Vacancy Details: Postdoctoral Researcher

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John Innes Centre

JIC is an independent, international centre of excellence in plant science and microbiology. Our mission is to carry out fundamental and strategic research, to train scientists and to make our findings available to society.

The scientific research at the Centre makes use of a wide range of disciplines in the biological and chemical sciences, including cell biology, biochemistry, chemistry, genetics and molecular biology.

The John Innes Centre is proud to hold a Silver Award from Athena SWAN. The Athena SWAN charter recognizes and celebrates good practice in recruiting, retaining and promoting women in the fields of science, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM). JIC was the first research institute to win a Silver Award. For more information, go to https://www.jic.ac.uk/training-careers/athena-swan/

The John Innes Centre is a registered charity (No. 223852), limited by guarantee (registered in England No. 511709) and is an Equal Opportunities Employer.

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Post Number1003247
Job TitlePostdoctoral Researcher
Closing Date6 Jun 2017
GradeSC6
Starting Salary£30,750 - £37,750
Hours per week 37
Project Title Engineering plant-microbe interactions for enhanced nitrogen assimilation
Expected/Ideal Start Date 01 Aug 2017
Months Duration 18
Main purpose of the job The major aim of the project is to engineer closer associations between nitrogen-fixing bacteria and cereals, in which fixed nitrogen is delivered more effectively to the plant. Recent studies with model plant-bacterial associations indicate that strains engineered to excrete ammonium can provide substantial nitrogen to plants. However, the mechanistic basis of ammonia release by diazotrophic bacteria is not fully understood, which hinders optimisation and exploitation of this process for agricultural benefit. The first objective of this proposal is to exploit current knowledge of nitrogen regulation in diazotrophs to engineer strains, which excrete ammonium to benefit crop growth. The second and complementary objective is to engineer a bacterial high-affinity ammonium transporter into crops to improve the efficiency of uptake of the ammonium supplied by the bacteria. Finally, we will assess the influence of these genetic manipulations on plant growth under nitrogen-limiting conditions and their effects on N physiology and nitrogen use efficiency (NUE).
Department Molecular Microbiology
Our holistic approach integrates cellular physiology, molecular genetics (including functional genomics), biochemistry and structural biology. In the Department of Molecular Microbiology we study bacterial metabolism, physiology, gene regulation and development, and plant-bacterial interactions. Major themes of our work on Gram-negative bacteria are the molecular basis of signal transduction in response to various environmental signals and studies on the biology of ammonia channel proteins which are conserved in all domains of life.

The Department's comprehensive Streptomyces programme, studying antibiotic production, morphological differentiation and stress responses, is underpinned by the newly-acquired genome sequence of the model species S. coelicolor, and cutting-edge techniques in functional genomics. Another major research area is the Rhizobium-legume symbiosis where our studies range from bacterial quorum-sensing and plant-bacterial signalling interactions to the developmental responses of plants to their microbial symbionts.

The Department capitalises on the John Innes Centre's emerging strengths in functional genomics, structural biology and advanced cytological techniques, as well as exploiting novel links between research on bacterial and plant processes.
Group Details Nitrogen-fixing bacteria are an essential component of the nitrogen cycle, a biological process that converts atmospheric nitrogen into fixed nitrogen to enable cell growth. The group studies how environmental signals, such as the presence of oxygen, carbon and nitrogen, influence gene expression in nitrogen-fixing bacteria. These signalling mechanisms ensure efficient survival in nitrogen-depleted environments, but also can be potentially manipulated to increase fixed nitrogen supplied to crops.
While nitrogen fertilisers increase crop yields in overworked, nitrogen-depleted soils, they are also a major source of pollution and the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide. The engineering of new nitrogen-fixing bacteria could provide a biologically sustainable source of nitrogen for crops and paves the way for further research to engineer plants that, one day, might be able to fix their own nitrogen from the atmosphere.
Advert Text Applications are invited for a Postdoctoral Researcher to work in the groups of Professor Ray Dixon and Dr Tony Miller at the John Innes Centre.

The major aim of this project is to engineer closer associations between nitrogen-fixing bacteria and cereals, in which fixed nitrogen is delivered more effectively to the plant. The first objective is to exploit current knowledge of nitrogen regulation in diazotrophs to engineer strains, which excrete ammonium to benefit crop growth. The second and complementary objective is to engineer a bacterial high-affinity ammonium transporter into crops to improve the efficiency of uptake of the ammonium supplied by the bacteria. Finally, we will assess the influence of these genetic manipulations on plant growth under nitrogen-limiting conditions and their effects on N physiology and nitrogen use efficiency.

The successful candidate will be an exceptional scientist who has, or expects to soon receive, a PhD in microbiology, biochemistry or a related discipline. The post holder will have a proven track record in prokaryotic gene regulation and ideally will have expertise in both bacterial genetics and plant-microbe interactions. We are looking for a self-motivated and creative individual, who can collaborate effectively as part of a team, but can also work independently to contribute new ideas. The successful candidate must be available to travel to meetings and for short visits to collaborating laboratories in China.

Salary on appointment will be within the range £30,750 to £37,750 per annum depending on qualifications and experience. This post is for a contract of between 16 and 18 months.


Key relationships The postholder will be jointly managed by Ray Dixon and Tony Miller in the design and execution of experiments and the day-to-day running of the laboratory. The post holder will also collaborate with other researchers in the UK and China to deliver key objectives.
Main Activities & ResponsibilitiesPercentage
Perform scientific research on nitrogen assimilation in diazotrophic bacteria and plants80
Present work at meetings and seminars 10
Interact and collaborate with other researchers in CAAS5
Prepare manuscripts for publication5
As agreed with the line manager, any other duties commensurate with the nature of the post

Education & QualificationsRequirementImportance
PhD (full award or expected within 6 months) in Microbiology, Biochemistry or relevant related subject Essential
Previous practical experience in microbiologyEssential
Track record of publications in relevant scientific area Essential

Specialist Knowledge & SkillsRequirementImportance
Expertise in prokaryotic gene regulation Essential
Ability to independently plan and execute experiments Essential
Expertise in high-throughput sequencing technologiesDesirable
Expertise in synthetic biology Desirable
Working in an international context Desirable
Expertise in bacterial metabolism Desirable

Relevant ExperienceRequirementImportance
DNA cloning and sequencing Essential
Bacterial geneticsEssential
Nitrogen fixationDesirable
Plant microbe interactionsDesirable
Bacterial genomicsDesirable

Interpersonal & Communication SkillsRequirementImportance
Excellent communication skills, both written and oral, including the ability to present complex information with clarity Essential
Ability to fully understand the project objectives Essential
Good interpersonal skills, with the ability to work as part of a teamEssential
Ability to prioritise to meet the demands of the groupEssential
Excellent time management and organisational skillsEssential
Ability to collaborate with internal and external stakeholdersEssential
Ability to follow and develop instructions/Standard Operating ProceduresEssential
Promotes and strives for continuous improvementEssential
Self motivated with a demonstrated ability to work independently, using initiative and applying problem solving skillsEssential

Additional RequirementsRequirementImportance
Willingness to embrace the expected values and behaviours of all staff at the Institute, ensuring it is a great place to workEssential
Promotes equality and values diversityEssential
Ability to maintain confidentiality and security of information where appropriate Essential
Work outside of normal working hours when required Essential
Travel to China when required for short visits to collaborating laboratories Essential
Able to present a positive image of self and the Institute, promoting both the international reputation and public engagement aims of the Institute Essential

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