PhD scholarship in Enzyme catalysed degradation of plastic

Thursday 06 Feb 20

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The PhD program will be conducted at the Section for Protein Chemistry & Enzyme Technology (PCET), which is one of four research sections at the Department of Biotechnology and Bioengineering. The research at PCET aims to attain new knowledge within protein- and enzyme-structure function relations, enzyme-substrate interactions, biocatalytic mechanisms, conversion of energy relations and kinetics, and on enzyme-protein robustness and stability.


Responsibilities and tasks

The PhD student will be part of a research group that focuses on the use of enzymes for breakdown of plastics, particularly polyester. The group is headed by Prof. Peter Westh, based at PCET and its research is conducted in close collaboration with Novozymes A/S. Polyester is obviously not a natural substrate, but in some cases, it has been shown that enzymes may catalyse its hydrolysis into the constituent monomers. This has generated some hopes of biological remedies for the escalating accumulation of plastic in the environment, but the catalytic efficacies observed so far have been moderate. In order to understand this and form the basis for the design of more efficient plastic degrading enzymes, we need a better understanding of the enzymatic reaction as it occurs on the surface of the plastic particle.  


Our work on plastic degrading enzymes covers different experimental and bioinformatic activities. The current PhD program will focus on the development of assays and kinetic models that can be used for comparative analyses of different enzyme families, and the identification of rate limiting steps. This will include the use of different chromatographic and spectroscopic measurements and subsequent kinetic analysis of results both in the steady-state and transient time regimes. In later parts of the project, the obtained mechanistic insights will be used in attempts to design enzymes with better catalytic efficacies against plastics.  


We are looking for a candidate with a solid background in two or more of the following areas:

  • Enzyme kinetics
  • Physical biochemistry
  • Protein chemistry
  • Protein engineering
  • Enzyme assays (e.g. HPLC, colorimetry, biosensors or rapid mixing methods)
  • Kinetic modeling
  • Expression and purification of enzymes

We expect that you are an efficient team worker, have good communication skills, and have a critical approach to the formulation and testing of hypotheses. In addition, we appreciate a good sense of humor.


Candidates 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. The MSc program should be in biological chemistry, biochemistry, molecular biology or biotechnology.


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 Prof. Peter Westh, DTU, Dr. Jenny Bååth, DTU and Science Director Kim Borch, Novozymes.


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 may be obtained from Prof. Peter Westh, DTU Bioengineering, tel.: +45 3091 5488 or email


You can read more about DTU Bioengineering” at and about the PCET section at


Please submit your online application no later than 15 March 2020 (23:59 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 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.


Applications and enclosures received after the deadline will not be considered.

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


DTU Bioengineering (Department of Biotechnology and Biomedicine) is an important contributor to the areas of biotechnology, food technology and human health, through the advances we make in research, technology and innovation and through the training and education of first-class MScs and PhDs in bio-engineering.


Technology for people
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 11,500 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.