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Faculty Positions - Tree of Life

Wellcome Sanger Institute

Full Time/Flexible working considered

Contract Type: Various

The Wellcome Sanger Institute is seeking exceptional scientists to join its Core Faculty to lead a research team in Tree of Life and contribute to the Institute’s scientific portfolio. Positions carry a significant core package of salaries and support backed by rewarding and flexible employment terms including excellent benefits and relocation support. 

Faculty positions in Tree of Life

The Tree of Life Programme is a new initiative, taking its place in the global vanguard of genomic science. Our focus is to understand the structure and function of the biomes that support human society, at a time when those systems face acute strain. Using the latest long-read and long-range sequencing technologies, as well as algorithmic advances in assembly and curation, it is now feasible to sequence all life. The Darwin Tree of Life project and Earth Biogenome Project aim to do just that, their ambition only matched by the dedication of their teams. The data gathered across these and other projects will be used to investigate species diversity, species interactions and the evolution of genome structure – and all of it will be made openly available to the wider scientific community. Having launched in 2019, the Tree of Life programme is now fully operational and has become one of the most exciting places to work in biodiversity genomics. We will also gain new insights into molecular mechanisms that underpin genetic associations with diseases and traits involving blood and immune cells, including both disease susceptibility and disease progression, to empower the development of new drugs and the implementation of effective stratified and preventative medicine.

Humanity stands at a crossroads, where climate change and environmental degradation threaten to cause the sixth great extinction. Understanding the interconnectedness of the health of human society and ecosystem health, we will deliver a groundbreaking programme to sequence the diversity of eukaryotic life on Earth. Using decades of experience at the Wellcome Sanger Institute and radical new technologies, we will produce high quality reference genomes and explore their evolution, their functioning, and their interactions with each other. We will analyse these data to understand life’s origins, conserve biodiversity and provide the underpinnings of a new biotechnology.

For more information about the programme visit 

Support in Tree of Life 

We have an established core operations infrastructure to support delivery of the far-reaching ambitions of the Programme. The Delivery & Operations teams, led by the Associate Director of Delivery & Operations, are structured into four primary areas:

  • Production Genomics: responsible for high-throughput data generation, including assembly and curation for tens of thousands of reference genomes
  • Enabling Platforms: responsible for building new software systems and data management
  • Informatics Infrastructure: responsible for implementing cutting-edge informatics pipelines and managing programme IT infrastructure
  • Project Management & Operations: responsible for meeting the many compliance, admin and project management needs of our scientists  

These teams work collaboratively to deliver a backbone of operational support to the Tree of Life Programme Faculty, as well as major national and international sequencing consortia, enabling them to focus on delivering their cutting-edge research.

The operations teams also provide a key interface with central Institute functions including the core Sanger pipelines within Scientific Operations and the Management Operations teams. The Project Management & Operations team provides day-to-day administration including core and grant funding finance management, identifying third party funding opportunities, and ensuring regulatory and legal compliance in collaboration with central Institute teams.

Roles available in Tree of Life

The Wellcome Sanger Institute is seeking up to four exceptional scientists across all levels of its Faculty model, each joining as a Core Faculty member leading a research team in Tree of Life and contributing to the Institute’s scientific portfolio. Positions carry a significant core package of salaries and support, which are backed by rewarding and flexible employment terms including excellent benefits and relocation support. 

Our exceptional core funding enables  the Faculty to focus their energy on science, supported by a rapidly growing team of dedicated scientists and science facilitators, and benefiting from the state-of-the-art facilities located in the beautiful grounds of the Wellcome Genome Campus.

Our Levels of Faculty are:

Group Leader 1 (GL1)

GL1 Faculty positions are designed to be a researcher’s first or second group leader role and are the equivalent of a Lecturer at a UK University or Assistant Professor at a US University. They are focused on developing new and complementary areas of research within a Programme, and individuals at this level will have already contributed to research in an independent, original, and significant way with a strong trajectory and developing publication record. They should have an understanding and have contributed to the development and delivery of a coherent Programme strategy, and will have built up networks of research contacts and be confident in giving findings at conferences. Forward planning the work of their own group including how they will mentor and motivate their line reports must also be present. These positions are six year posts.

Group Leader 2 (GL2)

During the course of their tenure, these Faculty roles become equivalent of an Associate Professor and are intended to provide opportunities to develop an internationally competitive research portfolio and will have a track record of scientific publication, evidence of external recognition and other outputs leading to scientific impact and advancement of their discipline nationally and/or internationally. They will be able to reflect on and influence the Programme strategy; contributing to its development and delivery, coherence and agility. They will be able to show effective management of a research team, including planning at a larger scale and higher level of complexity. This will include leadership of a team including the development, proactive mentoring and motivation of colleagues and line reports. These positions are for eight years with a promotional review during the sixth year.

