PhD position in structural virology (1.0 FTE)

Updated: about 2 months ago
Deadline: 15 Jan 2024

The PhD candidate will be performing research at the interface of virology, structural biology, and drug design using state-of-the art protein crystallography and/or single-particle cryogenic electron microscopy (cryo-EM). There is plenty of space for an enthusiastic candidate to tailor their projects based on their interests. The candidate will be working in a highly international, multidisciplinary environment consisting of synthetic chemists, structural biologists, virologists, and cell biologist allowing for an effective and cooperative methodological and topical exchange.

PhD project on structurally and biochemically characterising proteins involved in the viral hijacking of mitochondrial function
Viruses have evolved sophisticated methods to hijack host cell functions to benefit replication. Some of the most important cellular processes are tightly linked to mitochondrial function, such as cellular homeostasis, metabolism, and innate immunity. Especially for the latter viral genomes encode for proteins that prevent proper innate immune signalling allowing for the virus to replicate. Among these mechanisms is the prevention of the intrinsic apoptosis pathway, which is triggered upon a viral infection, by expressing viral Bcl-2 homologues. The candidate will use a highly integrative structural biology approach to structurally and biochemically characterise these proteins and use bottom-up drug discovery approaches to identify novel small molecule compounds that can prevent the function of these viral proteins. The candidate will be trained in prokaryotic and/or eukaryotic recombinant protein expression, macromolecular x-ray crystallography, cryo-EM, biophysical methods, and classical virology experiments.

The vacancy is at the Department of Molecular Pharmacology, (Primary Supervisor: Assistant Professor Dr Karim Rafie: https://www.rug.nl/staff/k.rafie/?lang=en ), Groningen Research Institute of Pharmacy, Faculty of Science and Engineering, University of Groningen. The research of Dr Rafie is aimed at elucidating the precise structural and molecular mechanisms of how viruses co-opt host cell mechanisms to benefit replication and to use this knowledge to develop novel antivirals. We offer a stimulating research environment for PhD students interested in structural biology, structure-guided drug development, protein biochemistry as well as cell biology, and virology. The department’s research laboratories are well equipped for molecular biology, protein biochemistry, and tissue culture work. In addition, local access to an X-ray generator and cutting-edge cryo-EM facility is provided.

The University of Groningen (founded in 1614) has a long tradition of academic excellence, being one of the oldest research universities in Europe. The University is currently in or around the top 100 on several influential ranking lists. Currently approximately 34,000 students are enrolled and about 1,500 PhD students work on their theses. It has a highly international character: English is the main language in the research laboratories. The city of Groningen is a historic town and among the ten biggest cities in The Netherlands. It is a vibrant student town with a direct train connection to Schiphol Airport near Amsterdam.


We are looking for an enthusiastic and talented PhD candidate with a Master of Science (MSc) degree in chemistry, biotechnology, biochemistry, virology or related, and with outstanding laboratory skills. Experience with structural biology methods is a plus but not essential.

You are expected to be fluent in the English language (written and oral). Important personal skills include the ability to collaborate and work in an international team, bring a high motivation, and have the ability for inter- and multidisciplinary thinking and good social skills.


We offer you in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities:

• a salary of € 2,770 (salary scale PhD candidates) gross per month in the first year, up to a maximum of € 3,539 gross per month in the fourth and final year, based on a full-time position
• a holiday allowance of 8% gross annual income an 8.3% year-end bonus
• a temporary position of one year with the option of renewal for another three years; prolongation of the contract is contingent on sufficient progress in the first year to indicate that you will successfully complete your PhD thesis within the next three years. A PhD training programme is part of the agreement.

The preferred starting date is between April and June 2024



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