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PhD fellow in Characterization of biosynthetic enzyme complexes

Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Science at University of Copenhagen is offering a PhD scholarship in isolation and structural characterization of biosynthetic complexes involved in biosynthesis of the diterpenoid forskolin. The fellowship will commence 1 August 2018 or as soon as possible thereafter.  
Description of the scientific environment 
The Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences is a large department (more than 400 employees) dedicated to plant, microbial, and environmental sciences ( The PhD fellowship is financed by the Independent Research Fund Denmark grant “Directing plant metabolism towards formation of high value bioactive products” hosted in the Plant Biochemistry Laboratory ( The successful applicant will join a vibrant international research environment and will be an integrated member of the Synthetic Biology ( and Diterpenoid ( research groups. 
Project description 
Plants produce an impressive diversity of toxic chemical compounds (natural products) to defend themselves. Many of the specialized metabolites produced by plants are bioactive with potential as pharmaceuticals, i.e. within as the compound classes terpenoids and alkaloids. These compounds are typically produced in low quantities as part of complex mixtures containing other potentially bioactive metabolites. Hence, synthetic biology approaches to elucidate their biosynthetic pathways and subsequent specific production in heterologous hosts is gaining increased interest. Organization of biosynthetic enzymes in complexes termed metabolons offers a way to channel a substrate towards a specific product thereby avoiding leakage of potentially toxic intermediates.  
The goal of this project is to optimize the production of the diterpenoid forskolin in green heterologous hosts through organization of the biosynthetic enzymes in metabolons. This involves isolation of the forskolin biosynthetic enzymes directly from the plant Coleus forskohlii or yeast cells expressing the entire pathway using a novel detergent free approach, the SMALP technology. State of the art technologies, Native Mass Spectrometry and High Resolution Cryo Electron Microscopy, are employed to characterize the key components involved in stabilizing metabolons and elucidate their different configurations. The acquired knowledge will enable an entirely new approach for pathway engineering in heterologous hosts through directed organization of sequential enzymes in complexes. 
We are seeking a motivated and creative PhD student displaying enthusiasm and good interpersonal and communication skills. Candidates should have demonstrated skills in biochemistry, functional characterization of enzymes involved in specialized metabolism (glycosyltransferases, cytochromes P450 and cytochrome P450 oxidoreductase), and metabolic engineering. Applicants with documented experience in completing a scientific manuscript will be prioritized. Applicants are expected to display independent and critical thinking and an open mindset with a culture of openly discussing results at group meetings etc. The position will involve a minimum of three months exchange with international collaborators of the project. 
Principal supervisor is Associate Professor Nanna Bjarnholt ( and co-supervisors are Postdoc Tomas Laursen ( and Assistant Professor Irini Pateraki (, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences. 
Job description 
The position is available for a 3-year period and your key tasks as a PhD student at SCIENCE are: 
  • To independently design and execute experiments and manage data analysis 
  • To manage and carry through your research project 
  • To critically review research results generated as part of the PhD 
  • To draft and submit research articles as the primary author to peer-review journals 
  • To stay at an external research institution for a few months, preferably abroad 
  • To present and discuss scientific data within the group  
  • To engage in open scientific discussions within the section 
  • To attend PhD courses 
  • To write and submit a high-quality PhD thesis 
  • To teach and disseminate your research 
  • To participate in Departmental and Section activities 
  • To execute GLP and ensure safety 
  • To contribute with lab duties at the Section 
Formal requirements 
Applicants should, prior to the start date, hold an MSc degree in biochemistry, biotechnology, molecular biology, plant biology or similar subjects, and should be fluent in both spoken and written English. If you are still a student at the time of the application deadline, please provide a confirmation letter from your supervisor that you are expected to finish in time before the start date of the PhD position. Previous publications and relevant work experience will be included in the assessment of your qualifications.  
Terms of employment  
The position is covered by the Memorandum on Job Structure for Academic Staff.  
Terms of appointment and payment accord to the agreement between the Ministry of Finance and The Danish Confederation of Professional Associations on Academics in the State.  
The starting salary is currently at a minimum DKK 317.458 including annual supplement (+ pension up to DKK 43.852). Negotiation for salary supplement is possible. 
Application Procedure 
The application, in English, must be submitted electronically by clicking APPLY NOW below.  
Please include  
  • Cover Letter. State your motivation and describe how your profile contributes to the project. Please also include full contact details (name, address, telephone and e-mail) of 1-3 professional referees (maximum 1 page) 
  • CV (maximum 2 pages) 
  • Diploma and transcripts of records for both BSc and MSc degrees. 
  • Other information for consideration, e.g. list of publications and patents (if any).  
The University wishes our staff to reflect the diversity of society and thus welcomes applications from all qualified candidates regardless of personal background. 
The deadline for applications is 4 April 2018, 23:59 GMT+2. Applications received after the deadline for applications will not be considered.  
After the expiry of the deadline for applications, the authorized recruitment manager selects applicants for assessment on the advice of the Interview Committee. Afterwards an assessment committee will be appointed to evaluate the selected applications. The applicants will be notified of the composition of the committee and the final selection of a successful candidate will be made by the Head of Department, based on the recommendations of the assessment committee and the interview committee. 
The main criterion for selection will be the research potential of the applicant and the above mentioned skills. The successful candidate will then be requested to formally apply for enrolment as a PhD student at the PhD school of Science. You can read more about the recruitment process at
For specific information about the PhD scholarship, please contact the supervisors Associate Professor Nanna Bjarnholt, e-mail:, phone: +45 353-31136, Postdoc Tomas Laursen, e-mail:, phone: +45 353-33329 or Assistant Professor Irini Pateraki, e-mail:, phone: +45 35 33 11 03, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences. 
General information about PhD programmes at SCIENCE is available at

Part of the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU), and among Europe’s top-ranking universities, the University of Copenhagen promotes research and teaching of the highest international standard. Rich in tradition and modern in outlook, the University gives students and staff the opportunity to cultivate their talent in an ambitious and informal environment. An effective organisation – with good working conditions and a collaborative work culture – creates the ideal framework for a successful academic career.


Application deadline: 04-04-2018
Employment start: 01-08-2018
Working hours: Full time
Department/Location: Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences

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