Research Associate in Microbial Synthetic Biology

Edinburgh, UK
Jan 10, 2019
Feb 09, 2019
Contract Type
Full Time

A 2 year, fixed term postdoctoral appointment is available within the School of Engineering at the University of Edinburgh to work on the automatic engineering of synthetic microbial promoters.

As part of this project, the successful candidate will develop a microfluidics-based platform to perform high-throughput cell screening and will liaise with the Edinburgh Genome Foundry to build, and automatically model, large libraries of synthetic inducible promoters.

They will combine machine learning and computational optimisation to predict promoter strength, leakiness and automatically optimise promoter design to meet set specifications (e.g. maximise fold induction, minimise response time). They will also build a promoter to maximise sensitivity/specificity of transgene expression.

The ideal candidate should have a PhD with a background in Engineering or Computer Science and previous experience with techniques/protocols in Cell Biology and Microscopy. Experience with microfluidic device fabrication is desirable.

This post is full time and fixed term for 2 years.

1. Job Details

Job title: Research Associate in Microbial Synthetic Biology
School: School of Engineering
Unit: Institute for Bio-Engineering
Line manager: Dr. Filippo Menolascina

2. Job Purpose

This Research Associate will contribute to the project "Intelligent and automated (re)design of synthetic promoters in microbial cells" within the Institute for Bio-Engineering at the University of Edinburgh, funded by EPSRC.

3. Main Responsibilities

  • Undertake research related to Synthetic Biology. This will entail both independent research work and working in collaboration with other researchers on the "Intelligent and automated (re)design of synthetic promoters in microbial cells." The successful candidate will proactively engage with collaborating researchers to identify fruitful lines of research in this area with a view to understanding, defining, and quantifying. (60%)
  • Dissemination of research findings through internal reports, conference proceedings, and journal publications. (15%)
  • Liaison with and support of colleagues on the EPSRC funded research project, possibly including domestic and international travel and support of meetings at the University of Edinburgh and abroad. (10%)
  • Develop plans for personal research and contribute to wider development of group strategy to identify and agree priorities for current and future work. (5%)
  • Contribute to writing bids to win ongoing research grants. Provide guidance to other staff and students interested in integrating methods/results from this work into their own activity to ensure the most effective use, particularly within the University of Edinburgh. (10%)

  • 4. Planning and Organising

    • Work with the Line Manager to define and plan a programme of relevant research work to produce publishable results within appropriate timescales
    • Work independently to plan a schedule of tasks to ensure that the work of the projects progresses according to the agreed overall timetable
    • Organise own time so that different aspects of the project can proceed in parallel giving due consideration to the needs of other members of the team
    • Be proactive in interacting with project partners to share data and ideas
    • Take a leadership role in regular project meetings to report and review progress, and to generate new ideas and lines of research
    • Determine the aims, objectives and deadlines for short to medium term work plan, in discussion with the Line Manager (particularly for medium term planning)
    • Contribute to long-term strategic planning and development of group activities, in discussion with the Line Manager and other researchers

    5. Problem Solving

    • Be resourceful in overcoming problems encountered in the development of new approaches and the implementation of existing techniques in the normal course of the research
    • Define the methodology to solve the problems in the project
    • Work in close co-operation with the other project investigators, project partners, technical staff, and PhD students working on the project to resolve problems as required

    6. Decision Making

    • The post-holder should be able to organise their work schedule to ensure satisfactory progress and to meet the demands (where realistic) of other project partners, PhD students, etc. The successful candidate will play an important role as a member of the team in making daily decisions about their own plan of work and the allocation of time and resources
    • Manage day-to-day work load, making independent decisions about immediate priorities to meet short and medium term targets that have been agreed with Line Manager

    7. Key Contacts/Relationships

    Frequent (daily to weekly) contact with other researchers in the project team and relevant research groups including academic staff, other postdoctoral researchers and PhD students

    Regular (weekly to monthly) contact with other researchers working on relevant problems in the University of Edinburgh

