Research Scientist in Synthetic Biology

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Job description and selection criteria

Job title

Research Scientist in Synthetic Biology

Research topic

Nutraceuticals and Pharmaceuticals by Synthetic Biology

Principal Investigator

Professor Luet Wong


Building A, 388 Ruo Shui Road, Dushu Lake Science and Education Innovation District, Suzhou Industrial Park, Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, China

Grade and salary

A competitive remuneration package will apply


Full time

Contract type

Fixed-term (3 years), with the possibility of extension

Technical skills

Molecular biology, biosynthetic pathway assembly, synthetic biology, biocatalysis, biotransformation

Vacancy reference


Additional information

The post is available from 20 August 2020 or as soon as possible thereafter.


Overview of the role

The OSCAR post-doctoral Research Scientist (RS) will lead the synthetic biology research program on the de novo biosynthesis of sesquiterpenes and diterpenes in microorganisms such as E. coli and yeast, and their functionalization by oxygenase enzymes to natural as well as novel compounds with desirable biological activity. Target compounds include those with applications in the food, agricultural, nutraceutical and pharmaceutical industries. The RS will work with, and is supported by, a Research Technician (RT) to assemble terpene biosynthesis pathway genes and optimize the systems and culture conditions to maximize the production of sesquiterpenes and diterpenes. The terpenes will be functionalized by natural and engineered oxygenase enzymes both in vitro and in whole cells. The product profiles will be analyzed by standard GC-MS and LC-MS methods. Specific products will be isolated and characterized from preparative scale reactions and eventually to larger scale production of target compounds. The ability and willingness to participate in technology transfer to industrial partners is essential.

The post is tenable for three years starting 20 August 2020. The RS will report to Professor Luet Wong, the PI of the program.




  1. Manage own research and small-scale project management, co-ordinate multiple aspects of work to meet deadlines.
  2. Design and assembly of terpene biosynthesis pathway genes in the most appropriate and efficient construction for high level terpene production.
  3. Optimization of terpene production in cultures. Screening and engineering of oxygenases for terpene functionalization.
  4. Adapt existing and develop new techniques and experimental protocols.
  5. Use specialist scientific equipment in a laboratory environment.
  6. Test hypotheses and analyse results from a variety of experiments, reviewing and refining working hypotheses as appropriate to advance the project.
  7. Collaborate in the preparation of scientific reports and journal articles.
  1. Supervisory role for technicians and visiting students associated with the program.
  1. Represent the research group at external meetings/seminars, either with other members of the research team or alone.

Selection criteria


  1. Hold a PhD in synthetic biology or molecular biology (or have submitted a PhD thesis prior to taking up the appointment).
  2. Research experience in microbiology, molecular biology, and biosynthetic pathway assembly in E. coli or yeast.
  3. Research experience in biotransformation in shake flasks and, ideally, in bioreactors.
  4. Knowledge of and preferably research experience in analytical techniques such as GC-MS and LC-MS.
  5. Knowledge of methods of chemical characterization.
  6. Experience in research supervision, e.g. of graduate students and technicians.
  7. Excellent communication skills in English, in writing and in oral presentations.
  8. Be able to demonstrate competence and success in the thesis research area (and postdoctoral work if appropriate). Evidence will be sought of a deep understanding of the applicant's previous fields of research and evidence of independent intellectual and practical contributions to previous research projects, as indicators that such attributes can be brought to bear on the present project.
  9. Be a motivated, enthusiastic, organised member of a team who can work with a minimum of supervision but at the same time extract the benefits of an excellent research environment.
  10. Show the ability to work supportively in a laboratory environment and take part in joint projects through co-operation and the exchange of information, skills and reagents.
  11. Be able to keep detailed laboratory records and report on progress at regular intervals.



  1. Have an excellent general knowledge of biocatalysis through reading of the literature, online database searching, and attendance at seminars and conferences.
  2. Be willing to learn new techniques and apply them in an interdisciplinary research environment to expand and improve technical and theoretical knowledge.
  3. Have a track record of delivering research objectives against deadlines.

