Vacancy Information

Postdoctoral Researcher - Bacteriology (3 year fixed term contract)


Location: Cambridgeshire
Closing date: 27 Aug 2020
Reference number: T/370

Job details

NIAB is the UK’s fastest growing crop science organisation, with rapidly expanding research capabilities in plant genetics, agronomy, farming systems and data science, the largest national field trials capability, and strong research links with industry, Government and academia. With headquarters in Cambridge, and regional offices across the country, employing around 400 people across the UK, NIAB provides scientific research, technical services and practical advice to improve the yield, efficiency and resilience of crop production across the arable, forage and horticulture sectors. NIAB (Cambridge, UK) is an Independent Research Organisation eligible for competitive BBSRC funding calls. Research departments at NIAB’s sites in Cambridge and East Malling have more than 40 current BBSRC grants.

Pathogens are a constant threat to society and in the past have led to profound changes to our civilisation. Despite many advances in disease control, plant pathogens remain of great concern to the security of our food production, but the predication of the host range and pathogenic ‘potential’ of microbes remains elusive.

Working within the pathology department, NIAB is seeking a talented and motivated postdoctoral researcher to work within a collaborative and multidisciplinary project exploring the evolutionary routes baterica take to host adaptation using Pseudomonas as a model, building on previous work- e.g. Hulin et  al.

As part of this collaboration you will undertake longitudinal sampling of microbes associated with wild and cultivated populations of perennials (Prunus) and sample the diversity, heterogeneity and pathogenicity of Pseudomonas populations. Through genome sequencing of up to 1000 strains you will explore the genomic features within these populations and apply methods to understand gene flow and environmental reservoirs of plant pathogenic and epiphytic bacteria.  Working collaboratively with colleagues at our East Malling site you will ask questions about how changing commercial practice alters epiphytic bacterial populations.  Working with colleagues at the University of Birmingham you will assess whether there are key adaptations for epiphytic survival on the leaf surface and whether these are transmitted by mobile genetic elements as well as collaborating to understand adaptive potential through experimental evolution. Working with your colleagues in NIAB you will explore whether machine learning (AI) approaches can be used to identify host range.

The job will involve a diverse skill set which will set up an early career researcher interested in pursuing a career in molecular genetics and pathology.

The Essential requirements for this role are:
• BSc in relevant discipline (2.1 or above)
• PhD in plant science or microbiology
• An established track record of high quality research output with publications in high-impact factor journals
• Supervision of undergraduate and postgraduate research projects
• UK driving licence is required for commuting to trial/sample sites
• Molecular bacteriology and pathogenicity testing
• Cloning and gene disruption in bacterial systems
• General molecular biology techniques (western blotting, qPCR, in situ hybridisation etc.)
• Excellent writing and communication skills evidenced through a number of peer reviewed publications
• A creative research vision for development, implementation and delivery of successful research projects
• An ability to communicate complex conceptual ideas to widely divergent audiences
• A positive contribution to Institute activities and funded initiatives and expectation to undertake administrative activities
• Collaborative working, particularly on interdisciplinary topics
• Ability to respond quickly to externally imposed deadlines
• Ability to travel at short notice and to occasionally work unsociable hours

The Desirable requirements for this role are:
• Membership of professional bodies, evidence of recognition within research field through awards and committee membership
• Management/leadership experience and PhD student supervision
• Experience preparing successful and/or large bids for UK and EU funding bodies, eg. BBSRC
• Membership of boards and technical consulting experience
• Effector characterisation
• Experience with Bacteriophages, Confocal Microscopy and Bacterial Nitrogen Fixation
• Budget control experience
• Working in an open and transparent way, providing information and communicating effectively with colleagues
• Evidence of continuous Professional Development

Applicants with particular expertise in the following areas are encouraged to apply:
- Molecular plant-microbe interactions using a bacterial system  (population dynamics, pathogenicity tests)
- Molecular biology and bacteriology (conjugation, gene deletion, mutagenesis and gene expression)
- Effector cloning and functional characterisation, analysis of plant responses
- Genome sequencing using illumina and nanopore platforms
- Informatics skills (genome assembly, annotation and comparative genomics)

You will be expected to contribute your own innovative ideas, resulting in potential independent projects, write scientific research papers and present results at conferences.  You must be comfortable working at the interface of disciplines in a constructive and collaborative manner.

NIAB has formed an alliance with the University of Cambridge, the Crop Science Centre, to carry out outstanding and impactful science for the equitable and sustainable transformation of agriculture. You would be working as part of the alliance, which receives funding from both national and international sources (e.g. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation). In joining NIAB you will be part of the Cambridge landscape of Plant and Crop Sciences, associating with colleagues in the department of Plant Sciences and the Sainsbury Laboratory.

The post is initially available for 3 years, with the possibility of extension subject to available funding. Salary is in the range of £30,342 to £40,036 per annum depending on experience and qualifications along with 25 days annual leave plus 8 days public holidays, pleasant working environment and eligibility to join the company pension scheme upon appointment. 

Informal enquiries to Dr Richard Harrison-  Further details and an application form are available at: or from the HR Office, NIAB, 93 Lawrence Weaver Rd, Cambridge CB3 0LE, Tel No. 01223 342282, Email:, quoting Ref No. T/370.  Closing date for applications: 27 August 2020 with interviews to be held w/c 7 September 2020 either via Zoom/MS Teams or Face-To-Face.