Wednesday, 16 November 2022 08:27

Postdoctoral Research Fellow Featured

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Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Synthetic Biology

Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Science of Stellenbosch University

Deadline: 05 December 2022


An exciting opportunity is available for a postdoctoral fellow in synthetic biology. We are looking for candidates with relevant experience in high-throughput (HTP) design-build-test-learn cycles in E. coli, K. pastoris and/or S. cerevisiae to produce valuable enzymes or proteins. Types of activities could include the manual or automated design and construction of expression cassettes, in vitro transcription/translation, host transformation, clonal selection, product screening, genetic parts characterisation, protein/enzyme assay development and optimisation, technical know-how of setting up and integrating HTP equipment/workflows, curating strain and plasmid repositories, preparing buffers and media, stocking consumables, authoring training and protocol documents, etc.

Key duties could include:

  • Design, cloning and assembly of multi-fragment DNA constructs for heterologous protein expression in the aforementioned microbial hosts
  • Perform high-throughput cell-free experiments and workflows
  • Genetic modification and selection of microbial production hosts
  • High-throughput cultivation and screening of microbial production hosts
  • Analysis of data and interpretation of results against model predictions
  • Use of computational tools and databases
  • Learn established workflows and implement improvements
  • Support organisation of training, protocol, and other document development
  • Assist in general lab chores such as solution prep, cleaning, organisation, etc.
  • Maintain a laboratory notebook, track and QC data
  • Attend seminars and participate in group and project meetings and lab activities

The fellowship is available for a minimum period of one year starting in 2023 and is renewable for a maximum duration of 2 years, depending on performance. A minimum scholarship of ZAR350 000 per annum is available for this position and provided that the necessary procedures are put in place, this amount will be free of income tax. Please note that postdoctoral fellows are not appointed as employees and are therefore not eligible for employee benefits.


The research work falls within the Microbial Biotechnology theme of the Departments of Microbiology and Process Engineering at Stellenbosch University. The research groups are collaborating with public and private funders on the development of a high-throughput protein engineering and production platform. The postdoctoral researcher will be expected to contribute significantly to the following:

  • Effective completion of assigned experimental tasks, with rapid progress and high-quality outputs
  • Technical advisory to other researchers in the group, where appropriate and required
  • Coordination of research activities between partners in the project
  • Developing new areas of research within the research group
  • Writing new funding proposals to sustain research activities
  • Management of laboratory equipment and space
  • Publication of research outputs from current and previous projects in high-quality international journals

Required qualifications and skills

Minimum qualification:

PhD in Synthetic Biology, Microbiology, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, or a related field, obtained within the past five years, with preferably 3 years of relevant experience in a laboratory setting.

Any combination of the following minimum skills will be highly preferred:

  • Hands-on experience in cloning and assembly of DNA and growth of microbes combined with setting up and integrating HTP workflows
  • Demonstrated experience with designing, executing, and reporting cell-free experiments
  • Experience with protein reporter, detection, and/or quantification approaches
  • Proficient in working with laboratory automation software and/or programming. Protocol design and programming of liquid handling systems
  • Use of DNA design software, word processing, data collaboration tools, presentation and spreadsheet applications, and familiarity with concepts in statistics and tools to analyse data

Additionally, applicants are required to have/be:

  • Strong organisational, time management, record keeping, and prioritisation skills
  • Independent, hard-working, and highly self-motivated
  • Excellent communication and interpersonal relationship skills
  • Ability to maintain a positive attitude when faced with challenges
  • Desire to work in a team and assist other team members
  • Ability to conduct research independently and manage multiple tasks in parallel


Please include (1) a cover letter, (2) Curriculum Vitae (including all research outputs), (3) complete academic transcripts, (4) degree certificates and (5) the contact details of at least three academic references. All documents should be merged into a single PDF and attach to the application. Incomplete applications will not be considered.

Applications should be sent to:

Dr Heinrich Volschenk

Department of Microbiology

Stellenbosch University

Private Bag X1

Matieland, 7602, South Africa

email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Closing date: 5 December 2022

The university reserves the right not to fill the position.

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