Group Leader 3 (GL3) 

GL3 Faculty positions are the equivalent of a Professor at a UK university or a Full Professor  at a US University. These positions provide significant internal and external leadership, scientifically and institutionally and are designed to lead and develop Sanger’s long term research strategy and play a central role in the development of the Institute’s five year research plans. Our GL3 Faculty have an outstanding international research profile and reputation and are leaders of a major research field or group. They provide strategic research leadership, making a significant contribution to the delivery, coherence and continuous development of the Programme to become a world-class research unit. They are thought-leaders used to contributing to peer review bodies/committees, professional organisations, learned societies, Government committees etc and will be experienced in leading a team including mentoring and motivation of colleagues and line reports with evidence of impact. These positions have a rolling tenure but have a review every six years
For further information about our Faculty Model, please visit 

Opportunity and selection criteria

On the basis of this Tree of Life would seek Faculty with research interests in any (or a combination) of the following:

  • biodiversity genomics requiring large scale data generation
  • comparative genomics of symbiosis
  • computational phylogenomics including phylogeny reconstruction across the Tree of Life

We are looking for leaders who can push the technical and scientific boundaries, building on a sequencing core that is scaling to sequence thousands of new genomes a year. 

Candidates will be considered across the three different Faculty levels and in assessing the best qualified applicants, we will focus on scientific achievement, experience, leadership and personal  suitability in line with our core behavioural competencies; collaboration, communication, leadership, integrity, results-driven, and innovation.

About the Institute

The Wellcome Sanger Institute is a world-leading genomics research centre, based on the Wellcome Genome Campus, arguably the largest single-site community worldwide of expertise in Genomes and BioData. We undertake large-scale research that forms the foundations of knowledge in biology and medicine. We are open and collaborative; our data, results, tools and technologies are shared across the globe to advance science.

Our ambition is vast – we take on projects that are not possible anywhere else.

The high-throughput, large-scale biological research undertaken at the Institute is a central defining characteristic distinguishing our science from that of most research institutes and universities.

It’s an exciting time to join the Sanger Institute as we recruit exceptional scientists in all five of our research programmes: Cancer, Ageing and Somatic MutationCellular GeneticsHuman GeneticsParasites and Microbes, and Tree of Life, spanning all levels of our Faculty model. You’ll join a unique, vibrant and interactive research environment with an internationally outstanding genomic research centre at the heart, as a Core Faculty member to lead a research team in one of the five programmes, and contribute to the Institute’s scientific portfolio.

Other information

Application Process

Applications should be accompanied by:

  • Curriculum vitae, complete list of publications and details of three referees
  • A two-page cover letter summarising:
    1. your scientific and leadership achievements to date, 
    2. your contribution to the wider research community and society, you may wish to include diversity and inclusion initiatives and public engagement events.
    3. which Faculty level you wish to be considered for and why; and
  • A three-page outline of future research plans indicating how these fit with the research areas, the chosen Programme, and the wider Institute. Please include a short abstract at the start of this document (no more than 250 words) summarising your plans. 

We understand that the global impact of COVID-19 and the lockdown period may have negatively impacted your research, as you may have had to adjust your working pattern, had reduced access to research facilities, and/or taken on additional responsibilities, such as childcare or caring for others. As part of our recruitment process we would like to better understand your experiences and how COVID-19 has impacted on your research progress and any research outputs, so that we can take this into consideration when we review your application. Please use the application form to tell us more.

Closing date for applications: 

We encourage early applications and will review applications on a rolling recruitment basis. 

G2/GL3 - 2 Stages

Application deadline: 23rd September 2021
Interviews: w/c 18th October 2021

Application deadline: 24th October 2021
Interviews: w/c 22nd November 2021


Application deadline: 31st October 2021
Interviews: January/February 2022

For an informal conversation about the positions, please contact Professor Mark Blaxter. Further information regarding the Institutes science, Faculty and building a career at the Institute can be found at Our ScienceFaculty teams and Faculty careers

If you have any questions about the application process or have any informal enquiries about working at and moving to the Sanger Institute, please contact Sam Bowker, Head of Recruitment and Immigration.

The Sanger Institute is an Equal Opportunity employer. We aim to attract, recruit, retain and develop talent from the widest possible talent pool, thereby gaining insight and access to different markets to generate a greater impact on the world. Our global reputation for excellence is strengthened by our commitment to developing and maintaining an organisation where staff from all backgrounds can thrive.

Location: Cambridge, Hinxton
Salary: Grade: Faculty - All levels
Hours: Full Time
Contract Type: Permanent
Placed On: 20th August 2021
Closes: 31st October 2021
Job Ref: 84420
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