PhD fellow in Molecular Plant Physiology

Updated: 27 days ago
Deadline: 14 Mar 2021

Department of Plant and Environmental Science, Faculty of Science at University of Copenhagen is offering a PhD scholarship in Plant Physiology commencing 01.06.2021 or as soon as possible thereafter.

Description of the scientific environment
The PhD position is part of a 5-year Emerging Investigator Grant “liftOFF! Optimizing Plant FMO’s for Future Production”, financed by the NovoNordisk Foundation and lead by Assistant Professor Elizabeth Neilson .

The successful applicant will be based within Plant Ecophysiology Research Group , and the Plant Biochemistry Section at the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences. The successful candidate will therefore be joining an active, diverse and multi-disciplinary research environment seeking to understand the molecular regulation, integration and evolution of plant general and specialized pathways, with the ultimate vision to seek fundamental knowledge for environmental, agricultural and biotechnological applications. This section has state-of-the-art laboratory facilities (including a highly equipped metabolomics platform) and in-depth experience in plant biology and biotechnology. The candidate will also work together with the Metabolic and Regulatory Networks Research Group at PLEN, as well as collaborators at the University of Queensland in Australia.

Project description
Flavin-containing Monooxygenases (FMOs) are ancient enzymes present in all kingdoms of life. As monooxygenases, FMOs typically catalyse the incorporation of an oxygen atom from molecular oxygen into small molecules, altering the molecules chemical properties such as solubility and bioactivity. Accordingly, FMOs general possess huge potential as biocatalysts for a wide range of biotechnological, medical and agricultural applications.

Mammalian and bacterial FMOs are well characterized, playing fundamental roles in drug and xenobiotic metabolism. By contrast, our understanding of plant FMOs is extremely limited, despite plants possessing far greater FMO diversity compared to both bacteria and mammals. To date, only a small handful of plant FMOs have been characterized. Significantly, the few plant FMOs characterized perform reactions that are crucial steps in hormone metabolism, pathogen resistance, signaling and chemical defence (i.e. in response to biotic and abiotic stress). This demonstrates the fundamental and important role FMOs have within plant metabolism, and opportunities for future applications.

The overall aim of this PhD project is to identify and characterize the function of novel plant FMOs, with a focus on FMOs from in cereal crops sorghum and barley. This overall aim will be achieved by 1) investigating the evolutionary diversity and catalytic scope of different crop FMOs, and 2) determining their physiological role in planta.

Principal supervisor isAssistant Professor Elizabeth H Jakobsen Neilson, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, . The student will be co-supervised by Prof. Meike Burow ( ) and PostDoc Sara Thodberg ( ), and work together with the collaborating partners Prof Ian Godwin and Prof. Elizabeth Gillam from The University of Queensland,Australia.

The position is available for a 3-year period and your key tasks as a PhD student at SCIENCE are:

  • Attend PhD courses
  • Write scientific articles and your PhD thesis
  • Teach and disseminate your research
  • To stay at an external research institution for a few months, preferably abroad
  • Work for the department

Formal requirements
We are seeking a highly motivated and ambitious individual with good interpersonal and communication skills. Highly desired candidates will have skills and experience in plant ecophysiology (e.g. plant biotic and/or abiotic stress), molecular biology and biochemistry. Specific knowledge and/or experience in metabolomics, as well as experience in handling field and glasshouse studies is highly advantageous. Experience in gene editing (CRISPR-Cas9), protein expression and purification will also be considered a plus.

Due to the open nature of this project (ie unknown FMO substrates and products), the ideal candidate should demonstrate a willingness for scientific flexibility and freedom, and the pursuit of changing hypotheses and ideas.

Applicants should hold an appropriate MSc degree in the field e.g. biology and/or biotechnology. If the candidate is nearing MSc completion, evidence for successful completion before June 1, 2021 is required. Previous publications (if any) and relevant work experience will be included in assessment of your qualifications.

Fluency in spoken and written professional English is required.

Terms of employment
The position is covered by the Memorandum on Job Structure for Academic Staff.
Terms of appointment and payment accord to the agreement between the Ministry of Finance and The Danish Confederation of Professional Associations on Academics in the State.
The starting salary is currently at a minimum DKK 331,125 (approx. €43,750) including annual supplement (+ pension at a minimum DKK 53,811). Negotiation for salary supplement is possible.

Application Procedure
The application, in English, must be submitted electronically by clicking APPLY NOW below.

Please include

  • Cover Letter, detailing your motivation and background for applying for the PhD project.
  • CV
  • Diploma and transcripts of records (BSc and MSc)
  • Acceptance Letter for the relevant MSc Programme at SCIENCE, if any
  • Other information for consideration, e.g. list of publications (if any)
  • 1-3 reference letters (if any)

Reference letters must be uploaded by the applicant him/herself. The recruiting person must NOT  obtain reference letters which content is not known to the applicant him/herself. This is against Danish law.

The University wishes our staff to reflect the diversity of society and thus welcomes applications from all qualified candidates regardless of personal background. 

The deadline for applications is Sunday 14 March 2021, 23:59 GMT+1.

After the expiry of the deadline for applications, the authorized recruitment manager selects applicants for assessment on the advice of the Interview Committee. Afterwards an assessment committee will be appointed to evaluate the selected applications. The applicants will be notified of the composition of the committee and the final selection of a successful candidate will be made by the Head of Department, based on the recommendations of the assessment committee and the interview committee.

The main criterion for selection will be the research potential of the applicant and the above mentioned skills. The successful candidate will then be requested to formally apply for enrolment as a PhD student at the PhD school of Science.

You can read more about the recruitment process at .

For specific information about the PhD scholarship, please contact Assistant Professor Elizabeth Neilson, or Postdoc Sara Thodberg, .

General information about PhD programmes at SCIENCE is available at .

Part of the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU), and among Europe’s top-ranking universities, the University of Copenhagen promotes research and teaching of the highest international standard. Rich in tradition and modern in outlook, the University gives students and staff the opportunity to cultivate their talent in an ambitious and informal environment. An effective organisation – with good working conditions and a collaborative work culture – creates the ideal framework for a successful academic career.

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