PhD Studentship in Directed Evolution of Enzymes for Synthesis of Chiral Amines in Microfluidic Droplets

Reference: PH01199
Closing date: 10 October 2013 
Johnson Matthey and Department of Biochemistry

A PhD studentship is available from 1 January 2014 to work at the Biochemistry Department of Cambridge University (with Dr. F. Hollfelder – and at Johnson Matthey (with Dr. Ursula Schell –

The objective of the PhD is to generate enzyme catalysts for organic synthesis of fine chemicals, especially chiral intermediates. We will use directed evolution to expand and adjust the substrate specificity of enzymes involved in industrial biocatalysis and also increase their reaction rates to improve efficiency. To this end we will apply a new ultrahigh-throughput screening system that uses water-in-oil emulsion droplets handled in microfluidic devices as cell-like in vitro compartments that constitute our ‘evolutionary units’. We hope that the unprecedented throughput afforded by this method, we can screen >10e6 clones per hour! together with mechanistic and structural analysis and inspiration from new conceptual ideas emerging from the analysis of Nature’s evolutionary strategy, will bring about useful new enzyme catalysts more quickly than currently possible.

Candidates will be mainly based in the Biochemistry Department (in central Cambridge), with extended secondments at Johnson Matthey’s Cambridge site and thus receive training in a basic science as well as an industrial context.

Applicants should have a first or upper second class degree in chemistry, biochemistry, biotechnology or a related, relevant subject. Specific skills in directed evolution, organic synthesis, cloning and DNA manipulation (including preparation and handling of DNA libraries) are advantages, as is knowledge of microfluidic techniques.

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This project is fully funded by the EPSRC and Johnson Matthey (via a CASE award) for up to 42 months. Studentships are only available to British citizens and citizens of the EU or the European Economic Area. To qualify for the full rate of the studentship UK residency requirements must be met (see If qualifying, the full stipend will be paid at RCUK rates for the 3.5 year duration of the award (£13,590 per annum for 2012-13); fees will be met in full.

For full details please visit the University of Cambridge studentship page via the Apply button below.

Fixed-term: The funds for this post are available for 42 months in the first instance.

Applications should contain a description of your research interests (e.g. as part of the cover letter) and your detailed CV (with exam marks and all relevant practical experience). Please also include the names and email addresses of at least two referees, who know you from your courses or laboratory research work. Send your application by 10 October 2013 by email to For informal enquiries please contact Dr Rachel Cook using the same email address.

Please quote reference PH01199 on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy.

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