PhD in Biocatalysis (1.0 FTE)

University of Groningen
April 13, 2024
Offerd Salary:€ 2,770
Working address:N/A
Contract Type:Other
Working Time:Full time
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PhD in Biocatalysis (1.0 FTE) (V24.0161) Job description

Are you enthusiastic about enzymes and tailoring them for applications in synthetic organic chemistry?

We are looking for a highly motivated and enthusiastic PhD student with strong backgrounds in chemistry, biochemistry, biotechnology or closely related fields to join the research group of Dr Sandy Schmidt, (https:// schmidt- at the Department of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Biology (https: // www. within the Groningen Research Institute of Pharmacy (GRIP). The position is funded for four years by the recently awarded ERC Starting grant ‘ReCNNSTRCT'.

Biocatalysis uses enzymes to replace traditional catalysts. This technology has already established sustainable enzymatic approaches across various industrial sectors and led to economic and environmental benefits. Despite the growing impact of biocatalysis in industrial chemistry, the full potential of this technology is yet to be unlocked. Important current limitations are the following: i) only a limited set of chemical reactions is amenable to biocatalysis; and ii) the unique enzymology encoded in the genome of organisms is yet only minimally explored.

In this context, we are interested in decoding novel reaction chemistries from the underexploited family of N-N bond-forming enzymes (NNZYMES), while tackling reactions that are difficult to realize by traditional chemical approaches and currently not feasible by enzyme catalysis. With this, we intend to build important molecules such as precursors for pharmaceuticals. A particular focus thereby lies on enzymes from natural product biosynthetic gene clusters that catalyze unique chemical reactions, but are tremendously underexplored as sustainable biocatalysts in the chemical industry. Although their native reactions have recently been investigated, the lack of knowledge on how these enzymes perform challenging reactions hinders a systematical exploration of their reactivity toward non-natural substrates and transformations.

To fill this knowledge gap, in this PhD project we will extend the toolbox of NNZYMES as novel biocatalysts to access various N-N bond-containing compounds. In the laboratory, we thereby combine bioinformatic analysis with enzyme biochemistry, organic chemistry, instrumental analysis, and protein engineering to elucidate diverse N-N bond-forming reaction chemistries.

The research group of Dr. Schmidt is embedded in the Chemical and Pharmaceutical Biology unit at the Groningen Research Institute of Pharmacy, which provides an inspiring, interdisciplinary and collaborative research environment.

Founded in 1614, the University of Groningen enjoys an international reputation as a dynamic and innovative center of higher education offering high-quality teaching and research. Flexible study programmes and academic career opportunities in a wide variety of disciplines encourage the 36,000 students and researchers alike to develop their own individual talents. As one of the best research universities in Europe, the University of Groningen has joined forces with other top universities and networks worldwide to become a truly global center of knowledge. The Faculty of Science and Engineering (FSE) is the largest faculty within the University. We offer first-rate education and research in a wide range of science and engineering disciplines. Our community has an open and informal character with students and staff from around the world.

The research group Chemical and Pharmaceutical Biology (CPB) within GRIP consists of an enthusiastic group of researchers from different parts of the world. The scientific staff currently includes two full professors, one associate professor, and four assistant professors. In addition, five postdocs, four technicians and >25 PhD students are members of the research group. A strong research focus of CPB is on the creation of superior biocatalysts for the sustainable production of pharmaceuticals.


The ideal candidate for this project is an experimental chemist, with affinity or interest in biocatalysis, bioinformatics and protein engineering.

Your profile includes:

  • a Master degree in chemistry, biotechnology, biochemistry or related field
  • ability to work in an international team
  • inter- and multidisciplinary thinking
  • high motivation
  • an integrative and cooperative personality with excellent communication and social skills
  • fluency in English – written and oral.
  • Organisation Conditions of employment

    We offer you, in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities:

  • a salary of € 2,770 gross per month in the first year, up to a maximum of € 3,539 gross per month in the fourth and final year
  • a full-time position (1.0 FTE)
  • a holiday allowance of 8% of gross annual income
  • an 8.3% end-of-the-year allowance.
  • The successful candidate will first be offered a temporary position of one year with the option of renewal for another three years. Prolongation of the contract is contingent on sufficient progress in the first year to indicate that successful completion of the PhD thesis within the next three years is to be expected. A PhD training program is part of the agreement and the successful candidate will be enrolled in the Graduate School of Science and Engineering.

    The conditions of employment: https: // www.

    The planned starting date is June/July 2024, however, there is some flexibility in the starting date.


    You may apply until 14 April 11:59pm / before 15 April 2024 Dutch local time (CET) for this position by means of the online application form (click on "Apply" below on the advertisement on the university website).

    Applications for the position should include (as a single PDF file):

  • cover letter with background and motivation to apply for this position
  • curriculum vitae, including details of Bachelor and Master degrees, lab work experience and a publication list, if applicable
  • short description of previous research experience
  • contact details of 2 references who can provide information on your suitability for the position.
  • The University of Groningen strives to be a university in which students and staff are respected and feel at home, regardless of differences in background, experiences, perspectives, and identities. We believe that working on our core values of inclusion and equality are a joint responsibility and we are constructively working on creating a socially safe environment. Diversity among students and staff members enriches academic debate and contributes to the quality of our teaching and research. We therefore invite applicants from underrepresented groups in particular to apply. For more information, see also our diversity policy webpage: https: // www. strategy/diversity-and-inclusion/

    Our selection procedure follows the guidelines of the Recruitment code (NVP): https: // www. and European Commission's European Code of Conduct for recruitment of researchers: https: //

    We provide career services for partners of new faculty members moving to Groningen.

    Unsolicited marketing is not appreciated.


    For information you can contact:

  • Dr Sandy Schmidt,
  • Please do not use the e-mail address(es) above for applications.

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