Applications are invited for a Post-doctoral Research Associate/Assistant position in the group of Dr Sebastian Schornack at the Sainsbury Laboratory (SLCU), Cambridge University, to study the legume nodule symbiosis. Salary: £34,308-£42,155.

Sainsbury Laboratory Cambridge University (SLCU) is an independently funded research institute focused on increasing understanding of the regulatory systems underlying plant growth and development. SLCU brings together specialists in biological, physical, and mathematical sciences integrating a range of wet-lab experimental research with computational modelling. This interdisciplinary approach is essential for understanding the complex dynamic and self-organising properties of plants.

About the Institute:

SLCU is a young research institute, having opened in 2011 in a purpose-built facility co-located with the Cambridge University Botanic Garden in central Cambridge. It sits within the School of Biological Sciences (SBS) of the University of Cambridge (UoC), and is structured and operates as a non-teaching research institute. SLCU is funded by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation and is overseen by a Management Board. SLCU has close connections with many other UoC departments, including Plant Sciences, Genetics, Biochemistry, Physics, Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, as well as stakeholder networks, such as the CambPlants, Centre for Science and Policy and AgriTech East.

Key information:

SLCU is a community of approximately 160 people, including 85 research scientists, 30 professional and support staff, 25 PhD candidates and 20 visiting students. The Institute is well equipped for pioneering plant science research with a modern 11,000m2 award- winning building that incorporates laboratories, support areas, and meeting spaces, together with the University’s Herbarium, public café and an auditorium where academic symposia and public talks are held.

SLCU has 42 controlled environment growth rooms, 300m2 of growing space under glass, tissue culture rooms and Level 2 Containment facilities. There is an in- house state-of-the-art advanced imaging facility for scientists working on several aspects of plant developmental biology, including live imaging of developing plant tissues, and high-resolution scanning electron microscopy. The Laboratory is also set-up to support advanced bioinformatics, image processing and modelling software development.

The overall goal of this position is to improve nitrogen fixation and, ultimately, field performance in Medicago, soybean, and other legumes by using molecular, genetic, and cell biological approaches.

This research will expand on our recent discovery of a negative regulator of nitrogen fixation in Medicago. As successful candidate you will design and generate constructs for genome editing mediated gene inactivation in Medicago, soybean, and other legumes. You will also investigate gene expression in mutant and wild type plants using RNA-seq approaches, reporter fusions in composite plants, and quantitative PCR.

You will conduct nodulation assays with genetically modified rhizobacteria in Medicago, soybean, cowpea, and other legumes, as well as collect data on nitrogen content, seed yield, protein content, and biomass, and monitor bacterial colonisation using microscopy and histological methods. You will receive horticultural/technical assistance and will be able to collaborate with postdocs studying other aspects of plant-microbe interaction.

You must have or be close to finishing a PhD in a relevant discipline (e.g. plant symbiosis, plant biotechnology or related fields). Previous experience in genome editing/CRISPR and nodule symbiosis is essential. Proficiency in standard molecular cloning (Gateway, GoldenGate) and quantitative PCR and RNAseq analysis is also required.

You will be fully involved in the basic and applied research whilst also writing up your research work for presentation and publication. You may be required to assist in the supervision of student projects and deliver seminars relating to your research area.

Good communication skills are required because you will be working in a team and collaborating with other researchers at the institute as well as a larger, international team of researchers. You should ideally have published (including preprints on sites like Biorxiv) in the field of nitrogen fixing symbiosis. You should have a track record of science communication (e.g. presentations, outreach activities, teaching).

The Laboratory provides a welcoming and collaborative environment with a wide-range of family-friendly benefits and development opportunities and is well connected to other plant research institutes such as the Department of Plant Sciences and the Crop Science Centre.

It is critical that you include a motivational letter with your application, stating your future research interests and how they may align with the advertised project on nitrogen fixing symbiosis. If you have any questions, please contact Sebastian Schornack (via email or Twitter DM). Where a PhD has yet to be awarded the appointment will initially be made at Research Assistant level and amended to Research Associate upon the award of PhD.

The position is available from 1 April 2023 Fixed-term: The funds for this post are available until 30 April 2025 in the first instance. Click the ‘Apply’ button below to register an account with our recruitment system (if you have not already) and apply online.

Please quote reference PT34833 on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy. The University actively supports equality, diversity and inclusion and encourages applications from all sections of society. The University has a responsibility to ensure that all employees are eligible to live and work in the UK.

Application process – To submit an application for this vacancy, please click on the link in the ‘Apply online’ section of the advert published on the University’s Job Opportunities pages. This will route you to the University’s Web Recruitment System, where you will need to register an account (if you have not already) and log in before completing the online application form.

Please ensure that you upload a copy of your full Curriculum Vitae (CV) including a list of publications, a covering letter highlighting your suitability for the position and contact information of three referees in the Upload section of the online application. If you upload any additional documents which have not been requested, we will not be able to consider these as part of your application. The closing date for applications is stated in the advert. If you have any questions about this vacancy or the application process, please email

The University of Cambridge is one of the world’s oldest and most successful universities. We are a renowned centre for research, education, and scholarship that makes a significant contribution to society. The University is consistently ranked amongst the top universities in the world. Our affiliates have won more Nobel Prizes than any other University.

Further information

Apply online

The closing date for applications is 29 January 2023.

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