Faculty of Science
School of Biological Sciences
Senior Research Fellow
Employment type: Fixed-term (ending 31 July 2022)
Employment basis: Full-time
Salary: £39,609 – £48,677 per annum
Post number: ZZ004966
Date published: 13 December 2018
Closing date: 31 January 2019
Interview date: 25 February 2019
Characterisation and engineering of plastic-degrading enzymes for the circular economy
We are seeking to recruit a talented postdoctoral scientist with experience in protein X-ray crystallography and protein biochemistry/biophysics to join a growing team of researchers, working together within our recently-established Centre for Enzyme Innovation (CEI) http://www.port.ac.uk/centre-for-enzyme-innovation. The Centre focuses on the discovery, engineering and deployment of enzymes and enzymatic systems with potential application to the circular economy.
This post is available for 4 years to work in collaboration with an international team of scientists on novel enzymes for the sustainable conversion of natural and synthetic polymers into high-value products. This research aims to address some of our most imminent global challenges around climate change and plastic pollution through the valourisation of waste materials and the production of sustainable low carbon chemicals.
Everyday plastics such as poly(ethylene terephthalate), or PET, are highly versatile but are accumulating in the environment at a staggering rate as discarded packaging and textiles. The chemical properties that make PET so useful also endow it with an alarming resistance to natural biodegradation, likely lasting several centuries in the environment. However, there is hope for the future; microbial enzymes that can depolymerise PET (albeit inefficiently) have been discovered, and recently we demonstrated that the PETase enzyme can be engineering to enhance its activity (1). Our laboratory combines structural biology with a novel synthetic biology approach that will enable the creation of new industrially relevant enzymes. Research from our team demonstrates that we can discover, characterise, and tune enzymes to tackle a range of polymer resources such a cellulose (2, 3) and lignin (4), opening up opportunities for the bioconversion of these abundant natural resources into valuable sustainable commodities.
The work will include:
- Identification of novel enzymes from the diverse source of microbial and fungal targets
- Expression and purification of novel enzymes and related aromatic metabolic proteins
- Biophysical characterisation of enzymes and their interaction with solid polymer surfaces
- Biochemical analysis to investigate kinetic bottlenecks in synthetic microbial pathways
- X-ray crystallography in our home laboratory and at the Diamond Light Source
- Protein engineering to improve enzyme kinetics in an industrial context
The Fellow will join the CEI within the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Portsmouth and practical work will be conducted in the state-of-the-art Molecular Biophysics Laboratories, one of the research divisions within the Institute of Biomedical and Biomolecular Sciences (IBBS). We have a range of in-house facilities including dedicated laboratories for protein expression and purification, biophysical characterisation and X-ray crystallography and NMR. It is envisaged that the Fellow will spend time working at national research facilities such as the Diamond Light Source UK, with our industrial partners, and with our US collaborators at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Colorado.
Candidates should have a PhD or equivalent in structural biology, biophysics or biochemistry. Experience in the recombinant production and characterisation of proteins should be demonstrated with one or more relevant publications in a refereed journal. Postdoctoral research experience is essential, particularly in the field of X-ray protein crystallography. The Fellow should be able to manage the day-to-day running of a research laboratory including assisting the work of junior researchers. Good communication skills are key, and you will be expected to present work at international meetings and conferences. The Fellow will be expected to acquire data sets for our project and to play a lead role in drafting of manuscripts. International travel to the USA will form an integral part of this post, and as such will provide excellent opportunities for personal and career development.
Applications are particularly welcome from women, and from black and minority ethnic candidates.
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