PhD scholarship in Molecular Microbial Ecology

Tuesday 22 Dec 20

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Apply no later than 1 February 2021
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The Center for Microbial Secondary Metabolites, CeMiSt, is a Center of Excellence funded by the Danish National Research Foundation. The Center started 1st of January 2018 and will run for six years with an option for a four-year extension. The Center is based at the Technical University of Denmark and hosted by Department of Biotechnology and Biomedicine (DTU Bioengineering). Three DTU departments and 10 senior faculty participate in the Center with  >15 PhD students and postdocs. The purpose of CeMiSt is to unravel the biological role of microbial secondary metabolites in natural microbiological communities. The Center is led by Professor Lone Gram.

DTU Bioengineering covers microbial ecology and physiology, industrial biotechnology and biomedicine and health. The department consists of approx. 45 faculty and more than 90 PhD students and postdocs.

We seek an enthusiastic and motivated candidate for a three-year Ph.D. scholarship in the area of molecular microbial ecology to study the role and regulation of secondary metabolites produced by fluorescent pseudomonads in microbial soil communities. The position will be available from February 1st, 2019 or as soon as possible thereafter.

Responsibilities and qualifications
The purpose of the PhD project is to unravel the role(s) and regulation of secondary metabolites produced by fluorescent pseudomonads. Although fluorescent pseudomonads are producers of a variety of secondary metabolites, little is known about how expression of these metabolites is regulated in situ or how these molecules influence the microbial diversity and functionality within natural microbial communities. In this PhD project, you will:

  • Identify microbe-microbe interactions that modulate expression and production of secondary metabolites in different Pseudomonas species. This will include screening and analysis of microbial populations from soil sampling sites.
  • Use molecular genetics and chemical methods to identify and characterize the underlying chemical signals and their signal-response pathways.
  • Determine the effects of these signals on microbial community development and interactions within laboratory microcosms. This will involve construction of mutants that are either defective in signal production or overproduce selected compounds, and construction of genetic tools that enable control of expression and production of secondary metabolites.
  • You will also contribute to our efforts to analyse expression and production of secondary metabolites from Pseudomonas both in situ and in laboratory microcosms.
  • Disseminate your results through scientific publications, conference presentations and group meetings.
  • Supervise M.Sc. and B.Sc. students.

The PhD project is part of the collaborative effort in the Center for Microbial Secondary Metabolites (CeMiSt) aimed at understanding function of microbial secondary metabolism in situ, and you will have many opportunities to collaborate and interact with PhD students, postdocs, and faculty with expertise in microbial ecology, molecular microbiology, bioinformatics and natural product chemistry.

The PhD position is anchored in the research group headed by Professor MSO Lars Jelsbak at the Department of Biotechnology and Biomedicine (DTU Bioengineering).

You should have a two-year master's degree (120 ECTS points) or a similar degree with an academic level equivalent to a two-year master's degree.

We are looking for a candidate with a solid background in bacteriology and microbial ecology, and an interest in understanding how microbe-microbe interactions can control microbial behaviour and the development of microbial communities. Candidates should preferably have experience with bacterial genetics, molecular microbiology and omics methods as tools to unravel molecular mechanisms. You are an efficient team worker, have good communication skills, and have a critical approach to formulation and testing of hypotheses. Also, a good sense of humor will be appreciated.

Approval and Enrolment
The scholarship for the PhD degree is subject to academic approval, and the candidate will be enrolled in one of the general degree programmes at DTU. For information about our enrolment requirements and the general planning of the PhD study programme, please see the DTU PhD Guide

The assessment of the applicants will be made by Professor MSO Lars Jelsbak and members of Center for Microbial Secondary Metabolites.

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 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 upon with the relevant union. The period of employment is 3 years.

You can read more about career paths at DTU here.

Further information
Further information about the position may be obtained from Professor MSO Lars Jelsbak, or +45 4525 6129. 

Further information about the Center for Microbial Secondary Metabolites may be obtained from Professor Lone Gram (

You can read more about DTU Bioengineering at and a DTU podcast introduces the Center that is also described at

If you are applying from abroad, you may find useful information on working in Denmark and at DTU at DTU – Moving to Denmark

Application procedure
Your complete online application must be submitted no later than 1 February 2021 (Danish 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 out 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 Center for Microbial Secondary Metabolites aims to establish what effect microbial secondary metabolites have on other microorganisms in their natural environment. We have traditionally perceived them as ‘competition substances’, but in natural environments they are rarely produced in quantities of antibiotic effect. The Center’s hypothesis is that secondary metabolites constitute a network of signal molecules that directly affect gene expression, behaviour, and metabolism of the microorganisms and thus play a decisive role in the composition and function of microbiological societies. We will explore this in an interdisciplinary collaboration with the use of sequence-based, analytical-chemical, molecular, bioinformatic, and classic microbiological methods.

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. 250 employees, of which 2/3 is scientific staff. The department is located at DTU Lyngby Campus.

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DTU develops technology for people. With our international elite research and study programmes, we are helping to create a better world and to solve the global challenges formulated in the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Hans Christian Ørsted founded DTU in 1829 with a clear vision to develop and create value using science and engineering to benefit society. That vision lives on today. DTU has 12,000 students and 6,000 employees. We work in an international atmosphere and have an inclusive, evolving, and informal working environment. Our main campus is in Kgs. Lyngby north of Copenhagen and we have campuses in Roskilde and Ballerup and in Sisimiut in Greenland.