Vacancy Details: Postdoctoral Researcher - Plant Synthetic Biology

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Earlham Institute

Earlham Institute is a vibrant, contemporary research institute and registered charity, working in an area of rapid technological development and innovation.

Earlham Institute is strategically funded by the BBSRC to lead the development of a skill base in bioinformatics and a genomics technology platform for UK bioscience. The Institute is located on the Norwich Research Park, together with its partners: the John Innes Centre, the Institute of Food Research, The Sainsbury Laboratory, the University of East Anglia and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. The research park has an excellent reputation for research in plant and microbial sciences, interdisciplinary environmental science and food, diet and health, to which Earlham Institute contributes strengths in genomics and bioinformatics. Close links exist between the NRP partners and new opportunities for collaboration in exciting new initiatives are under development. The NRP recently received £26M of government investment to facilitate innovation and further develop infrastructure to attract science and technology companies to the Park to enhance the vibrant environment and realise economic impact from research investment.

Earlham Institute is a UK hub for innovative Bioinformatics through research, analysis and interpretation of multiple, complex data sets. It hosts one of the largest computing hardware facilities dedicated to life science research in Europe. This has been boosted recently by an e-Infrastructure grant to expand the data storage capacity to a multi-petabyte unit, deploying a high performance cluster and large-memory server enabling the allocation of processes requiring several terabytes of computing memory.

Earlham Institute’s state of the art DNA sequencing facility operates multiple complementary technologies for data generation that provide the foundation for analyses furthering our fundamental understanding of genomes and how they function. We aim to be at the forefront of technological advances and are developing and implementing technologies to generate and analyse new types of data. We also develop novel platforms to provide access to computational tools and processing capacity for multiple academic and industrial users and promoting applications of computational bioscience. Earlham Institute has one fully owned subsidiary, Genome Enterprise Ltd (GEL) via which it offers genomic and bioinformatics services on a trading basis and works with commercial providers on a partnership basis. Earlham Institute also receives specific funding to enable knowledge exchange programmes which are supported across the institute teams.

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Advancing gender equality in science, engineering and technology.

Post Number1003189
Job TitlePostdoctoral Researcher - Plant Synthetic Biology
Closing Date3 Apr 2017
GradeSC6
Starting Salary£30,750 - £37,750
Hours per week 37
Project Title Improved bioproduction of proteins and small molecules
Months Duration 36
Main purpose of the job The post holder will be responsible for executing research tasks and participating in data interpretation associated with the engineering of plants for the improved bioproduction of proteins and metabolites, including those used as vaccines and as human therapies. A specific focus will be to use programmable nucleases to introduce targeted mutations into heterologous plant production chassis to enable the efficient production of proteins and small molecules and contributing to our understanding of how the rich endogenous metabolism detoxifies foreign molecules. This project is a collaboration between the Patron group at the Earlham Institute and the O'Connor group at the John Innes Centre and the post-holder will conduct work in both laboratories.
Department Engineering Biology
Group Details The Patron Group is taking a synthetic biology approach to study the function of DNA sequences and to develop molecular tools and genome engineering technologies for photosynthetic organisms. We aim to engineer photosynthetic organisms for the biosynthesis of materials and therapeutics and to improve plants for increased production and nutritive value. We are also interested in the societal impacts of synthetic biology, particularly in the complex intellectual property and licensing issues that surround genetic sequences and natural products. We believe in open and responsible innovation and are engaged with efforts to extend this ethos to bioresources and bioengineering.

The O'Connor group is developing approaches to elucidate and engineer specialised plant metabolism to understand the fundamental chemical, biological and evolutionary processes that underlie the biosynthesis of these complex molecules. Additionally, we develop platforms that allow fast and inexpensive production of these compounds as well as platforms to produce unnatural variants of these products.
Advert Text We have an opportunity for an outstanding post-doctoral scientist within the Patron Group at the Earlham Institute (EI) to work on a collaborative project with the O'Connor group at the John Innes Centre (JIC). The candidate must have a comprehensive understanding of methods used in heterologous gene expression, a good understanding of plant secondary metabolism and laboratory skills in molecular biology and biochemistry.

The project aims to improve heterologous plant production chassis and to contribute to our understanding of how the rich endogenous metabolism of plants detoxifies foreign molecules. Specifically, the post holder will use RNA-guided Cas9 and virus-induced gene silencing to introduce mutations and downregulate endogenous genes predicted to interfere with or prevent heterologous expression of proteins and metabolites. This will pave the way for more effective plant production chassis for efficient production of proteins and small molecules, including vaccines and human therapies.

The post-holder will contribute to the selection of gene targets, construct design and assembly, genotyping, heterologous expression, and quantification of heterologously expressed proteins and metabolites. Technical assistance will be provided for the generation of genome-engineered plants and the post-holder will have access to the cutting-edge laboratory automation facilities at EI's DNA Foundry. The post-holder will also interact with stakeholders at LeafSystems® and have the opportunity to work and collaborate with scientists in the OpenPlant Synthetic Biology Research Centre.