    Regular (typically monthly) contact with key stakeholders, likely to include industry

    8. Knowledge, Skills and Experience Needed for the Job

    • A good undergraduate degree and a PhD in Engineering, Mathematics, Physics or Computer Science or a clearly related area, with a focus on Systems/Synthetic Biology, or a closely related area
    • Proven track record of research in Engineering, with a specific focus on modelling or a closely related area
    • Experience in delivering research project results in an Engineering context; i.e. a record of peer-reviewed journal and conference papers in a relevant area
    • Capable of working collaboratively with researchers from different disciplines or technical backgrounds
    • Capable of working independently, exercising a high degree of initiative and demonstrating a pro-active and flexible approach to work
    • Ability to work under pressure and meet agreed milestones
    • Ability to develop and maintain effective working relationships
    • Good time-keeping and time-management, with associated effective prioritisation of tasks
    • Good communication skills; oral, writing and presentation of data
    • Ability to contribute ideas and initiate new ways of working

    • Ability to be adaptive and accepting of new ideas and a willingness to approach new challenges and adjust plans to meet new priorities
    • Practical experience of working in the Biotechnology industry

    9. Dimensions

    • Potential to help supervise up to 2 PhD students and 2-4 Masters project students
    • Work collaboratively with other RA's, industrial and academic partners, PhD students from the participating and related groups and researchers from other universities
    • Responsibility for regular progress reporting to project partners
    • Keep line manager up-to-date with progress
    • Contribute to interactions between immediate group and broader communities working in the fields of Systems and Synthetic Biology

    Job Context and any other relevant information

    Throughout the project the post-holder will benefit from multiple contacts in academia and industry, including partners on the project.

    Application Procedure

    All applicants should apply online by clicking the apply link at the bottom of this page via our Vacancy Website and submitting an up to date CV. The application process is quick and easy to follow, and you will receive email confirmation of safe receipt of your application. The online system allows you to submit a CV and other attachments.

    Closing date is 5pm GMT on 18 January 2019.

    Eligibility to Work

    In accordance with the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 and Immigration Act 2016 the University of Edinburgh, as an employer, has a legal responsibility to prevent illegal working and therefore must check that all employees are entitled to work in the United Kingdom (UK).

    To do so, the University requires to see original documents evidencing right to work in the UK before commencement of employment and this is normally carried out at interview. Details will be provided in any letter of invitation to interview.

    For further information on eligibility to work please visit our eligibility to work webpage

    If you are from outside the EEA and not currently eligible to work in the UK, there are visa routes that may be available to you, for example:

  • Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent): If you are an academic in the field of sciences; humanities; engineering; medicine; digital technology; or the arts, it may be possible for you to apply for a Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa. This route requires you to apply to be endorsed as an internationally recognised leader or emerging leader in your particular field by a designated competent body (Arts Council England, British Academy, Royal Academy of Engineering, Royal Society, Tech City UK). However, if you are applying for a senior academic role, e.g. Professor/Reader there is an accelerated route to endorsement. Further information can be found on the UKVI website
  • Tier 2: The University is a UKVI licensed sponsor and is able to issue a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to successful candidates who are offered highly skilled roles and meet the eligibility criteria. The CoS enables candidates to apply for a Tier 2 (general visa).

  • Further information about whether you require a visa and other visa routes can be found at:

    Conditions of Employment

    Pension Scheme

    This role is grade UE07 and therefore the post holder is automatically included in membership of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), subject to the USS membership criteria, unless they indicate that they choose not to join the Scheme.

    For further information please visit our Pensions website .


    The role is grade UE07 and attracts an annual salary of £33,199 to £39,609 for 35 hours, each week. Salary is paid monthly by direct transfer to your Bank or Building Society account, normally on the 28th of the month.

    The University reserves the right to vary the candidate information or make no appointment at all. Neither in part, nor in whole does this information form part of any contract between the University and any individual.
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