Senior Research Scientist- Synthetic biology and single cell biology

Senior Research Scientist in Synthetic biology and single cell biology


Job description and selection criteria

Job title

Senior Research Scientist in Synthetic biology and single cell biology

Research topic

Synthetic biology and single cell biology


Environment and Biotechnology

Reporting to

Professor Wei Huang

Group website

Salary Range

A competitive remuneration package will apply


Full time

Contract type

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

Start date

15 March,  2021

Application closing date

1st March, 2021

Vacancy reference


Additional information



The role

The group is focused on single cell biotechnology and synthetic biology. In OSCAR, single cell biotechnology will be applied to the discovery of novel genes from natural environment and to personalised medicine. Synthetic biology will be applied to medical therapy and bioremediation. Please see above published papers for the background technology.

The vision of single cell Raman biotechnology is that single cell Raman spectra can be regarded as novel phenotype of individual cells, reflecting the physiological state and function of cells. The vision of synthetic biology is that cells are designable from scratch using novel SimCells, which inherits machinery of cells with designed and simplified genomes. SimCells are basically reprogrammable cells without GMO issues.

The main job duties of this post-holder will include: 1) overseeing synthetic biology and systems biology research and supporting single cell biotechnology; 2) developing mathematic models to simulate the performance of gene expression; 3) designing gene circuits for SimCells and predict the performance, 4) applying SimCells to medical diagnosis and therapy and environmental bioremediation.

The research will include two topics: 1) SimCell design using synthetic biology approach for environmental bioremediation, medical diagnosis and therapy. 2) Application of single cell biotechnology to stem cells, cancer cells and bacterial pathogens. The research will work closely with Prof Ian Thompson, Prof Ron Roy, Prof Zhanfeng Cui and Prof Hua Ye in OSCAR, as well as Chinese partners.    



  • Oversee both synthetic biology and single cell biology research in OSCAR and coordinate with Oxford team.
  • Carry out microbiology, molecular biology, cell biology research, including gene manipulations, molecular cloning, protein expression and purification, and analysis of cell physiology.
  • Apply synthetic biology principles and systems biology to SimCell design including genetic circuit and pathway design.
  • Carry out bioinformatics analysis.
  • Characterise SimCells and identify the limiting factors to SimCells functions.
  • Perform ultrasound gene transfer technology, including gene delivery to microbial community.
  • Support the project team in integrating activities across the partner organisations, including liaison between research teams and carry out administrative roles as required.
  • Prepare summary technical and progress review reports for project steering meetings, including preparation and delivery of oral presentations at such meetings.
  • Prepare papers for journals, presentations and other research outputs either in-house or at national/international conferences or seminars, to disseminate research findings.
  • Contribute to the maintenance of the project web pages for the consortium.
  • Provide help to other researchers in the same or related field of research, as requested by the project PI.
  • Read academic papers, journals and textbooks and attend conferences to keep up-to-date with new developments in the field
  • Undertake other duties to be assigned by the project team, as required.
  • Adapt existing and develop new scientific techniques and experimental protocols
  • Test hypotheses and analyse scientific data from a variety of sources, reviewing and refining working hypotheses as appropriate
  • Use specialist scientific equipment in a laboratory environment


Additional duties:

  • Coordinate OSCAR activity with PI and Oxford research team, in particular the synthetic biology team lead by Professors Ian Thompson, Ron Roy, Zhanfeng Cui and Hua Ye.
  • Manage own academic research and administrative activities. This involves small scale project management, to co-ordinate multiple aspects of work to meet deadlines.
  • Contribute ideas for new research projects.
  • Develop ideas for generating research income, and present detailed research proposals to senior researchers.
  • Collaborate in the preparation of scientific reports and journal articles and occasionally present papers and posters.
  • Act as a source of information and advice to other members of the group on scientific protocols and experimental techniques.
  • Represent the research group at external meetings/seminars, either with other members of the group and collaborative industrial partners.
  • Carry out collaborative projects with colleagues in partner institutions, and research groups and in particular with industry.
  • The post may have the opportunity to teach or undertake ad-hoc paid teaching (this includes lecturing, demonstrating, small-group teaching, tutoring of undergraduates and graduate students and supervision of Masters projects in collaboration with principal investigators). Permission must be sought in advance for each opportunity and the total must not exceed 4 hours a week.


Selection criteria


  • Strong background on molecular microbiology or biochemistry or cell biology.
  • Good background on synthetic biology and systems biology.
  • Hold a relevant PhD/DPhil (or be near completion), together with relevant experience
  • Possess sufficient specialist knowledge in the discipline to work within established research programmes and help train/supervise junior members of the lab.
  • Ability to manage own academic research and associated activities
  • Previous experience of contributing to publications/presentations
  • Ability to contribute ideas for new research projects and research income generation
  • Excellent communication skills, including the ability to write for publication, present research proposals and results, and represent the research group at meetings



  • Experience and good record on synthetic biology and systems biology.
  • Experience on single cell biology.
  • Familiar with bioinformatics and gene/protein data analysis.
  • Experience of independently managing a discrete area of a research project
  • Experience of actively collaborating in the development of research articles for publication


Recent publications

  • Xu, J., Zhu, D., Ibrahim, A.D., Allen, C.R., Gibson, C.M. Fowler, P.W., Song, Y. Huang, W.E. (2017) Raman-DIP (Deuterium Isotope Probing) reveals microbial metabolism at the single-cell level. Analytical Chemistry 89:13305-13312.
  • Rampley, C.P.N., Davison, P.A., Qian, P., Preston, G.M., Hunter, C.N., Thompson, P.I., Wu, L.J., Huang, W.E. (2017) Development of SimCells as a novel chassis for functional biosensors. Scientific Reports 7: 7261.
  • Song, Y., Kaster, A., Vollmers, J., Song, Y., Davison, P.A., Frentrup, M., Preston, G.M., Thompson, I.P., Murrell, J.C., Yin, H., Hunter, C.N., Huang, W.E. (2017) Single cell genomics based on Raman sorting reveals novel carotenoid-containing bacteria in the Red Sea. Microbial Biotechnology. 10:125-137. (Top 1% paper in Web Science)
  • Berry, D., Mader, E., Woebken, D., Wang, Y., Zhu, D., Lee, T.K. Palatinszky, M., Schintlmeister, A., Schmid, M., Shterzer, N., Mizrahi, I., Rauch, I., Decker, T., Bocklitzg, T., Popp, J., Gibson, C.M., Fowler, P.W., Huang, W.E., Wagner, M. (2015) Tracking heavy water (D2O) incorporation for identifying and sorting active microbial cells. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 112:E194-203. (Top 1% paper in Web Science)
  • Li et al., (2012) Rapid resonance Raman microspectroscopy to probe carbon dioxide fixation by single cells in microbial communities. ISME Journal 6:875-885.
  • Song, Y.Z., Hahn, T., Thompson, I.P., Mason, T.J., Preston, G.M., Li, G.H. Paniwnyk, L. and Huang, W.E.*. (2007) Ultrasound-mediated DNA transfer for bacteria. Nucleic Acids Research 35: e129.
  • Yizhi Song, Guanghe Li, Steven F. Thornton, Ian P. Thompson, Steven A. Banwart, David N. Lerner and Huang, W.E.* (2009) Optimization of Bacterial Whole Cell Bioreporters for Toxicity Assay of Environmental Samples. Environmental Science & Technology 43: 7931-7938.
  • Huang, W.E., Wang, H., Zheng, H.J., Huang, L.F., Singer, A.C., Thompson, I., and Whiteley, A.S. (2005) Chromosomally located gene fusions constructed in Acinetobacter sp. ADP1 for the detection of salicylate. Environmental Microbiology 7: 1339-1348.
  • Huang, W.E.*, Griffiths, R.I., Thompson, I.P., Bailey, M.J., and Whiteley, A.S. (2004) Raman microscopic analysis of single microbial cells. Analytical Chemistry 76: 4452-4458.
  • Alkane production - Biodiesel Synthesis by Bacteria, WO2013/128184.



