Doctoral researcher: RNA structure and function in virus replication

Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI)

Würzburg, Germany

Work group:


Area of research:

PHD Thesis

Starting date:

October 15, 2019

Contract time limit:

Initial term 1 year, with the possibility of an extension of additional 2 years

Job description:

Area of research:

The genomes of RNA viruses are compact, complex and multifunctional. They encode for viral proteins used to hijack the host cell, as well as non-coding RNA elements that actively participate in the replication cycle. Although these non-coding RNA elements are critical for viral replication, their identity, structure and biochemical function remain underexplored.

The Smyth laboratory seeks a highly motivated doctoral researcher to study the role of genome architecture in RNA virus replication. Our mission is to dissect the molecular role of RNA in viral replication at the whole pathogen scale and to exploit this knowledge in drug discovery and vaccine design. In our laboratory we use state-of-the-art unbiased mutational and functional screens (see coupled with high-throughput RNA structural probing methodologies to identify these RNA structures. Using molecular virology, we then characterize cellular and viral factors (protein, small molecule and nucleic acid) binding to these regions to identify new targets of therapeutic value. 

The project will focus on understanding the mechanistic details and function of RNA structure in cells and viruses. The doctoral researcher will be involved in the development of new methodologies to study the folding of RNA genomes in three-dimensions, and to decipher how RNA structure interacts with proteins and other nucleic acids to achieve biological outcomes. The doctoral researcher should be comfortable working with human pathogens, including HIV and influenza.

The selected applicant will work in the dynamic and international research environment of the HIRI in Würzburg (, which is part of the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research in Braunschweig ( The doctoral researcher will further be embedded within the highly successful structured doctoral training program of the Graduate School Life Sciences (GSLS) Würzburg (

The Helmholtz Institute for RNA-based Infection Research (HIRI) was established in May 2017 as a joint venture between the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig and the Julius Maximilian University of Würzburg (JMU). The HIRI is the first research institution worldwide to exclusively address the role of ribonucleic acids (RNA) in infection processes. Based on novel findings, innovative therapeutic approaches are developed in an integrated research approach and made clinically usable through the development of pharmaceutical forms of application. For more information, please visit

Prerequisite: Master’s Degree in biochemistry, molecular biology, molecular virology or a related field within the life sciences. Excellent English communication skills (written and spoken). Ability to work independently and as part of an international team. A strong desire to do research, enthusiastic, creative, and highly self-motivated. Knowledge of Matlab/Python or R is an advantage, but not essential.
  Salary:follows TVöD E13 (50%) with the possibility of an additional payment of 10%

Please apply via recruiter’s website.

Quote Reference: 76/2019