Postdoctoral Research Associate in Plant Molecular Biology

Durham, United Kingdom
£33,797 - £40,322 per annum
21 Dec 2020
End of advertisement period
15 Jan 2021
Academic Discipline
Life sciences, Biological Sciences
Contract Type
Fixed Term
Full Time

Department of Biosciences

Grade 7: - £33,797 - £40,322 per annum
Fixed Term - Full Time
Contracted Hours per Week: 35
Closing Date: 15-Jan-2021, 7:59:00 AM 

Durham University is one of the world's top universities with strengths across the Arts and Humanities, Sciences and Social Sciences. We are home to some of the most talented scholars and researchers from around the world who are tackling global issues and making a difference to people's lives.

The University sits in a beautiful historic city where it shares ownership of a UNESCO World Heritage Site with Durham Cathedral, the greatest Romanesque building in Western Europe. A collegiate University, Durham recruits outstanding students from across the world and offers an unmatched wider student experience.

Less than 3 hours north of London, and an hour and a half south of Edinburgh, County Durham is a region steeped in history and natural beauty. The Durham Dales, including the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, are home to breathtaking scenery and attractions. Durham offers an excellent choice of city, suburban and rural residential locations. The University provides a range of benefits including pension and childcare benefits and the University’s Relocation Manager can assist with potential schooling requirements.

Durham University seeks to promote and maintain an inclusive and supportive environment for work and study that assists all members of our University community to reach their full potential. Diversity brings strength and we welcome applications from across the international, national and regional communities that we work with and serve.

The Department

The Biosciences department provides an outstanding environment for research and education, with a broad group of academics studying the breadth of the biological sciences, from cell and molecular biology in animals, plants, and microbes; to ecology, evolution and the environment. The vision for biosciences research is to focus on fundamental and cross-disciplinary science underpinning global challenges in climate change, food security, global health, sustainable bio-manufacturing, biodiversity and replacing animal models in research. The co-delivery of research-led teaching aligned to the aspirations of exceptional students itself promotes a broad-based, sustainability-centred research strategy informed by scientific advances and national and international priorities.

Durham has a long-standing record of research in plant sciences. Our most recent research has provided insights into the regulation of embryogenesis and root development through hormonal control, vascular differentiation and development and epigenetic regulation of cell-specific gene expression in cellular differentiation. Various of our staff study plant tolerance to abiotic and biotic stresses and help to develop crop protection technologies: This includes research on signalling via second messengers, posttranslational modification and control of gene expression in abiotic stress, responses to microbial pathogens and crop protection against invertebrate pests. 

Our research is supported by outstanding core facilities and excellent Experimental Officers, strengthening grant applications, and promoting strong research outputs. There are ten research facilities in the Department of Biosciences. Of relevance to this post, the Microscope Facility includes state-of-the-art equipment such as Super-Resolution, Structured Illumination (3D-SIM), localisation (PALM/STORM), Airyscan Confocal Laser Scanning (CLSM), Spinning Disk Confocal Laser (SDCLM), Multiphoton, Total Internal Reflection Fluorescence (TIRFM), Deconvolution, Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging (FLIM) and Fluorescence Cross-Correlation Spectroscopy (FCCS). Electron microscopy includes scanning and transmission electron microscopes (with the highest resolution SEM in the world and unique to a biology department in the UK), advanced sample preparation, 3D imaging and high-sensitivity imaging.   The Genomics capabilities include an Applied Biosystems 3730 capillary instrument for Sanger sequencing, an Illumina HiSeq 2500 and MiSeq for a broad range of Next Generation Sequencing applications, allied to a Bioinformatics lab with 7 Linux workstations with high RAM capacity. Bioanalytics includes Sciex 6500 hybrid triple-quad MS with Shimadzu UHPLC system, Waters H-Class UPLC system with diode-array, fluorescence, and single-quad MS (QDa) detectors, Waters UPC2 system with diode array and single-quad MS (QDa) detectors, Shimadzu GC-MS with single-quad mass detector, AKTA Purifier LC system with UV detector plus preparative and standard HPLC. Proteomics facilities include a Sciex TripleTOF 6600 mass spectrometer and Sciex 4800 MALDI TOF/TOF mass spectrometer. Our specialised plant growth environments include 13 walk-in growth chambers, six Arctic/tropical cabinets with humidity and carbon dioxide control, tissue culture cabinets, and a dozen freestanding cabinets. A cell technology suite provides a specialised environment for isolation and analysis of single cells, including laser capture micro-dissection, flow cytometry and microinjection equipment and Chromium single cell sequencing technology

Supervision of postdoctoral researchers is guided by relevant Concordats, for example Support the Career Development of Researchers, in which staff are trained. Postdoctoral researchers are affiliated to the Departmental RGs, through which they organize seminar series. Postdoctoral researchers deliver presentations to the entire Department at annual research away-days and become members of research centres and research institutes, facilitating the delivery of seminars to multidisciplinary audiences. Postdoctoral staff are offered staff development courses, given opportunities to engage in (modest amounts of) teaching, and are assigned mentors to assist with career development in addition to advice provided by supervisors. After two years postdoctoral contract, researchers are enrolled in the same departmental promotion and progression annual review as academic staff.

