The Plant Biochemistry Laboratory at Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Science, University of Copenhagen is offering a PhD scholarship in plant synthetic biology to investigate the production and storage of high value natural products in photosynthetic cells and yeast. The fellowship will commence 1 April 2021 or as soon as possible thereafter.

Description of the scientific environment
The PhD fellowship is financed by a five year Novo Nordisk Foundation Distinguished Investigator research grant “The Black Holes in the Plant Universe” and with the Plant Biochemistry Laboratory as the working place. The successful applicant will join the Synthetic Biology research group headed by Professor Birger Lindberg Møller (https://plen.ku.dk/english/research/plant_biochemistry/sb/). Our research is focused on (1) plant pathway discovery including diterpenoids, vanillin and anthocyanins; (2) the role of N-hydroxylations in plant metabolism and the coupling to the production of cyanogenic glucosides; (3) establishment of metabolic channeling using cyanogenic glucosides as a model system; (4) the possible involvement of natural deep eutectic solvents in the storage of plant natural products in dense biocondensates. The Plant Biochemistry Laboratory is among the world leading laboratories within plant synthetic biology. Built on truly interdisciplinary research, a strong international network, a highly interactive international research environment and continuous strong support from external funds, the laboratory has made many seminal contributions to science and has fostered a multitude of eminent researchers with influential positions in Denmark and abroad (https://plen.ku.dk/english/research/plant_biochemistry/). Our laboratory aims to provide science-based solutions facilitating the global move into The Planthroprocene Era where use of fossil fuels is replaced by use of renewable energy resources and bio-based production. Green photosynthetic organisms play a vital role in this transition as providers of both food, biomaterials and energy as well as essential medicines, nutraceuticals, condiments and colorants. However, the precious substances produced are often present in very small amounts in the plants, extraction is difficult and harvest in nature is not sustainable. Our research initiative is going to overcome these limiting factors.

Project description
The focus of “The Black Holes in the Plant Universe” research initiative is to unravel the biological mechanisms behind the intriguing ability of specific plants (e.g. sorghum, vanilla orchid, cannabis) to store rare and sparingly soluble natural products at seemingly impossibly high molar concentrations and the possible involvement of an attuned matrix of simple molecules termed a natural deep eutectic solvent (NADES) in the process. In planta formation and organization of NADES-based bio-condensates remains unchartered territory. Joint research expeditions into this territory will be organized to provide invaluable clues into plants’ orchestration of bio-condensates for production, regulation and storage of bio-active natural products while avoiding auto-toxicity. The research defines new approaches for future bio-based production of high-value natural products in photosynthetic cells and yeast. The research takes our understanding of plant plasticity and adaptation to climate change to an entirely new level. The research project will thus contribute with highly attractive knowledge for design and development of more efficient and commercially sound bio-production systems. The project will involve heterologous production of selected natural products including cyanogenic glucosides, vanillin and anthocyanins in yeast with the aim to re-generate bio-condensates in a heterologous system. In order to achieve this goal, bioinformatics analysis will be employed to decipher key chemical modifications that facilitate natural product condensation and to elucidate key components such as sugars and acids and scaffolding proteins that may be required to form efficient intracellular NADES.

Principal supervisor isProfessor D.Sc.Birger Lindberg Møller (blm@plen.ku.dk,  Direct Phone: +45 20 43 34 11) and Co-supervisors Assistant Professor Tomas Laursen and post doc Mette Sørensen, Plant Biochemistry Laboratory, 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 manage and carry through your research project
  • Attend PhD courses
  • Write scientific articles and your PhD thesis
  • Teach and disseminate your research
  • To stay at an external research institution for a few months, preferably abroad
  • Work for the department

Formal requirements
Applicants should hold an MSc or an equivalent academic degree in natural product biochemistry, molecular biology, metabolomics, plant and yeast genetics, or in cell organelle and enzyme isolation. The successful applicant has obtained high grades and masters good English. As criteria for the assessment of your qualifications, emphasis will also be laid on previous publications (if any) and relevant work experience. Key personal skills include enthusiasm and good interpersonal communication skills, a curiosity driven interdisciplinary approach to science and a generous and open mindset.

Terms of employment
The position is covered by the Memorandum on Job Structure for Academic Staff.

Terms of appointment and payment according 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 331,125 (approx. €43,750) including annual supplement (+ pension at a minimum DKK 53,811). 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 detailing your motivation and background for applying for this specific PhD project
  • CV
  • Diploma and transcripts of records (BSc and MSc)
  • Other information for consideration, e.g. specific qualifications and a list of publications
  • 1-3 reference letters to be uploaded with the application

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 January 24th 2021 23:59 GMT +1.

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 https://employment.ku.dk/faculty/recruitment-process/.

For specific information about the PhD scholarship, please contact the principal supervisor Professor Birger Lindberg Møller, email: blm@plen.ku.dk,  Direct Phone +45 20433411.

General information about PhD programmes at SCIENCE is available at https://www.science.ku.dk/phd.


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