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PhD position (ESR1) Synthetic Biology/Strain engineering in MSCA-ITN ConCO2rde (221010)

Job description

ESR 1 | Synthetic biology to streamline the metabolism of C. necator toward the production of rare amino acids and proteins

The H2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) – Innovative Training Network (ITN) “ConCO2rde” (Training network on the conversion of CO2 by smart autotrophic biorefineries) aims to develop processes for the utilisation of renewable resources by CO2-fixing microorganisms. The ConCO2rde EJD will train 11 ESRs in cutting edge research projects on (i) the combination of synthetic biology approaches with metabolic and process engineering to create an efficient route from CO2 fixation to the production of chemicals, (ii) H2/CO2/O2-based fermentation and process intensification in order to optimise commercially relevant processes together with industry, (iii) defining a road-map for the industrial implementation of autotrophic biotransformations. The double degree programme allows in-depth training in two complementary disciplines, further strengthened by a transferable skills training with strong industry participation. The ConCO2rde consortium consists of one translational institute, six universities, nine industrial partners and one cluster, providing the ideal environment to foster complementary expertise in synthetic biology, metabolic engineering, biocatalysis, process engineering and analytics.

The main part of your PhD research (4 years in total) will be carried out at the University of Groningen (RUG, the Netherlands) under the supervision of Assist. Prof. Dr. Sandy Schmidt in the Department of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Biology at the GRIP. Within these four years, an academic research stay (6 months) will take place at the Rheinisch Westfaelische Technische Hochschule Aachen (RWTH, Germany) under the supervision of Prof. Lars M. Blank. Additionally, an industrial secondment at the company LegenDairy Foods GmbH (Berlin, Germany) is foreseen. The H2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) – Innovative Training Network (ITN) project starts in January 2021. The date of recruitment and start of the PhD project is planned for May 2021 and latest on December 2021. Your PhD degree will be awarded based on successful completion of the research work from two universities (RUG, the Netherlands and RWTH, Aachen). You will also be required to participate in the training events and workshops organised by the ITN-European Joint Doctorates (EJD) programme. As a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) fellow, you are also expected to contribute your time in the dissemination of your PhD project’s result through public engagement and other scientific platforms.

The PhD research will focus on:
(i) interdisciplinary project on synthetic biology, biocatalysis, metabolic engineering
(ii) strain engineering based on CRISPR-Cas
(iii) characterisation of engineered strains in small-scale cultures under autotrophic and heterotrophic conditions
(iv) metabolite analysis (academic secondment)
(v) development of fed-batch process together with industry partner.

Primary supervisor: Dr. Sandy Schmidt (
Recruiting Institution: University of Groningen (the Netherlands)
Double degree awarding institution: Rheinisch Westfaelische Technische Hochschule Aachen (Germany)


• an outstanding MSc degree in Synthetic Biology, Biological chemistry, Biotechnology, Biochemistry, or related field
• eligible as a graduate student at University of Groningen, the Netherlands
• at the time of recruitment, the applicant must not have resided (or carried out his/her main activity e.g. work, studies, etc.) in the Netherlands, for more than 12 months in the last three years immediately prior to the reference recruitment date
• research experience in molecular biology (molecular cloning, DNA/RNA extraction, PCR, gel electrophoresis), analytical methods (HPLC, GC, MS, NMR etc.), experience in CRISPR technology is a plus
• ability to work in an international team
• inter- and multidisciplinary thinking
• high motivation
• an integrative and cooperative personality with excellent communication and social skills
• fluency in English – written and oral.


Since its founding in 1614, the University of Groningen has enjoyed an international reputation as a dynamic and innovative centre of higher education offering high-quality teaching and research. We encourage the 36,000 students and researchers to develop their own individual talents. Among the best research universities in Europe, we join forces with prestigious partner universities and networks around the world, the University of Groningen is truly an international place of knowledge.

The Faculty of Science and Engineering (FSE) is the largest faculty within the University. We offer first-rate education and research in a wide range of science and engineering disciplines, from classical disciplines such as mathematics, astronomy, physics, chemistry and mechanical engineering, to interdisciplinary fields such as artificial intelligence, computer science, pharmacy and material science. Our community has an open and informal character with students and staff from around the world.

The position we offer will be embedded in the Groningen Research Institute of Pharmacy (GRIP) within the Department of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Biology (CBP,
Researchers at GRIP strive to find new and innovative drugs and therapies and wish to improve the use of existing drugs. Bridging the gap between the fundamental natural sciences (such as chemistry and physics) and the medical/clinical sciences in the field of medicinal products is one of the core activities of the institute. The CPB Department is represented by an enthusiastic group of researchers from different parts of the world. The cell as producer and target for pharmaceuticals is the main part of the research at CBP.

Conditions of employment

We offer you in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities:

• a salary starting from a minimum of € 2,395 to a maximum of € 3,061 gross per month (salary scale P)
• a full-time position (1.0 FTE)
• a holiday allowance of 8% gross annual income
• an 8.3% end-of-year bonus and participation in a pension scheme for employees.

The 1.0 FTE appointment is temporary for a specified period of four years. The preferred starting date is between 1 May and 1 July 2021.


To apply for the position, kindly provide:

(i) a letter of motivation including a statement of your research interests, relevant skills and experience
(ii) a CV including publication list and
(iii) names and contact details of three referees willing to write confidential letters of recommendation.

Please upload applications only according to instructions at Address applications to: Dr. Sandy Schmidt

You may apply for this position until January 31st 2021 (11:59pm Dutch local time) by means of the electronic application form on the project website (

Please follow this link to access the application homepage:

Interviews are in the first week of March 2021.

We are an equal opportunity employer and value diversity at our University. We are committed to building a diverse faculty so you are encouraged to apply. Our selection procedure follows the guidelines of the Recruitment code and European Commission's: European Code of Conduct for recruitment of researchers.

Unsolicited marketing is not appreciated.


For information you can contact:

  • Dr Sandy Schmidt,

Please do not use the e-mail address(es) above for applications.