The successful applicant will have a PhD in Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, Biological Chemistry, Plant Biology, Synthetic Biology, or a related subject. Experience in molecular cloning, genotyping and expression analyses are all essential, and experience with LC- and GC-based mass spectrometry metabolomics are desirable.

The EI is a vibrant, contemporary research institute. We host the UK National Capability for Genomics, a DNA-Foundry for Synthetic Biology and one of the largest computing hardware facilities dedicated to life science research in Europe. EI has research programs that aim to improve food security, advance industrial biotechnology and to improve human health and wellbeing. The JIC is a world-leading, international centre of excellence in plant science and microbiology, involved in cutting-edge, high quality fundamental, strategic and applied research. Both institutes and LeafSystems® are co-located on the Norwich Research Park (NRP) which has an excellent reputation for research in plant and microbial sciences, interdisciplinary environmental science and food, diet and health.

We offer competitive salaries, an excellent defined-contribution pension scheme, life assurance, tailored learning and development and onsite sports facilities that are available to all staff and their guests.
Key relationships Internal: Group Leader, EI’s Deputy Directors, Director and Senior Management Team, EI’s Science Faculty and Research Teams.
External: collaborators, conference attendees, BBSRC and other key stakeholders, Senior visitors to EI,
Main Activities & ResponsibilitiesPercentage
This research will use synthetic biology and genome engineering techniques to improve heterologous plant production chassis and to contribute to our understanding of how the rich endogenous metabolism detoxifies foreign molecules. Specifically, the post holder will use RNA-guided Cas9 and VIGS, to introduce mutations and downregulate endogenous genes predicted to interfere with or prevent heterologous expression of proteins and metabolites. This will pave the way for more effective plant production chassis for efficient production of proteins and small molecules including vaccines and human therapies. The post-holder will be involved in the design of constructs, modular DNA assembly, genotyping, heterologous expression and quantification and identification of heterologous expressed proteins and metabolites. Technical assistance will be provided for the generation of genome-engineered plants.100
This project will complement aims of the Patron and O'Connor groups to and apply the processes and tools of synthetic biology to adapt photosynthetic organisms for industrial biotechnology and elucidate plant metabolism. The post-holder will also interact with collaborators at LeafSystems® and will have access to the cutting-edge laboratory automation facilities in the Earlham Institute’s DNA Foundry. They will additionally have the opportunity to interact and collaborate with scientists in the OpenPlant Synthetic Biology Research Centre. The post holder should be able to work independently and collaboratively on assigned research tasks and projects.100
As agreed with the line manager, any other duties commensurate with the nature of the post.

Education & QualificationsRequirementImportance
PhD (full award or expected within 6 months) in Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, Biological Chemistry, Plant Biology, Synthetic Biology, or a related subject.Essential

Specialist Knowledge & SkillsRequirementImportance
Molecular biology laboratory techniques, including molecular cloning, recombinant DNA technologies, genotyping and assessment of gene expressionEssential
An understanding of the control of transcription and gene expression in eukaryotesEssential
A general understanding of plant secondary metabolismEssential
Knowledge of genome/genetic engineering technologies including RNA-guided Cas9 and/or virus-induced gene silencingDesirable
Skills in parallel or modular DNA assembly technologiesDesirable
Knowledge of plant defense mechanisms, particularly pathogen-associated molecular pattern triggered immunityDesirable

Relevant ExperienceRequirementImportance
Excellent problem solving skills with the ability to solve problems with numerous and complex variablesEssential
Experience in molecular cloningEssential
Experience in genetics, genotyping and assessment of gene expression e.g. qRT-PCR, protein quantificationEssential
LC- and GC-based mass spectrometry metabolomicsDesirable
Experience in genome/genetic engineering technologies e.g. RNA-guided Cas9 and/or virus-induced gene silencingDesirable
Experienced with heterologous expression in plant systems (e.g. agroinfiltration, transfection or transformation)Desirable
Experience with analysis of transcriptomic dataDesirable

Interpersonal & Communication SkillsRequirementImportance
Excellent interpersonal skills with the ability to work as part of a teamEssential
Demonstrated ability to work independently, using initiative and applying problem solving skillsEssential
Ability to collaborate with internal and external stakeholdersEssential
Promotes and strives for continuous improvementEssential
Excellent time management and organisational skillsEssential
Excellent communication skills, both written and oral, including the ability to present complex information with clarity Essential

Additional RequirementsRequirementImportance
Willingness to embrace the expected values and behaviours of all staff at the Institute, ensuring it is a great place to workEssential
Able to present a positive image of self and the Institute, promoting both the international reputation and public engagement aims of the Institute Essential
Ability to maintain confidentiality and security of information where appropriate Essential
Willingness to work outside standard working hours when required Essential
Ability to undertake occasional travel (national and international) related to collaborations and/or seminarsEssential
Promotes equality and values diversityEssential