Volunteer Position – Scientist, Bioinformatics or Biophysics

  • 3-4 hours per week for research and meetings as part of a team
  • Remote / online
  • College-level education in biology, biochemistry, bioengineering, biostatistics, biophysics, or related fields
  • Hands-on experience with any combination of the following: mathematical modelling, biostatistics, quantitative analysis, sequence analysis, comparative gene expression analysis techniques, and/or database mining, preferred.
  • Interest in applying quantitative analysis and/or modelling to the complex biology of feather, fur, and scale development, and how we recreate it in humans

The Freedom of Form Foundation is a nonprofit working to support and advocate for scientific research that will enable complete freedom of one’s physical form – biotech for self-expression.

To this end, we are seeking additional help in our Integument Review project. We are interested in answering two questions: 1) how does fur, feather, and scale development work in other animals, and 2) how do we recreate each of those in humans? Our work can be thought of as a process of target identification of what we need to change in human genetics and physiology to allow these structures to grow and develop.

Our work involves subjects in cell signalling, embryonic development, evolutionary biology, integument type comparison, and more generally, identifying cellular and genetic targets or “knobs to turn” for transformations. You’ll be joining an exceptionally capable team of scientists, and you’ll be complementing the team’s strong basis in cell signalling, embryogenesis, systems biology, and physiology.

The team now needs your help in working with either comparative gene expression datasets, quantitative modelling of morphogen and cell signalling patterns, or both. We are looking for passionate, dedicated people who want to help accelerate this strategically critical research project to help us achieve our mission.

Help us make freedom of form possible.

After settling in, your responsibilities may include:

  • Provided general direction and advice from the team, you’ll be collecting and processing gene expression and comparative genomics datasets, especially from publicly available sources. Both transcriptomics and evolutionary, comparative genomics are of interest.
  • As part of the team, you’ll be the expert to:
    • Compare gene expression trends across space, time/stage of embryogenesis, cell types, etc.
    • Perform gene enrichment analysis and/or other analyses as appropriate.
    • Compare both specific features and homologous gene network functions across species.
    • Use comparative or evolutionary genomics to see what genetic mutations might correspond with new evolutionary features in species, and implicate mechanisms.
    • Team members will help you understand the cells and molecular mechanisms involved. Don’t worry, you won’t be in a vacuum!
  • Determining the quality of datasets, pointing out strengths and caveats, and screening/rejecting/seeking additional data as needed.
  • Proposing future experiments to recommend as part of the output of this project.
  • Attending meetings, asking questions, and assisting or chiming in when other team members need help or ask for feedback.
  • Presenting data and findings, and helping write reports.

Expectations for volunteers in this position:

The essentials:

  • Be comfortable understanding and dealing with uncertainty and probability, which will be essential for eventually deciding whether statistical tests or models are appropriate, as well as for dealing with artifacts, context-dependence, etc.
  • Use your understanding of biochemical signaling to be able to interpret diagrams illustrating relationships between genes, proteins, etc.
  • Be willing to talk with the team in Discord and/or other tools to have meetings and regular discussions.
  • Work with the team primarily active during US/Eastern time daylight or evening hours.

Useful skills you may learn working on the project:

  • Learning more about what statistical tests or models are appropriate in a given situation, and how to apply them.
  • Learning about best practices of communicating the relationships between genes and other nodes of signaling networks, and become comfortable sketching novel GRN diagrams to represent new information.
  • Find and understand publicly available gene expression and/or genomics data in repositories made available by the NIH and EMBL.
  • Learn more specific analysis techniques within a few weeks, and gain comfort using them to analyze and summarize important findings arising from transcriptomic, genomic, and cross-species analysis.

All FFF volunteers and employees are expected to:

  • Demonstrate unerring commitment to teamwork and professionalism.
  • Always keep learning, and likewise be willing to help others learn and improve.
  • Demonstrate tolerance to each other, to stakeholders, and to the broader community.
  • Maintain a collaborative attitude towards resolving conflict and disagreement.
  • Learn about regulations we must abide by, including, our Bylaws, Conflict of Interest Policy, Community Rules, Code of Conduct, regulations pertaining to 501(c)(3) organizations, and all laws. We can help get you up to speed on these, though!


If you have any questions or want to discuss more before applying, please send an email to [email protected]. We won’t bite (too hard)!

In particular, if you are interested in this or other volunteering opportunities, and you’re not sure whether or not it would be a fit, please reach out and we’d be happy to explore possibilities with you.

Sounds good? Please apply!

Please send an email to [email protected] and attach your Resume or CV. Be sure to include the position title in the subject line in your email.

And don’t worry, you can skip the formal, corporate-voice cover letter! Just a few sentences about why you’re interested in our organization, and in this position, should be sufficient. Please note that our follow-up process is fairly low-key. We’re much more interested in two-way discussions and exploration, not formal interviews.