Vacancy Details: Postdoctoral Research Scientist (Synthetic biology and bio-based manufacturing)

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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.

disability confident employer

Advancing gender equality in science, engineering and technology.

Post Number1003396
Job TitlePostdoctoral Research Scientist (Synthetic biology and bio-based manufacturing)
Closing Date20 Feb 2018
Starting Salary£31,250 - £38,100
Web Address for further details
Hours per week 37
Project Title Sustainable Bioproduction of Pheromones for Insect Pest Control in Agriculture
Expected/Ideal Start Date 02 Apr 2018
Months Duration 36
Main purpose of the job The aim of this project is to enable bio-based manufacturing of insect pheromones for the sustainable control of insect pests of agriculture and horticulture. The post holder will be responsible for executing research tasks related to the development of plants and fungi as low-cost, sustainable bioproduction platforms. The primary aims are to develop and implement controllable orthogonal genetic elements to improve expression from a prototype expressing lepidopteran pheromones, and to elucidate the genetic pathways of novel insect pheromones to enable heterologous biosynthesis. The project will be based in the Patron Lab at the Earlham institute and is part of a European Research Area (ERA) CoBioTech Cofund Action, with collaborating partners in the UK, Spain, Germany and Slovenia.
Department Engineering Biology
Group Details The Patron Group is interested in developing sustainable bio-based manufacturing platforms and in understanding how gene regulatory sequences function and evolve. We use genomic, systems and synthetic biology approaches and are applying our knowledge to develop synthetic genetic networks for pathway and genome engineering in photosynthetic organisms. Our current projects aim at tailoring photosynthetic organisms for the efficient production of high value molecules, including those used in healthcare and agriculture, and improving the nutritional value of crops. Our research benefits from a close association with the Earlham DNA Foundry and the OpenPlant Synthetic Biology Research Centre.
Advert Text Applications are invited for a Postdoctoral Research Scientist to join the Patron Group at the Earlham Institute (EI) to work on a European Research Area (ERA) CoBioTech collaborative project aiming to develop plants and fungi as low-cost, sustainable production platforms for biosynthesis of insect pheromones.


Some of the most aggressive pests of agriculture are insect larvae. Sex pheromones are produced by virgin females to attract mates of the same species. Dispensing insect sex pheromones in plant production environments is used to trigger sexual confusion in the target species and prevent breeding, thereby providing a highly species-specific control method and a sustainable alternative to conventional pesticides that have negative impacts on biodiversity. Bio-based manufacturing is a sustainable alternative to chemical synthesis and provides a viable alternative for the production of sex pheromones with unusual chemical structures for which chemical synthesis strategies are not cost effective.

The role:

This project will use synthetic biology, comparative transcriptomics, metabolic engineering and genome editing/engineering techniques. The post-holder will develop orthogonal genetic elements with the aim of increasing the yield and purity of the target molecules and minimizing the growth penalty to the biological production platform. They will also contribute to the identification and characterisation of candidate genes for novel pheromones using comparative transcriptomics and to the subsequent design and construction of novel synthetic pathways for heterologous biosynthesis.

The ideal candidate:

Candidates must have a PhD in Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, Biological Chemistry, Plant Biology, Synthetic Biology, or a related subject. They must also have a comprehensive understanding of methods used for heterologous gene expression, including molecular cloning and methods used for controlling gene expression levels. They should have a general understanding and demonstrated interest in secondary or specialised metabolism. Candidates that also have experience with analysis of next-generation sequencing data (e.g. comparative transcriptomics) and the elucidation of metabolic pathways will be preferred.

Additional information:

Salary on appointment will be within the range £31,250 to £38,100 per annum depending on qualifications and experience. This post is for a contract of three years.

For further information and details of how to apply, please visit our web site or contact the Human Resources team on 01603 450462 or quoting reference 1003396.

As a Disability Confident employer, we guarantee to offer an interview to all disabled applicants who meet the essential criteria for this vacancy.

Key relationships Internal: Group Leader, EI’s Deputy Directors, Director and Senior Management Team. EI’s Science Faculty and Research Teams.
External: Senior visitors to EI, collaborators, conference attendees, BBSRC and other key stakeholders
Main Activities & ResponsibilitiesPercentage
Develop orthogonal genetic elements with the aim of increasing the yield and purity of the target molecules and minimising the growth penalty to the biological production platform20
Contribute to the identification and characterisation of candidate genes for novel pheromones using comparative transcriptomics and to the subsequent design and construction of novel synthetic pathways for heterologous biosynthesis. 20
Plan and carry out experiments to meet the objectives of the project20
Prepare results, reports and manuscripts for publication in leading scientific journals and other relevant media10
Disseminate research findings though presentations to various audiences at internal, national and international meetings10
Ensure research and record keeping is carried out in accordance with good practice, Scientific Integrity and in compliance with local policies and any legal requirements5
Contribute to the smooth running of the group, including the effective use of resources, supervision of visitors to the laboratory and assisting with training others, encouraging scientific excellence 5
Continually strive for excellence, seeking out and acting on feedback and relevant learning and development opportunities5
As agreed with the line manager, any other duties commensurate with the nature of the post5

Education & QualificationsRequirementImportance
BSc, or equivalent, in Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, Biological Chemistry, Plant Biology, Synthetic BiologyEssential
PhD (full award or expected within 6 months) or equivalent in Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, Biological Chemistry, Plant Biology, Synthetic BiologyEssential

Specialist Knowledge & SkillsRequirementImportance
Molecular biology laboratory techniques, including molecular cloning, recombinant DNA technologies, genotyping and assessment of gene expressionEssential
An understanding of the methods used for controlling levels of gene expression in eukaryote systemsEssential
Understanding of secondary or specialised metabolismEssential
Skills in parallel or modular DNA assembly technologiesDesirable
Knowledge of heterologous expression in plant systems Desirable
Knowledge of fatty acid metabolismDesirable
Knowledge of terpenoid metabolism, particularly irregular terpenoidsDesirable
Knowledge of genome engineering technologies such as CRISPR/Cas9 Desirable

Relevant ExperienceRequirementImportance
Experience in molecular cloningEssential
Experience in genetics, genotyping and assessment of gene expression e.g. qRT-PCR, protein quantificationEssential
Experienced with heterologous expression in eukaryotes (e.g. yeast, fungi or plants) Essential
Experience with analysis of next-generation sequencing data, e.g. comparative transcriptomicsEssential
Experience with identification/elucidation of metabolic pathways or novel enzymesEssential
LC- or GC-based mass spectrometry metabolomicsEssential
Experience in engineering biosynthesis of fatty acids or terpenoidsEssential
Experience of modulating the expression levels of endogenous genes using gene silencing or genome engineering (e.g. CRISPR)Essential
Excellent problem-solving skills with the ability to solve problems with numerous and complex variablesEssential

Interpersonal & Communication SkillsRequirementImportance
Excellent oral and written skillsEssential
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 prioritise to meet the demands of the groupEssential
Excellent communication skills, both written and oral, including the ability to present complex information with clarity Essential
Ability to collaborate with internal and external stakeholdersEssential
Promotes and strives for continuous improvement.Essential
Excellent time management and organisational skills.Essential

Additional RequirementsRequirementImportance
Promotes equality and values diversityEssential
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