University of Oxford – Oxford Suzhou Centre for Advanced Research

Molecular Science Group

Up to six research and research-support positions available

Supervisors: Professors Mark Moloney, Jeremy Robertson, Luet Wong

Applications are invited for up to six positions within the Molecular Science Group at the University of Oxford’s newly-opened multidisciplinary research centre in China: the Oxford Suzhou Centre for Advanced Research (OSCAR). This is an exciting opportunity to establish and develop research activities in brand new laboratories fully-equipped and resourced for synthetic biology, organic synthesis, and materials chemistry. The work will be done in collaboration with research groups in Oxford and there will be the opportunity to undertake 1–2-month research visits there.

OSCAR was created as a partnership between the University of Oxford and the Suzhou Industrial Park The building comprises 20,000 m2 of space distributed over nine floors and will house translational collaborative research originating from twelve academic research groups from the University of Oxford’s Departments of Chemistry, Engineering Science, and Materials. Researchers in the Molecular Science Group (PIs: Moloney, Robertson, Wong) have dedicated brand new office and laboratory space, with adjacent analytical and spectroscopic equipment, including 400 MHz NMR, IR, UV, GC, analytical and preparative SFC-MS, GPC, and surface analytical and processing instrumentation. Further details and an image gallery are available at

We will appoint up to four Research Scientists (RS) at the post-doctoral level and up to two Research Technicians (RT). If suitably qualified and experienced candidates present themselves, one each of the RS and RT positions will be made at the Senior level with an appropriate increase in responsibility and salary. Each position is tenable for 36 months in the first instance, with the possibility of extension. Further positions will become available in due course. Successful RS applicants will be expected to manage their own research, work collaboratively with other members of the team, and conduct all experimental work in accordance with all safety regulations in force within OSCAR.

Synthetic Biology (1 x RS)                                                       

The project requires one RS to assemble and optimise the biosynthesis pathways for sesquiterpenes and diterpenes in E. coli and yeast for their production and subsequent functionalisation for the synthesis of fine chemicals and compounds with desirable biological activity. Applicants should have extensive experience in assembling and optimising metabolic pathways to maximise production of target compounds by synthetic biology, and have a PhD in molecular or synthetic biology, or should have submitted a PhD thesis in this area prior to taking up the appointment. Further details are available for download here and informal enquiries may be made to Professor Wong via email:

Organic Synthesis (2 x RS)                                                      

The project requires two RS in the first instance to develop the use of C–H hydroxylating enzymes for a variety of synthetic chemistry applications. Applicants should have significant expertise in organic synthesis with a demonstrated ability to design and execute multistep routes to structurally-diverse and stereochemically defined organic molecules; extensive expertise in compound isolation, purification, and spectroscopic analysis (especially NMR) will be essential. Applicants should have a PhD in synthetic organic chemistry, or should have submitted a PhD thesis in this area prior to taking up the appointment. Further details are available for download here and informal enquiries may be made to Professor Robertson via email:

Materials Chemistry (1 x RS)                                                   

One RS position is available in Professor Moloney’s research group in the area of synthetic and materials chemistry. The projects relate to the development of novel surface modification and polymerisation methodologies using carbene reagents and require a skilled organic chemist with an interest in surface, material and polymer applications. Candidates should have a PhD in synthetic organic chemistry, or should have submitted a PhD thesis in this area prior to taking up the appointment. Relevant publications: RSC Advances 2017, 7, 29645; Macromolecules 2017, 50, 1422; RSC Advances 2016, 6, 111276; Langmuir 2016, 32, 7917; Langmuir 2015, 31, 11086. Further details are available for download here.

Research Technicians (2 x RT)                                                   

One RT is required to provide technical support for the RS team on enzyme variant expression in E. coli, enzyme isolation, in vitro and in vivo biotransformation, product analysis, and smooth running of the research effort by maintaining stocks of reagents and minor equipment. A second RT is required for the management and upkeep of the suite of the Molecular Science Group’s analytical equipment; if appropriate, appointment at Senior RT level will be considered for which the remit will extend more widely within OSCAR and may include supporting the Environmental Health and Safety Supervisor. Further details are available for download here.

How to apply Applicants should submit a covering letter and CV in English as a PDF attachment by email to before the closing date of 12:00 midday on 29th March 2019. The email subject should specify the title of the post for which you are applying and you must include your full name and telephone number.



Recruitment Office

Oxford Suzhou Centre for Advanced Research


OSCAR website: