Surgo Foundation is an ‘action tank’ focused on bringing the latest innovations around behavior, tech, and data to global development. With a laser focus on uncovering the ‘why’, we partner with organizations and governments to help unlock some of their biggest challenges. Surgo works on major global issues from maternal health in India to housing in the US. Our multidisciplinary team includes development experts, data scientists, behavioral scientists, and technologists who are skilled in collecting and interpreting data on why people behave the way they do and how complex systems work, and in developing scalable tools. We are a small but diverse team with big plans.  

Surgo Foundation is working on several large-scale development programs in areas such as reproductive health, maternal health, HIV/AIDs, and tuberculosis. For example, Surgo has a Reproductive, Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health (RMNCH) program in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India in partnership with the Government of Uttar Pradesh and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  Another example is Surgo’s Causal Machine Learning Initiative for Precision Public Health which is testing applicability and feasibility of applying machine learning approaches to analyze large public health data sets.

Role Description:

We are looking for an exceptional, creative, and highly motivated Research Scientist with a very strong applied background in public health or global development research. As Research Scientist, your responsibilities will include:

  • Design and execute Surgo Foundation’s research instruments

  • Develop and test experimental methods of behavioral and health systems data collection at scale

  • Synthesize the most cross cutting approaches from both the private and public sector, and apply these to different problems sets

  • Support analysis of large development data sets using statistical methods

  • Distill analyses into clear insights

  • Present to partners and collaborators and prepare scientific communication to journals and conferences

This position is ideal for recent PhD or MSc graduates looking to transition from academia and grow into a more applied role. This position requires applied experience in low-resource settings, deep technical knowledge in study design and experimental as well as observational research methods, and a passion to build innovative methodological solutions to solve the most pressing development problems. This role entails strong relationship management with a diverse set of partners, and collaborative work within the Surgo research team. We are looking for someone entrepreneurial in spirit, strong problem solver, and an excellent communicator. This is an exciting opportunity to contribute to the voice and influence strategy and delivery for an innovative, ambitious, and fast-growing foundation.


  • Recent Ph.D. (exceptional MSc graduates considered) with concentration in epidemiology, public health, sociology, or behavioral science

  • Previous experience of working in global development research or other low-resource settings is required

  • Proven track record of designing and implementing qualitative or quantitative observational or experimental research in a low-resource setting, using multiple research methods such as surveys or decision-making experiments

  • Familiarity with building web- or mobile-based data collection pipelines is a plus (but not required)

  • Excellent communication (written, verbal and visual presentation) skills

Core skills:

  • Applied research skills in low-resource settings in a variety of observational and experimental methods, recognizing the unique pitfalls and challenges of research outside of academia-based populations

  • Extensive experience in designing and implementing experimental qualitative and quantitative research using human participants, e.g. on social determinants of health

  • Excellent ability to digest and evaluate evidence from interdisciplinary literature

  • Experience with rigorous study sample design

  • Some experience with questionnaire data analysis, data cleaning, and statistical inference/hypothesis testing

  • Strong writing skills for an academic and non-academic audience, publication record a plus

  • Willingness to travel if required and at short notice, even to remote places at times


Location: Washington DC, USA

Compensation: Highly competitive compensation and benefits package

Travel: Some international and national travel (up to 20%)

Our hiring philosophy-

We hire for passion and core competencies. We look for problem solvers and lateral thinkers. We love it if you have done different things with your time. If you think you are ideal for this position, write to us even if you don’t have all the above preferred requirements.


We ask….

Do you have a deep passion for improving the lives of people who live in extreme poverty around the world?

Do you want to work in one of the most entrepreneurial development organizations?

Are you willing to roll up your sleeves and be part of a core team that grows this organization, and grow with it?

Are you a problem solver by nature? Do you live and breathe data and see patterns in it that others don’t?

Would people say you are one of the most analytic, curious, and creative people they know?

If yes…we look forward to hearing from you…


Interested candidates: Please send Resume and Cover Letter to Dr. Elisabeth Engl (

Closing date for applications: December 15, 2018

Desired start date: As soon as possible