

If you are an individual with a disability and desire an accommodation, please contact Dr. Elinor Benami at during regular business hours at least 10 business days prior to the event.

Applications close:

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