Skip to content

Marie Curie Early Stage Researcher PhD Studentship

Various departments
Based at
University of York - Heslington Campus
Hours of work
Contract status
Fixed term
34,950 - 38,860 a year
Apply by

Role Description

Marie Curie Early Stage Researcher PhD Studentship in ‘Characterizing gene circuits with multi-dimensional optical microscopy’.

Applications are invited for an Early Stage Researcher (ESR) PhD studentship in ‘Characterizing gene circuits with multi-dimensional optical microscopy’ to be funded by Marie-Sklodowska-Curie ETN SynCrop ( Synthetic Circuits for Robust Orthogonal Production, based in the group of Professor Mark Leake ( at the University of York, UK.

SynCrop brings together ten academic partners and six industrial partners from Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Netherlands and UK, spanning expertise in quantitative (single-cell) biology, biophysics, biological chemistry, cell engineering, mathematical modelling and microbial physiology. SynCrop’s main objective is to investigate modular and tuneable synthetic circuits and foster the development of novel production platforms for food additives (e.g. vitamins, carotenoids and exopolysaccharides), and further develop the field of synthetic biology.

You will use single-molecule biosensing to investigate the physical properties of single cells. Cellular responses to changes in their external environment (e.g. conditions of stress) can result in substantial changes in spatial localization, mobility and spatiotemporal dynamics of molecular components inside cells correlated between dynamic physicochemical factors including cellular pH, membrane potential voltage, ATP/ADP, and molecular crowding, only poorly understood using traditional tools. In this project you will tackle this issue by developing/applying innovative experimental biophysics to monitor dynamic molecular properties inside single living cells. These will involve bespoke microfluidics to monitor the same cells over multiple physical, chemical and nutrient pertubations and time durations, and application of home-built super-resolution fluorescence microscopy and computational tools to enable high-speed single-molecule measurements correlated to simultaneous readouts for intracellular factors (see Wollman et al. eLife 2017), with opportunities to also engage in aspects of theoretical modelling. These methods will be applied to model eukaryotic (budding yeast, S. cerevisiae) cell strains developed in our group and by partners of the SynCrop team, in particular involving research secondments to the labs of (i) Stefan Hohmann (Chalmers University, Sweden) for the design and construction of gene regulation circuits in yeast glucose sensing pathways, (ii) Bert Poolman (University of Gronigen, the Netherlands) for the development of single-molecule FRET-based sensors, and (iii) Lothar Terfloth (Insilico Biotechnology AG, Germany) for software modelling of live cell results. These adventurous single cell tools developed will ultimately be applied to synthetic biosensing pathways to determine the effect of physiological changes on their function, and vice versa.

You will conduct research under the supervision of senior colleagues and contribute to the production of research and assist in the identification and development of potential areas of research and the development of proposals for independent or collaborative research projects. You will develop and initiate collaborative working internally and externally, providing guidance to other staff and students. You will write up research results and dissemination through publications, seminar and conference presentations and public engagement and outreach activities.

You will hold a BSc or equivalent in Physics/Biophysics or a related discipline area and ideally an associated Masters or an equivalent level of professional qualifications or experience. Candidates with a degree in the life sciences will also be considered if they can demonstrate excellent aptitude to learning key aspects of biophysics. You will ideally have knowledge of optical physics and experience in experimental biophysics, and possess experience in biophysical apparatus, light microscopy and scientific computation. You will have a strong interest in applying advanced biophysical tools to biological problems. You will need to be able to work independently as well as part of the programme team working on related projects. Excellent communication skills are essential and you should be keen to develop project/team leadership skills, and to establish bridges between the physical and life sciences.

At the time of recruitment you must not yet have been awarded a doctorate degree, and you will be in the first 4 years (full-time equivalent) of your research career. You will be required to undertake trans-national mobility (i.e. move from one country to another) when taking up the appointment. At the time of recruitment, you must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the UK for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to their recruitment (short stays, such as holidays, are not taken into account).

Available from January 2018, this post is full time for 36 months with salary in the range £34,950 to £38,860 a year dependent on individual family circumstances.

Informal email enquiries to Prof Mark Leake are strongly encouraged (email:

Closing date:  8 January 2018

                 Athena Swan Gold        Athena Swan Silver

The University of York is committed to promoting equality and diversity



Forgot password | Register

Why York?

York is one of the most successful universities in the UK.

With world-class activity across the spectrum from the physical sciences, life sciences, and social sciences to the humanities, we have been recognised as one of the top 100 universities in the world, gaining outstanding results in official assessments of our research and teaching.