Contract Bench/Lab Scientist (Oakland, CA)

Oakland, CA /
General /
Yard Stick is looking for a Contract Bench Scientist to help us fight climate change with soil. This role will be responsible for scanning soil samples with a bench spectrometer setup at our Oakland, CA lab during summer 2022 (and potentially beyond!). While this is a non-permanent, project-based role to begin with (estimated 120 hours of work), Yard Stick will likely require additional help in the future of a similar nature. We welcome applicants who would be interested in either full-time or part-time work for the duration of this project, but are specifically looking for applicants available M-F 7-11am or similar hours.

An ideal candidate is exceptionally detail-oriented, comfortable with repetitive, careful bench science, and has a passion for climate change solutions. We expect to pay $30-40/hour for this project.

This role will report to Sarah Coffman, Senior Soil Scientist at Yard Stick.

We’d like to hire this person immediately.

About Yard Stick PBC
Yard Stick is a remote-first, seed-stage company, with founders based in Boston and Oakland. We are on a mission to reverse climate change with agriculture. Scientists and farmers alike know that climate-friendly agricultural practices have the potential to remove atmospheric CO2 at gigaton/year scale. When these practices are adopted, more carbon is stored in soils, improving soil health and fighting climate change. But significant measurement challenges have held soil carbon efforts back - until now.

By reducing the cost of soil carbon measurement by 90%+, Yard Stick will dramatically expand the opportunities for evidence-based regenerative practices to simultaneously improve ecosystem health, increase farmer income, and combat climate change. 

Current soil carbon measurement technologies are slow, expensive, and cumbersome, relying on conventional soil cores and labs to quantify carbon stocks. In contrast, Yard Stick’s in situ spectral probe  is fast and cheap - without sacrificing accuracy. Alongside our scientific collaborators, we were awarded a $3.6M grant from the DOE ARPA-E Smartfarm program in Fall 2020. For more background, check out some recent coverage in TechCrunch or Treehugger.

We've also raised money from top climate VCs, including Breakthrough Energy Ventures (Bill Gates' climate fund), Lowercarbon Capital (Chris and Crystal Sacca's climate fund), MCJ Collective, and others. This financing isn’t announced, because that can feel a bit cart before the horse, but we're happy to share more detail about our fundraising when we chat.

About The Role
This role will support a key, time-sensitive part of R&D for our spectral probe. In early May, Yard Stick’s field team collected ~1k soil samples which need to be scanned with a benchtop spectrometer in our soil lab. This is a contract-based role for a limited duration, though this need will likely recur at other times in 2022 and beyond, so it is likely a great fit for a student or anyone else with a flexible schedule or overall freelance-focused career trajectory.

Yard Stick has developed a benchtop spectrometer which helps us characterize soil samples before they are analyzed at a commercial agricultural lab with conventional lab processes. The data collected during this work will help advance our mission to replace expensive conventional lab analysis with rapid, in-situ spectral analysis. This work done well will accelerate our probe development and increase the likelihood that agricultural systems achieve positive climate impact via soil carbon removal.

We have developed a scanning protocol which this role will use to scan the ~1k samples. Each sample takes about 10 minutes to scan including sample prep and storage. Other permanent Yard Stick team members may also help with scanning of these samples. The process of using this bench scanner will be mechanically and ergonomically similar to using other more typical bench laboratory equipment.

Qualifications - Must Have

    • Demonstrated track record of high-quality bench science work. This is the central responsibility of the role. It may be repetitive work; we need a candidate who is comfortable getting “in the zone” with efficiency and precision without losing focus over many hours of scanning and can show prior work of this nature. While a background in soil science is obviously relevant, experience in similar settings in biology, chemistry, or drug development contexts are also highly of interest.
    • Strong documentation skills. The quality of this experiment will be directly a product of how well we document it. Candidates who can keep track of what’s done, when, how, and why will be competitive for this role - especially those who actively work to improve the systems they’re responsible for using.
    • Ability to comfortably lift and move heavy items. Candidates may be expected to carry boxes of soil samples weighing up to 40 lbs from ground height to shoulder height, and must be able to do so safely and confidently.
    • Authorization to work in the United States.

Qualifications - Nice To Have

    • Handiness with mechanical problem solving or experimental procedure development. If you can “fix stuff” in a lab context, or if you’ve been responsible for writing/enforcing experimental protocols in the past, including SOPs dealing with physical sample handling, please let us know.

Compensation and Other Details

    • Market hourly compensation of $30-40/hour based on experience.
    • This role will work exclusively at our lab in Oakland, CA.
    • Schedule is flexible with current preference for M-F 7-11am
    • Preference for candidates who can provide material hours/week (e.g. 20+), but we'll take what we can get.
Our Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Yard Stick’s impact goals go well beyond climate science (although our #1 value is Climate Impact). Why? Our company operates primarily in the US agricultural sector, which is predicated on centuries of mass land theft and disenfranchisement of Native and Black people. This harm continues today. If we’re going to work in this sector, we need to actively work to make it better.

Consistent with our core value of “Pursue Justice,” we speak up about these issues, and we support emerging solutions and relevant policy efforts such as H.R.40 and S.300. We also publicly highlight the risk of further racial discrimination in emerging agricultural legislation like the Growing Climate Solutions Act.

Regarding hiring and culture, we work to create a work environment where everyone feels confident sharing their ideas, problem-solving happens openly and collaboratively, and mistake-making is welcomed. We also standardize our interview process and questions to reduce “likeability” bias, benchmark salaries against industry databases to reduce negotiation, and utilize tools like the Gender Decoder (this one is feminine-coded, fwiw). Climate change is arguably the most complex challenge ever faced by humanity - we need all of humanity activated to fight back, and that motivates us to build a diverse team.