The Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Section for Plant Biochemistry, invites applicants for a PhD fellowship in Biosynthesis of Plant Natural Products. The PhD project is part of a research project aimed at elucidating the biosynthesis of the glaucoma drug pilocarpine in jaborandi plants, which is financed by the Danish National Research Foundation.

Start date is 01 November 2022 or as soon as possible thereafter.

The project
The glaucoma drug pilocarpine is produced by jaborandi plants, which are native to the Amazon rainforest. In contrast to wild jaborandi plants, cultivated plants only produce low amounts of pilocarpine. The large demand for wild jaborandi has led to overharvesting, thus leading to its official listing as a threatened species. In this collaborative project, the Geu-Flores laboratory at the University of Copenhagen has joined forces with the group of Guilherme Oliveira at the Vale Institute of Technology (Belém, Brazil) to elucidate the biosynthesis pathway of pilocarpine in jaborandi. The elucidation of this fully unknown pathway will pave the way for the biotechnological production of pilocarpine and relieve the pressure on wild jaborandi, thus contributing to the preservation of biodiversity in the “Planet’s lungs”.

Who are we looking for?
We are looking for candidates with a solid background in chemistry that wish to receive training on the elucidation of biosynthesis pathways in plants, including biochemistry, molecular biology, and synthetic biology. Applicants must have a degree in chemistry, organic chemistry, natural product chemistry, or similar. Valuable skills include isolation of natural products and structural elucidation, analytical chemistry, and organic synthesis.

Our group and research – what do we offer?
The successful applicant will join the Geu-Flores group, which specializes in the biosynthesis and transport of alkaloids in plants, including quinolizidine alkaloids in lupins and favism-causing agens in faba bean. The applicant will work closely with postdoc Katharina Vollheyde, who can provide training in biochemistry and molecular biology.

The group is a part of the Section for Plant Biochemistry, which hosts several research groups working on plant natural product biosynthesis, including cyanogenic glucosides, diterpenoids, and triterpenoids. The Section belongs to the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, which hosts eight Sections spanning from molecular biology to crop science and environmental chemistry.

We offer creative and stimulating working conditions in dynamic and international research environment. Our research facilities include modern laboratories, plant growth facilities, and a Metabolomics Platform hosted in the Section.

Principal supervisor is Associate Professor Fernando Geu-Flores, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences,, direct phone: +45-60571982.

Qualifications needed for the PhD programme
To be eligible for the PhD programme, you must have completed a degree programme equivalent to a Danish master’s degree (180 ECTS/3 FTE BSc + 120 ECTS/2 FTE MSc) related to the subject area of the project, e.g. chemistry, organic chemistry, or natural product chemistry. For information of eligibility of completed programmes, see General assessments for specific countries and Assessment database.

Terms of employment in the PhD programme
Employment as PhD fellow is full time and for maximum 3 years.

Employment is conditional upon your successful enrolment as a PhD student at the PhD School at the Faculty of SCIENCE, University of Copenhagen. This requires submission and acceptance of an application for the specific project formulated by the applicant.

The terms of employment and salary are in accordance to the agreement between the Ministry of Taxation and The Danish Confederation of Professional Associations on Academics in the State (AC). The position is covered by the Protocol on Job Structure.

Responsibilities and tasks

  • Carry out an independent research project under supervision 
  • Complete PhD courses corresponding to approx. 30 ECTS / ½ FTE
  • Participate in active research environments, including a stay at another research institution, preferably abroad
  • Teaching and knowledge dissemination activities
  • Write scientific papers aimed at high-impact journals
  • Write and defend a PhD thesis on the basis of your project

We are looking for the following qualifications:

  • Professional qualifications relevant to the PhD project
  • Relevant publications
  • Relevant work experience
  • Other relevant professional activities
  • Curious mind-set with a strong interest in biochemistry and molecular biology
  • Excellent English language skills

Application and Assessment Procedure
Your application including all attachments must be in English and submitted electronically by clicking APPLY NOW below.

Please include

  1. Motivated letter of application (max. one page)
  2. Concise project proposal (max. one page)
  3. Curriculum vitae including information about your education, experience, language skills and other skills relevant for the position
  4. Original diplomas for Bachelor of Science or Master of Science and transcript of records in the original language, including an authorized English translation if issued in another language than English or Danish. If not completed, a certified/signed copy of a recent transcript of records or a written statement from the institution or supervisor is accepted.
  5. Publication list (if possible)
  6. Reference letters (if available)

Application deadline:

The deadline for applications is Sunday  24 July 2022, 23:59 GMT+2.

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 deadline, a number of applicants will be selected for academic assessment by an unbiased expert assessor. You are notified, whether you will be passed for assessment.

The assessor will assess the qualifications and experience of the shortlisted applicants with respect to the above mentioned research area, techniques, skills and other requirements. The assessor will conclude whether each applicant is qualified. The assessed applicants will have the opportunity to comment on their assessment. You can read about the recruitment process at

Interviews with selected candidates are expected to be held in the week 32+33  August  2022. 

For specific information about the PhD fellowship, please contact the principal supervisor.

General information about PhD study at the Faculty of SCIENCE is available at the PhD School’s website:

The University of Copenhagen wishes to reflect the surrounding community and invites all regardless of personal background to apply for the position.


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