The Pirbright Institute

Post-Doctoral Scientist

The Pirbright Institute

Surrey, United Kingdom

The Pirbright Institute

The Pirbright Institute delivers world-leading research to understand, predict, detect and respond to viral disease outbreaks. We study viruses of livestock that are endemic and exotic to the UK, including zoonotic viruses, by using the most advanced tools and technologies to understand host-pathogen interactions in animals and arthropod vectors. Our major strength in understanding the immune systems of livestock provides a platform to control current diseases and respond to emerging threats.

Our Institute is made up of a dynamic and vibrant community of staff covering a diverse set of chosen fields, backgrounds and experience. We all play a crucial role in furthering the Institute’s aspirations, advancing the frontiers of science and knowledge through our excellent scientific research, knowledge sharing and contribution; with a real focus in improving the world in which we live. Our outlook is always balanced by our strong sense of purpose, values and behaviours and an unwavering commitment to a ‘one Institute’ approach.

Organisation position and purpose:

The Pirbright Institute has recently received significant funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to define the fine specificity of antibody responses in cattle. Our overall aim is to use a detailed knowledge of the antibody response to improve vaccine design. We are now recruiting a postdoctoral scientist to join the team studying the cattle antibody response to a prototype foot-and-mouth disease virus vaccine, aiming to enhance efficacy. This two-year post will play a leading role in the expression and functional characterisation of cattle antibodies, including generating protein for structural analysis. This role sits within a larger project team working on antibody responses in livestock that includes specific expertise in bioinformatics, cell sorting, high-throughput sequencing and recombinant antibody production.

We are looking for a self-motivated and well-organised person who is able to actively contribute to ongoing projects and collaborations. The successful candidate will be part of the project team working closely with the scientific project manager and the Head of Programme.

Main duties and responsibility

Responsible for expressing antigen specific antibodies as part of a wider team:

  • Conducting research in an independent and collaborative manner
  • Clone, express and engineer recombinant antibodies for structural and functional studies.
  • Manage the antibody production pipeline for the Oxford-Pirbright collaboration on FMDV vaccines.
  • To demonstrate a detailed and thorough knowledge of understanding of structural biology and a familiarity with immunology.

Responsible for developing new areas of work, which will include:

  • Develop assays for the evaluation of antibody functional activity.
  • Identifying new approaches to understanding antibody structures.
  • Managing and negotiating collaborations and external relationships in multi or cross-disciplinary contexts

Responsible for managing projects, which will include:

  • Disseminate results through writing papers and presenting at scientific meetings.
  • Being committed to personal development in this area, including attending regular training.

Contribute to the overall research group:

  • Service on committees, steering groups and other meetings as appropriate
  • Take responsibility with others for the daily housekeeping of the laboratory.
  • Take responsibility with others for ensuring that work in the laboratory is conducted safely and in accordance with local health and safety policies.
  • Publish research papers as the first author
  • Perform outreach duties

This job description is only an outline of the tasks, responsibilities and outcomes required of the role. The jobholder will carry out any other duties as may be reasonably required by his/her line manager. The job description and personal specification may be reviewed on an ongoing basis in accordance with the changing needs of The Pirbright Institute.

All employees shall actively participate in the Institute-wide quality assurance system in conjunction with the Institute’s Quality Manager. Employees are also expected to safeguard their own health and safety and security by following policies and all employees are responsible for the Health and Safety and security of staff under their management.

Personal specification

  • Results driven with a clear ability to time manage between multiple projects.
  • Good collaboration skills
  • Patience
  • Attention to detail
  • Able to problem solve and be creative in generating a solution whilst also able to perform the same activity in a consistent manner
  • Ability to work independently as well as part of a team
  • Able to advise peers and less experienced members of staff with regards to professional integrity and good research practice
  • Setting a good example in science practice for more junior members of the team

Specific requirements


  • A PhD (or close to completion) or equivalent experience in protein biochemistry or related field
  • Significant and relevant experience in a recognised R&D environment
  • Practical expertise in the production of recombinant proteins using mammalian cell systems
  • Experience of leadership within a team
  • Practical experience of developing and assaying protein-protein interactions
  • Basic computer skills including use of Microsoft office packages
  • Ability to work as part of a team as well as independently
  • Ability to co-ordinate multiple aspects of work in order to meet deadlines
  • Ability to solve problems using innovative and flexible thinking
  • Excellent organisational and communication skills
  • An achievement record commensurate to the applicant’s career


  • Experience of laboratory automation
  • Experience with use of X-ray crystallography for protein structure determination
  • Experience of cryo-EM for protein structure determination

What we offer

  • Generous Group Personal Pension Scheme and life cover (subject to age and earnings)
  • 25 days annual leave per annum, pro rata, plus 10.5 public and privilege days
  • Pirbright Lifestyle Hub (employee discount site)
  • Cycle to work
  • Subsidised staff restaurant
  • Childcare allowance
  • Free onsite parking

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