PhD fellowship within positive allosteric modulation of kainate receptors at the Department of Drug Design and Pharmacology

Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences
University of Copenhagen

We are offering a three-year PhD fellowship within a project based upon positive allosteric modulation of kainate receptors (KARs). The PhD fellowship is financed by the Independent Research Fund Denmark – Health Sciences and headed by Professor Jette Sandholm Kastrup. The fellowship is available from 1 October 2020 or as soon as possible thereafter.

Project description
Project title: Positive allosteric modulation of kainate receptors - an unexplored therapeutic potential for treatment of CNS diseases

The PhD student will take part in an ambitious interdisciplinary project spanning pharmacological screening for positive allosteric modulators (PAMs) of KARs, two-electrode voltage clamp and patch-clamp electrophysiology, radiolabel-receptor binding and structure determination by X-ray crystallography.

The overall aim of the PhD project is to find the first high affinity, high efficacy and preferably selective PAM acting on the KARs and to examine the role of KAR PAMs at hippocampal neurons.

KARs are activated by the major excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate. They are localized both pre- and postsynaptically and thus, in addition to a direct excitatory effect, also play a role in modulating the activity of neuronal networks. KARs are involved in CNS diseases such as epilepsy, depression and schizophrenia, and therefore the understanding of the molecular function of these receptors is essential for unravelling their potential as targets for treatment of these pathologies.

We recently reported the first small molecule PAMs that bind to and strongly potentiate KARs (Larsen et al., Mol. Pharmacol., 2017). This now opens an entire new research area with a focus on optimizing the potency, affinity, efficacy and selectivity of the KAR PAMs.

The PhD project is performed in collaboration with University of Liege, Belgium and University of Bordeaux, France.

The PhD student will manage and carry out the research project, participate in the education and guidance of undergraduate and graduate students, and write scientific publications.

Principal supervisor
Professor Jette Sandholm Kastrup, Department of Drug Design and Pharmacology
E-mail:, direct phone: +45 3533 6486

Our group and research
The project is interdisciplinary, and therefore the work will take place in three different research groups at the Department of Drug Design and Pharmacology.

The Kastrup group ( has a strong track record of producing receptor crystal structures (~100 receptor structures deposited in the Protein Data Bank). The group has a broad international network with leading medicinal chemists and pharmacologists.

The Pickering group ( has a long history in the elucidation of the in vitro and in vivo pharmacology of the AMPA and kainate ionotropic glutamate receptors.

The Kohlmeier group ( specializes in ex vivo neuroelectrophysiology and fluorescent-based calcium imaging in order to monitor activity induced by actions of drugs at native mammalian receptors.

Our department
The Department of Drug Design and Pharmacology ( delivers drug-related research and research-based teaching within a wide range of drug-related disciplines, spanning the molecular, cellular, and pharmacological levels.

Information about the Department can be found at

Job description
Your key tasks as a PhD fellow at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences are to:

  • Carry through an independent research project under supervision
  • Complete PhD courses or other equivalent education corresponding to approx. 30 ECTS points
  • Participate in active research environments including a stay at another research institution, preferably abroad
  • Obtain experience with teaching or other types of dissemination related to your PhD project
  • Participate in the undergraduate teaching of students in pharmaceutical sciences
  • Participate in national and international conferences and scientific meetings
  • Write a PhD thesis on the basis of your research project

Required qualifications
As an applicant you must have:

  • Qualifications corresponding to a master’s degree in pharmacy, pharmaceutical sciences or relevant area prior to the starting date
  • A solid background in pharmacology
  • A demonstrated ability to learn new methods and research areas
  • Acceptance with harvesting brain tissue from mice
  • An ability to work both independently and in teams
  • Fluency in English and excellent communication skills

Preferred qualifications

  • Knowledge of ionotropic glutamate receptors
  • Cell culturing
  • Two-electrode voltage clamp or patch-clamp electrophysiology
  • Radiolabel binding assays
  • Microtitre plate-based fluorescence assays
  • Expression of proteins in E. coli and purification
  • Protein crystallography
  • Analysis of molecular structures and interactions

Key criteria for the assessment of applicants

  • Professional qualifications relevant to the PhD project
  • Relevant work experience
  • Publications
  • The grade point average achieved
  • Other professional activities
  • Language skills
  • The successful applicant is also required to be enterprising and to possess good interpersonal skills

Terms of employment
The employment as PhD fellow is full time and for 3 years.

It is conditioned upon the applicant’s successful enrolment as a PhD student at the Graduate School at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen. This requires submission and acceptance of an application for the specific project to the Graduate School of Health and Medical Sciences.

The PhD study must be completed in accordance with The Ministerial Order on the PhD programme (2013) and the Faculty’s rules on achieving the degree.

The PhD student is expected to be affiliated to the graduate programme in pharmaceutical sciences, Drug Research Academy.

Salary, pension and terms of employment are in accordance with the agreement between the Ministry of Finance and The Danish Confederation of Professional Associations on Academics in the State. Depending on seniority, the monthly salary begins around DKK 27,594 (approx. 3,679 EUR) (taxable) plus pension (April 2020 level).

For further information, applicants may contact the principal supervisor Professor Jette Sandholm Kastrup, e-mail:, direct phone: +45 3533 6486 or PhD coordinator Marianne W. Jørgensen, e-mail:, direct phone: +45 3533 6449.

For more information on working and living in Denmark visit (International staff mobility) and

Application procedure
Your application, in English, must be submitted electronically by clicking “Apply now” below and must include the following documents in PDF format:

  • Motivation letter of application (max. one page)
  • CV incl. education, experience, language skills and other skills relevant for the position
  • Diploma and transcripts of records: Master´s degree diploma (including grade transcripts for bachelor´s and master´s degrees). If not completed, a certified/signed copy of a recent transcript of records or a written statement from the institution or supervisor will do. Applicants with a Master´s degree from abroad should also enclose a short description of the grading scale used
  • Publication list (if possible)
  • Other information to consider: References and recommendations (if possible)

The deadline for applications is 31 July 2020, 23.59pm CET

We reserve the right not to consider material received after the deadline, and not to consider applications that do not live up to the abovementioned requirements.

The further process
After the expiry of the deadline for applications, the authorized recruitment manager selects applicants for assessment on the advice of the hiring committee. All applicants are then immediately notified whether their application has been passed for assessment by an unbiased assessor.

The assessor makes a non-prioritized assessment of the academic qualifications and experience with respect to the above-mentioned area of research, techniques, skills and other requirements listed in the advertisement.

Once the assessment work has been completed each applicant has the opportunity to comment on the part of the assessment that relates to the applicant him/herself.

The applicant will be assessed according to the Ministerial Order no. 242 of 13 March 2012 on the Appointment of Academic Staff at Universities.

Interviews are expected to be held in weeks 34-35.

You can read about the recruitment process at

The Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences comprises approximately 7850 students, 1700 PhD students and 4800 employees. The Faculty advances the field of health sciences through its core activities: research, teaching, knowledge sharing and communication. With basic research fields ranging from molecular studies to studies of society, the Faculty contributes to a healthy future through its graduates, research findings and inventions benefitting patients and the community. The University of Copenhagen wishes to reflect the surrounding community and invites all regardless of personal background to apply for the position. 





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: 31-07-2020
Employment start: 01-10-2020
Working hours: Full time
Department/Location: Department of Drug Design and Pharmacology

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