About OSCAR (Oxford Suzhou Centre for Advanced Research)  

OSCAR, the first overseas research centre of the University of Oxford, is working closely with the Suzhou Industrial Park and both academic and industrial collaborators in China to progress a range of exciting societal and economic development opportunities.

As a multidisciplinary research, innovation and technology centre, OSCAR focuses on research challenges and technologies that both complement the Centre’s location in Suzhou Industrial Park and capitalise on current Oxford research strengths. Research will initially be focused around the areas of biomedical engineering, biomedicine, advanced functional materials, electronic / optoelectronic / photonic devices, environmental technology, energy, mathematical and computational applications in finance and in health, and other related science and engineering disciplines.

The Centre is positioned in Suzhou Dushu Lake Science and Education Innovation District (SEID), a district in southern SIP with a high concentration of science, education and innovation activity. SEID is the prototype of higher education internationalization in China which hosts 32 local and foreign universities and institutions. The Centre, housed in a nine-storey building with a gross space of 20,000m2, offers flexible access to facilities for multi-functional activities such as labs, seminars, workshops, training, public events, and administration, etc. 


Guidance for Applicants

Thank you for your interest in applying for posts at the Oxford-Suzhou Centre for Advanced Research (OSCAR). Please read the following tips to help you proceed with the application process.

Before the application: 

Please read carefully the job description and selection criteria for the post for which you are applying at the OSCAR website: to determine whether you have the required skills, knowledge, and experience as advertised. Please DO NOT apply for the posts which are currently unavailable. We typically receive many applications for each post, and so you will need to show in a covering letter how you meet the essential criteria and the desirable criteria in order to be shortlisted for interview.

Required Application documents:

  1. Please submit a covering letter and CV (both in English and in PDF) by email attachment to .
  2. Email subject: the title of the post for which you are applying. 
  3. Email content: please include your contact information, name, telephone number, and any dates for which you would not be available for interview.


Covering letter (no longer than one page)

Use the covering letter to explain your motivation for joining OSCAR, and state how your skills and experience match these requirements. Please provide evidence that you have the skills, knowledge, experience, qualifications that match the requirements of the post. The strongest applications provide examples of previous work that demonstrate how you meet the essential and desirable criteria.  Check your spelling and grammar; successful applications are typically proof-read to give the best impression to the selection panel.


Curriculum Vitae (CV, no longer than 8 pages)

Check that your CV is up-to-date and keep your CV within the page limit.  Highlight the skills and experience that are relevant to the post for which you are applying. Avoid sending a generic CV; the strongest applications are those for which CVs are tailored for the needs of the post for which the candidate is applying.  Give details of your education, employment history, publication record, lists of prizes, and voluntary experience.


After the application:

When you submit an application, the information you supply on your application will be provided to a selection panel, who will use it to assess your suitability for the post against the published selection criteria. You may be contacted via e-mail at any date regarding your application.

Your information is held securely in a database that is owned by OSCAR. The data will not be passed to external organisations or individuals other than those acting in a capacity as agents for OSCAR for software support purposes, or where an external body is party to the recruitment process.

When you submit an application to OSCAR you must confirm that you agree to these Terms and Conditions of Use, including the following declaration. 

  • The information provided in the application materials is true and complete. I understand that any offer of employment may be conditional upon satisfactory screening. 
  • I consent to be contacted by OSCAR at any date regarding my application. 
  • I consent to the information given in this application being stored and processed in accordance with the data protection rules at OSCAR. 

Thank you again for your interest in applying for a post at OSCAR.


Recruitment Office

Oxford Suzhou Centre for Advanced Research