NSF-Funded Postdoctoral Research Fellowship


Optical Scientist Postdoctoral Researcher -

Investigating new optical methods for diagnosing plant disease

 Innovative Postdoctoral Research Fellowship (I-PERF) Program 

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the Innovative Postdoctoral Research Fellowship (I-PERF) program recruits, trains, mentors, matches, and funds early-career doctoral degree recipients to participate in innovative entrepreneurial activities at some of the nation’s most promising startup companies.

I-PERF Fellows receive a full salary and benefits program, a professional conference travel allowance, and scripted professional development training funded by the National Science Foundation.



Croptix (www.croptix.solutions, d/b/a of Atoptix, Inc.), headquartered in State College, PA, has developed a handheld, smartphone-compatible plant health sensor for farmers to diagnose crop disease early, and take effective action to reduce losses due to disease. The sensor is initially being developed for citrus growers to diagnose the devastating citrus greening disease, at early stage prior to visual symptoms, and help sustain profitable yields while securing the longevity of their citrus groves.

Croptix is ready to hire an exceptional individual who is capable of adding even more horsepower to our development, performance, validation and production systems/processes, allowing Croptix to deliver new tools to farmers so they can detect and mitigate crop loss before it’s too late.

Croptix is seeking a postdoctoral researcher with extensive training in spectroscopy based optical sensing techniques and sensor development. The researcher will utilize their training to design and test optical sensor systems which will be utilized to interrogate crops for plant diseases, specifically citrus diseases as per the current NSF project. They will also develop new analysis toolsets and methods for analysis of optical instrumentation generated data during these studies. The candidate will work closely with other members of the Croptix team to integrate and test the developed systems in Croptix prototype instruments. The work will be coordinated in relation to objectives associated with the company’s current NSF Phase II SBIR project.

Position Expectations and Responsibilities:

  • Lead experimentation and development of new optical sensor systems

  • Actively involved in all development phases, from prototype through to product release

  • Develop test plans, create test procedures, perform experiments and data reduction and evaluates test data

  • Perform experimental analysis and optimization of optical systems to ensure systems achieve desired design specifications and optimize/improve/create new designs based upon test results, if necessary

  • Analyze problems in system design, plan and conduct investigations, and develop solution proposals

  • Create innovative solutions or modifications to simplify, enhance performance, or reduce cost of optical systems

  • Validate concepts through breadboard builds and analysis

  • Responsible for optical component and subassembly test development, data acquisition, analysis, and reporting

  • Interface with manufacturing personnel to coordinate the build of refined or new prototype assemblies

  • Interface with manufacturing engineering to develop and implements designs that improve manufacturability

  • Work with other team members for product introduction

  • Define test requirements per quality and reliability standards of the industry

  • Provides guidance and input to strategic and technical planning for optical systems projects

  • Provide presentations to review or showcase work

  • This position is on-site at our State College, PA office with an estimated start date of January 2020.


What skills and requirements are we looking for?

  • Required: A Ph.D. degree in Optical Engineering or similar with extensive Ph.D. training in spectroscopy and optic/photonic based sensor systems.

  • Knowledge of optical spectroscopy including VIS/NIR and fluorescence spectroscopy

  • Experience with OEM level CMOS/CCD imaging systems

  • Extensive experience working in an optical laboratory environment including free-space optical systems

  • Experience with integrating micro-electronics to control and facilitate use of optical sensors and systems

  • Some experience with 3D CAD solid-modeling software such as Solidworks or Fusion

  • Strong programming ability in MATLAB, R or Python (preferred)

  • Excellent problem-solving skills

  • Excellent data review and analysis skills

  • Strong teamwork attitude and skills

  • Excellent time management, communications, decision making and organizational skills

Additional eligibility requirements (as per the NSF I-PERF program):

Applicants must have earned a doctoral degree in a STEM discipline (including STEM/Science Education) within the last seven years. Emphasis is placed on participation of individuals who are from underrepresented or socioeconomic disadvantages groups; this is defined broadly, including first generation college status, disabilities, and veterans.

The applicant must also be a U.S. Citizen, National, or Permanent Resident of the United States.

See full requirements on the I-PERF website: https://iperf.asee.org/eligibility/

Atoptix an equal opportunity employer

An equal opportunity employer and the largest seed investor in the region, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central & Northern PA (an initiative of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development) has provided investment capital and business support services to Atoptix , Inc. Ben Franklin's portfolio of funded companies is comprised of emerging startups as well as small manufacturers in varying stages of business growth and development. Regardless of size or revenue projections, these companies and Atoptix are Equal Opportunity Employers-Minorities/Females/Vet/Disability. For information on the Ben Franklin program, visit www.cnp.benfranklin.org.


Compensation and Benefits

Through the funds provided by the NSF, I-PERF Fellows will receive an annual base stipend of $78,000 per year plus, optional individual health and life insurance benefits, relocation assistance to the approved host company, a professional conference travel allowance, and scripted professional development training through ASEE. 

The fellowship is for one year, renewable for a total of two years based on performance and the availability of funds from the NSF.

Benefits include:

Health Insurance

At no cost to the Fellow, the I-PERF program provides optional individual health insurance, including medical, dental, and vision benefits to I-PERF Fellows through funds provided by the NSF.  Child and/or family health insurance coverage is available at an additional cost to the Fellow.

Life Insurance

Also at no cost to the Fellow, the I-PERF program provides optional life insurance coverage up to $100,000 per year.

Relocation Benefits

The I-PERF program provides relocation assistance for fellows to locate their family and belongings to the State College, PA.


Professional Development

Fellows receive internal and external mentoring and follow a mutually agreed upon professional development plan through your Host Company. I-PERF Fellows also receive scripted professional development training through the program to develop high demand skills in areas, such as, entrepreneurship, design, and project management.

See: https://iperf.asee.org/benefits/ for more details.


How to Apply?

The program matching phase is open now!

Start your fellowship application here:  https://iperf.asee.org/applicant-start/

Once you’re approved in the system, check out the opportunities.  To find and request ours, here is the relevant information to search for:


Research Opportunity Name:

Optical Scientist Postdoctoral Researcher - Investigating new optical methods for diagnosing plant disease

Principal Investigator: Perry Edwards

Company: Atoptix, Inc.

NSF Award Number: 1831224

Please send Perry perry(at)croptix.solutions a message once you’ve applied or if you have any questions!

Collaborators and Supporters:

© 2020 Atoptix, Inc.