Department of Pharmacology, University of Cambridge

Post-doctoral Research Assistant/Associate in Synthetic Biology for Modular Control of Cell Behaviour

Department of Pharmacology, University of Cambridge

Cambridge, East of England, United Kingdom

Post-doctoral Research Assistant/Associate in Synthetic Biology for Modular Control of Cell Behaviour


A talented and creative postdoctoral researcher is sought to work in Mark Howarth’s group on a BBSRC-funded project. The group will move from Oxford to Cambridge University at the beginning of September 2022 (https://www2.bioch.ox.ac.uk/howarth/research.htm) and so the project will be carried out in the Department of Pharmacology at Cambridge University. The project relates to the design and evolution of novel switchable protein interactions for biotechnology and the control of cell behaviour. SpyTag is a genetically-encoded peptide created by the Howarth lab, which forms an irreversible covalent bond to its protein partner SpyCatcher. SpyTag has been applied by hundreds of groups around the world, including towards vaccines, cancer cell therapy, and arming antibodies. Cyclization using SpyTag/SpyCatcher allows major increases in resilience of enzymes, as applied for nutrition and green chemical transformation. This project will apply novel library-based selections, unnatural amino acid mutagenesis, and rational design to create new SpySwitch technologies, enabling switchable protein interactions in response to light and other cellular stimuli. There will then be the opportunity to apply these new generation pairs towards one project of special interest to the appointee. The Howarth group currently works on areas including vaccines for global health, immuno-oncology, force-dependent cell signalling (mechanobiology), and therapeutic targeting in the blood and GI tract. We will provide training in unfamiliar methods.

Responsibilities will include managing research activities, generating high quality data and developing scientific techniques. You will be expected to take a lead in some areas of the research and contribute intellectually to the direction of the research project. You will be expected to assist in drafting scientific manuscripts and may contribute to the day-to-day supervision of Masters or PhD students.

Candidates should be highly motivated and productive with an enthusiastic approach to science. You will hold a PhD/DPhil, or be near completion of a PhD/DPhil, in Biochemistry, Cell Biology or a related area. You will be skilled at presenting your data, verbally and in writing. You should be committed to collaborative and interdisciplinary research and be able to work both independently and as part of a research team. Experience with recombinant protein expression and biophysical analysis is essential. Experience in cell biology methods (e.g. flow cytometry, immunoblotting, microscopy) or structure-based design will be advantageous.

Successful candidates who have not been awarded their PhD/DPhil by the appointment date will be appointed as a Research Assistant at Grade 5 (£27,116 – £31,406). Upon the award of the PhD/DPhil the individual will be promoted to Research Associate, Grade 7 (£33,309 – £40,927).

Applications are particularly welcome from women, black and minority ethnic candidates.

Fixed-term: The funds for this post are available for 2 years in the first instance.

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Informal enquiries are welcomed and should be directed to Prof Mark Howarth mark.howarth@bioch.ox.ac.uk.

Please quote reference PL31647 on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy.

The University actively supports equality, diversity and inclusion and encourages applications from all sections of society.

The University has a responsibility to ensure that all employees are eligible to live and work in the UK.

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