EU Marie-Curie PhD Studentship

University of Cambridge - Department of Biochemistry

PhD Studentship in Directed Protein Evolution for Synthetic Biology and Biocatalysis

A graduate studentship leading to the award of a PhD is available from 1 January 2018 (or later) to work at Cambridge University in the Biochemistry Department (with Dr. F. Hollfelder - The studentship is in the context of the EU Marie-Curie network ES-Cat ( on Directed Protein Evolution for Synthetic Biology and Biocatalysis.

Efficient exploration of sequence space requires new technologies that connect genotype and phenotype: we have developed microfluidic systems that create millions of cell-like compartments in a few hours. Using droplet compartmentalization we can evolve binders or catalysts in entirely in vitro and more efficiently than possible by older technologies. This project will develop strategies for the efficient exploration of 'sequence space' that involve manipulation of enzyme mechanism, 'smarter' libraries and non-adaptive selection regimes.  We focus on enzymes that are intrinsically 'promiscuous' (i.e. have more than observable activity and thus several starting points for evolution). Studying the evolutionary pathways followed and the catalytic features of the emerging catalysts will give us insight into how enzymes 'find' their mechanisms and enhance our understanding of where in sequence space functional proteins are found.

Candidates will be mainly based in the Biochemistry Department (in central Cambridge), but also work for extended secondments in the labs of the academic and industrial network partners ( All students take part in a training programme that includes workshops, meetings and courses given by all network partners.

Applicants should have a first (or upper second) class degree in biochemistry, biotechnology, chemistry or a related, relevant subject. Specific skills in protein engineering, directed evolution, chemical and kinetic analysis of enzyme mechanisms, organic synthesis and familiarity with molecular biology techniques (e.g. phage or ribosome display, cloning, DNA manipulation, preparation and handling of DNA libraries) are advantages.

The full stipend will be paid at rates of the EU Marie-Curie programme for the 3 year duration of the award.

Applications should contain a description of your research interests (e.g. as part of the cover letter) and your detailed CV (with exam marks and all relevant practical experience). Please also include the names and email-addresses of at least two referees, who know you from your courses or laboratory research work. Send your application by email to (quoting reference PH12082/R).

Limit of tenure: Up to 36 months

Please quote reference PH12082/R on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy.

The University values diversity and is committed to equality of opportunity.

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

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