Job Opening: Research Analyst — Studies of Cognitive Aging and Dementia in South Africa

Job Summary

The Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies (HCPDS) is a university-wide initiative dedicated to interdisciplinary research focused primarily on the quantitative social science of population change, socioeconomic development, and public health. Our goal is to produce population-based evidence that will better inform policies needed to create healthy and resilient societies.

We are seeking a full-time, doctoral-level Research Analyst to support ongoing studies of cognitive aging and dementia in South Africa. Our work aims to understand how cognitive function in older age is shaped by biological aging and lifespan social experience. We use a variety of methods to tackle issues related to reliable measurement of cognitive function across countries and cultures. The work is grounded in our ongoing NIH-funded flagship project, Health and Aging in Africa: A Longitudinal Study in South Africa (HAALSI). The HAALSI study team examines the biological, social, and economic factors and public policies that interact to influence the course of major diseases and disorders among older adults in South Africa, including dementia and cognitive decline, cardiometabolic disease, and HIV. HAALSI began as a community-based longitudinal cohort study nested within the health and socio-demographic surveillance system (HDSS) in Agincourt, South Africa, where the study team has completed three waves of survey and biomarker data collection. HAALSI has recently been renewed for the next 5-year period, which will include continuation of our community cohort study in Agincourt, as well as the launch of the first nationally representative longitudinal HAALSI survey across South Africa. The community and national surveys each include a sub-study with in-depth cognitive assessment focused on the epidemiology of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias in HAALSI. The studies are designed to be aligned with the international Health and Retirement (HRS) sister studies, and the HRS Harmonized Cognitive Assessment Protocol (HCAP), while also addressing research questions specific to aging in the South African context.

The Research Analyst will be responsible for contributing to the cognitive aspects of the HAALSI study and more specifically to the HAALSI Dementia sub-study (HAALSI-HCAP). The Research Analyst will work closely with the HAALSI-HCAP Project Director to provide support on all aspects of the study, including study operations, data management and analysis. HAALSI-HCAP includes home-based assessments of cognitive function, clinic-based assessment of neurological signs and symptoms, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies of brain structure and function. The HAALSI family of studies is led by Dr. Lisa Berkman at HCPDS and Dr. Thomas Gaziano at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, plus a team of collaborators at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa; Columbia University in New York; and other institutions in South Africa and the US.

This position is renewed annually and will be extended based upon satisfactory performance and funding. It will be based in Cambridge, MA. Flexible work options for this role will be discussed during the interview process.

Duties and Responsibilities

  • Assist with managing study operations including home-based assessments of cognitive function, clinical assessments of neurological signs and symptoms, and hospital-based magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies of brain structure and function.
  • Support quality control processes for field and data collection.
  • Participate in trainings related to the collection of cognitive data for the HAALSI main study and HAALSI-HCAP.
  • Support the dementia consensus review process to assign diagnostic categories.
  • Conduct data quality review for cognitive data in HAALSI and HAALSI-HCAP.
  • Participate in the analysis of neuropsychological, biomarker and neuroimaging data and contribute to the production of analytic datasets.
  • Participate in the design of diagnostic protocols and dementia algorithm development.
  • Write and co-author publications.

Required Qualifications

  • A PhD or equivalent in Public Health, Cognitive Psychology, Neuropsychology, Statistics or similar field required.
  • Prior project management and/or data management and analysis experience required. We are particularly interested in individuals with experience in analyzing cognitive data and conducting analyses of neuropsychological assessments.
  • Proficiency with statistical software, such as STATA (preferred), R, MATLAB, or SAS.
  • Demonstrated experience in data management and analysis of complex research studies.
  • Research record in cognition, aging, or neuropsychological assessments.
  • Ability to work independently, and cooperatively within a team.
  • Good oral and written communication skills.
  • Culturally sensitive with excellent interpersonal skills to facilitate team-based work and interaction with research participants.
  • Excellent organizational skills and an ability to prioritize a variety of tasks.
  • Professionalism and respect for research participant confidentiality.
  • Experience with data analysis and interpretation of research findings and literature.
  • Willingness to travel to South Africa up to twice a year.

Preferred Qualifications

  • Prior experience with clinical trials or observational studies; experience working on NIH studies; prior experience with IRB ethics submissions.
  • Experience in research related to brain aging, dementia, neuropsychological assessments or cognitive neuroscience.

Application Instructions

Applicants should submit a cover letter, CV, and writing sample to the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies at Please put “Dementia Research Analyst Application” in the subject line. Questions should also be directed to that email address.

For more information on the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies and HAALSI, visit:

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EEO Statement

We are an equal opportunity employer and all qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability status, protected veteran status, gender identity, sexual orientation, pregnancy and pregnancy-related conditions, or any other characteristic protected by law.