The Sheehan lab ( at Cornell University is looking to recruit 2 postdocs to work on projects to understand the genomic and neural basis of individual facial recognition in paper wasps. Among its close relatives, the paper wasp Polistes fuscatus is unique in that it uses highly variable facial patterns to recognize individuals. The recent evolution of this complex behavior, coupled with small genomes and very high recombination rates make paper wasps an unusually tractable systems for investigating the genetic basis of behavioral and cognitive evolution.

We are currently seeking postdocs to begin work on two inter-related aspects of a recently funded project:

1. The evolution of neural architecture underlying social cognition

Using a combination of staining, imaging and recording techniques the postdoc will determine regions of the wasp brain that are involved in processing individually distinctive facial signals.

For this aspect of the work, prior experience working with insect neurobiology is strongly desired.

2. Population, comparative and functional genomic approaches to identifying the genomic basis of social cognition

Preliminary work in the lab has identified a number of narrowly defined candidate regions under selection that have likely been evolving in response to selection for novel cognitive abilities related to individual recognition in P. fuscatus. We are now interested to further characterize their effects on brain development or processing.

For this aspect of the work, prior experience working in genomics is highly desirable.

Start dates for positions are flexible. Funding is available now, though I would anticipate start dates after January or even into the summer. In both cases, postdocs in the lab will be encouraged to develop independent projects related to the broader goals of the lab on the evolution of social behavior.

If the neural and/or genomic basis of social cognition is interesting to you, please get in touch!

The Sheehan lab is housed in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at Cornell University (, which brings together neurobiology and the study of the evolution of behavior. Cornell is a leading center for the development and implementation of neural imaging technology ( and also has a very strong presence of comparative and evolutionary genomics on campus (

Those interested in a postdoctoral position in the lab should contact Michael Sheehan directly (<>) and send along your statement of your interests and a CV. There is no deadline per se, review will be rolling until positions are filled

Michael J Sheehan
Assistant Professor
Nancy and Peter Meinig Investigator in the Life Sciences
Neurobiology and Behavior
Cornell University
W303 Mudd Hall
215 Tower Rd
Ithaca NY, 14853

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