PhD scholarship in Plant Synthetic Biology

DTU Bioengineering
Tuesday 24 Oct 17

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We are seeking a talented and ambitious PhD student to work on engineering of the moss Physcomitrella patens. The aim is to establish several autotrophic moss mutants. The PhD in Plant Synthetic Biology, project number 5 is part of the Marie-Curie ITN-EID project  

The overall mission of DTU Bioengineering is to contribute to research, development and education within the scientific areas of Biotechnology, Microbiology, Biomedicine and Systems Biology. In particular, this position is placed in the Section of Synthetic Biology and aims at strengthening our activities within photosynthetic cell factories.

The vision of MossTech is to expand the available biotechnological tools for the European biotech industry. Europe is world leader in industrial biotechnological use of mosses. The simple moss plant, Physcomitrella patens has been developed as a biotech platform over the last 25 years. With MossTech, we will expand the biotechnological use of green cell cultures based on mosses and establish novel bioengineering tools to be used in Physcomitrella and at least 10 other moss species.

Responsibilities and tasks
The PhD project (project 5) will aim to Establish an auxotrophic Physcomitrella.

The auxotrophic plants will form the background line to be used for production of novel fragrant home plants to be sold as living mosses in US. An auxotrophic moss will enable novel selection methods for genetic modifications, and meet rigid environmental regulations in new markets for Taxa Biotechnologies.

This include: 

  • knocking-out the genes that are known to be responsible for metabolite synthesis, to establish the auxotrophic mutants
  • Established mutant lines and test their survival ratio.
  • Grow auxotrophic mutants on soil to mimics the natural environment, and show the ecological impact of the mutations.

Your key tasks as a PhD student are: 

  • Manage and carry through your research project
  • Take PhD courses
  • Write scientific articles and your PhD thesis
  • Participate in conferences
  • Teach and disseminate your research

The PhD candidate must have the following mandatory prerequisites: 

  • Candidates should have a master's degree in biological engineering or a similar degree (Biochemistry, Biotechnology, etc.) with an academic level equivalent to the master's degree in engineering
  • Previous experience in cloning and genetic modifications
  • Proven laboratory experience with molecular biology and biochemistry
  • Strong work ethic and motivation to succeed within a competitive research field
  • Good communication skills
  • Talent for scientific writing
  • Excellent written and spoken English

Preference given to candidates with experience in (prioritized list): 

  • Physcomitrella patens engineering
  • Plant synthetic biology
  • Molecular biology
  • Auxotrophic studies

The applicant must possess an MSc degree prior to initiation of the PhD study and be able to take up the position no later than 1 April 2018.

Special requirements for Marie-Curie ITN-EID positions
At the time of recruitment, it is a requirement that PhD candidates have not been awarded a doctorate degree and are in the first 4 years (full-time equivalent) of their research careers. Furthermore, at the time of selection by the DTU, researchers must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in either Denmark or United States for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to their recruitment. Short stays, such as holidays, are not taken into account. 

Approval and Enrolment
The scholarship for the PhD degree are subject to academic approval, and the candidates will be enrolled in one of the general degree programmes of DTU. For information about the general requirements for enrolment and the general planning of the scholarship studies, please see the DTU PhD Guide.  

The assessment of the applicants will be made by Associate Professor Henrik Toft Simonsen.

We offer
DTU is a leading technical university globally recognized for the excellence of its research, education, innovation and scientific advice. We offer a rewarding and challenging job in an international environment. We strive for academic excellence in an environment characterized by collegial respect and an academic freedom tempered by responsibility.  

Salary and appointment terms
The appointment will be based on the collective agreement with the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations. The allowance will be agreed with the relevant union. The period of employment is 3 years. 

The project will be split between 22 months at Taxa Biotechnologies in Berkeley, California, US and 14 month DTU Lyngby Campus, Denmark. The project period in US will start around the 1 June 2018, thus two months into the PhD period.

Further information
Further information may be obtained from Associate Professor Henrik Toft Simonsen, e-mail:  

You can read more about the research group at Photosynthetic Cell Factories and find more about MossTech here.  

Please submit your online application no later than 6 December 2017 (local time). Applications must be submitted as one PDF file containing all materials to be given consideration. To apply, please open the link "Apply online", fill in the online application form, and attach all your materials in English in one PDF file. The file must include: 

  • A letter motivating the application (cover letter)
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Grade transcripts and BSc/MSc diploma
  • Excel sheet with translation of grades to the Danish grading system (see guidelines and excel spreadsheet here)
Candidates may apply prior to ob­tai­ning their master's degree, but cannot begin before having received it.   

All interested candidates irrespective of age, gender, race, disability, religion or ethnic background are encouraged to apply.

The Department of Biotechnology and Biomedicine (DTU Bioengineering) conducts research, educates future bio-engineers, provides scientific advice and innovate within the areas of microbiology, biochemistry, biotechnology and biomedicine. The research at DTU Bioengineering is at the highest international level and focuses on the societal and scientific challenges within the field. Research is conducted within three main areas: Microbial ecology and physiology, Industrial biotechnology and cell factories, and Biomedicine and health. The department has extensive collaboration with national and international research units and industries. DTU Bioengineering has approx. 150 employees, of which 2/3 is scientific staff. The department is located at DTU Lyngby Campus.

DTU is a technical university providing internationally leading research, education, innovation and scientific advice. Our staff of 5,800 advance science and technology to create innovative solutions that meet the demands of society; and our 11,000 students are being educated to address the technological challenges of the future. DTU is an independent academic university collaborating globally with business, industry, government, and public agencies.