Joining the lab

Funding opportunities (all roles)

Generally, we do not allow people, at any career stage, to volunteer in the lab. For a list of undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral funding opportunities, both internal and external to Johns Hopkins, please refer to this page. All lab members should expect to apply for funding as part of their training– it will look great on your resume or CV, prepare you for writing proposals in the future, and alleviate cost on the lab’s end.

Undergraduate researchers

We are currently not actively recruiting undergraduate RAs, but we always welcome applications from highly motivated students who can make a strong case for why joining our lab is uniquely aligned to their interests and professional goals. Click here to apply, and please follow up over email to make sure we see your application.


Undergraduate researchers will work directly with one postdoc or graduate student mentor, and the lab director (Dr. Liu). They will be involved in all aspects of research: recruitment, experimental design, data collection, data analysis, scientific writing and presentation. They will be given opportunities to present their ideas and progress to the lab. The most successful undergraduate researchers will make author-level contributions and will be included in scientific publications resulting from the work. This is a great opportunity for students to get substantial research experience before applying to a PhD program, medical school, or other full-time research opportunities. We strive to support the professional development goals of all of our lab members.

See https://krieger.jhu.edu/ursca/ and https://pbs.jhu.edu/undergraduate/independent-academic-work/ for general information. We ask first-semester undergrad researchers to sign up to receive credit for their work, and then to apply for their own funding. We typically do not allow people to volunteer. A commitment of two semesters is preferred.

Funding opportunities:

Lab tech / manager

We do not currently have open positions for a lab manager / lab tech.

Graduate students

We will likely be recruiting PhD students in the 2023-24 cycle. I (Dr. Liu) am looking for students who share some of my interests and are ready to take the leap to begin their own research program, with lots of support from me. I am open to co-mentorship. Applications are due Dec 1. My mentorship philosophy is available on the "People" page. For more information, see https://pbs.jhu.edu/graduate/admissions/.

For this year, I am particularly interested in reading applications from students who are interested in working on the topic of perceived danger. Also, please note that I do not plan on doing developmental neuroimaging in my lab until at least 3-4 years from now.

For your research statement, you should not be writing out your CV in narrative form but rather helping the reader understand why you are prepared for graduate study at a particular institution, with a particular mentor or mentors. There is not one right way to do this. However, successful statements tend to answer 3 questions: (1) What skills and interests have you acquired from prior research experience? (2) What are your current research interests (more specific than "development", or "the brain")? and (3) Why are you applying to work with me? Make sure you get feedback from your mentor(s) on your application before you send it in!

I typically do not meet with applicants prior to reading their applications. I do sometimes respond to queries over email, but please understand that I receive many messages like this per week during peak season and often do not have the time to respond to every single one.

Post docs

My (Dr. Liu's) goal for postdocs is to prepare them to launch their own distinct line of research, in their own lab. I also understand that post docs and graduate students in the lab may choose to leave academia. I will support this decision and help connect you to resources to make the transition as smooth as possible. 

If you are interested in being a postdoc in the lab, please reach out to me via email. Include a brief statement of your interests and a few ideas for what we could work on together. If we have a solid idea for a project, I would be happy to write a fellowship grant with you the year before your intended start date (e.g. NSF SBE or STEM Ed; NIH NRSA Fellowship; SSHRC Fellowship; Banting Fellowship). While I would ideally like to promise to support all postdocs for their first year, this will depend on the skills and interests of the postdoc candidate, and funding availability.