For all staff, the Department has weekly seminar series with external speakers. Research Institutes and Centres also host speakers. 

The Laboratory provides a welcoming and collaborative environment with a wide-range of family-friendly benefits and development opportunities.

The Role

Applications are invited for a Post-doctoral Research Associate position in the group of Professor Ari Sadanandom at Biosciences department of Durham University, to carry out fundamental research in the field of molecular regulation of plant environmental adaptation.

The post is a key part of major 5-year BBSRC programme BB/V003534/1 to understand the role of the SUMO post-translational modification in guiding plant adaptation. The project is a collaboration between Liverpool, Cambridge, Nottingham and Durham Universities. To address the question of how SUMO guides cellular adaptation to drought and salt stresses, the Durham’s team will conduct state-of-the art confocal and light-sheet microscopy studies in combination with single cell transcriptomics in Arabidopsis thaliana roots. Results arising from this investigation will be integrated with the phenomics, ionomics and proteomics data generated by our research partners to decipher the SUMO-code and its function in guiding plant adaptation (Arabidopsis and rice). The overall team will involve plant biologists, omics experts and informaticians across the five institutions. 

Responsibilities :

  • To understand and convey material of a specialist or highly technical nature to the team or group of people through presentations and discussions that leads to the presentation of research papers in conferences and publications.
  • To prepare and deliver presentations on research outputs/activities to audiences which may include: research sponsors, academic and non-academic audiences.
  • To publish high quality outputs, including papers for submission to peer reviewed journals and papers for presentation at conferences and workshops under the direction of the Principal Investigator or Grant-holder.
  • To assist with the development of research objectives and proposals.
  • To conduct individual and collaborative research projects under the direction of the Principal Investigator or Grant-holder.
  • To work with the Principal Investigator or Grant-holder and other colleagues in the research group, as appropriate, to identify areas for research, develop new research methods and extend the research portfolio.
  • To deal with problems that may affect the achievement of research objectives and deadlines by discussing with the Principal Investigator or Grant-holder and offering creative or innovative solutions.
  • To liaise with research colleagues and make internal and external contacts to develop knowledge and understanding to form relationships for future research collaboration.
  • To plan and manage own research activity, research resources in collaboration with others and contribute to the planning of research projects.
  • To deliver training in research techniques/approaches to peers, visitors and students as appropriate.
  • To be involved in student supervision, as appropriate, and assist with the assessment of the knowledge of students.
  • To contribute to fostering a collegial and respectful working environment which is inclusive and welcoming and where everyone is treated fairly with dignity and respect.
  • To engage in wider citizenship to support the department and wider discipline.
  • To engage in continuing professional development by participation in the undergraduate or postgraduate teaching programmes or by membership of departmental committees, etc. and by attending relevant training and development courses.   
  • To perform molecular cloning of various genes and promoter regions into destination vectors. 
  • To generate transcriptional and translational reporter lines in Arabidopsis thaliana.
  • To select transgenic plants according to the expression pattern of the reporter gene.
  • To analyse via confocal microscopy the root spatio-temporal behaviour of the reporter genes during development and under stress conditions. 
  • To analyse the stability and protein modifications of the studied proteins.
  • To optimise and implement analytical methods in collaboration with the postdoctoral researchers at Nottingham and Cambridge Universities.
  • To perform image analysis 

This post is fixed term for 36 months as funding is available from 01/02/2021 to 01/02/2024 for this period only, with the possibility of an extension for a further two years. 

The post-holder is employed to work on research/a research project which will be led by another colleague. Whilst this means that the post-holder will not be carrying out independent research in his/her own right, the expectation is that they will contribute to the advancement of the project, through the development of their own research ideas/adaptation and development of research protocols.

Successful applicants will, ideally, be in post by 1st February 2021

How to Apply

For informal enquiries please contact Professor Ari Sadanandom (ari.sadanandom@durham.ac.uk).  All enquiries will be treated in the strictest confidence.  

We prefer to receive applications online via the Durham University Vacancies Site. https://www.dur.ac.uk/jobs/. As part of the application process, you should provide details of 3 (preferably academic/research) referees and the details of your current line manager so that we may seek an employment reference.

Applications are particularly welcome from women and black and minority ethnic candidates, who are under-represented in academic posts in the University .

What to Submit

All applicants are asked to submit:

  • A CV and covering letter which details your experience, strengths and potential in the requirements set out above;
  • A copy of your most relevant publications

Next Steps

The assessment for the post will include the evaluation of the CV, cover letter and publications. Shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview and assessment on tbc 

The Requirements



  • A PhD in plant development, molecular biology, genomics or a related subject.


  • Experience in conducting high quality academic research. 
  • Demonstrable ability to write material of a quality commensurate with publication in highly-ranked journals.
  • Demonstrable ability to present research papers at national or/and international conferences and communicate complex information to specialists and within the wider academic community.
  • In SUMO proteomics and chromatin analysis 
  • Experience in confocal microscopy, molecular biology and/or RNAseq analysis and deep understanding of the following areas: transcriptional regulation, protein function and development. 


  • Demonstrable ability to work cooperatively as part of a team, including participating in research meetings.
  • Ability to work independently on own initiative and to strict deadlines.
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills. 
  • Since this complex programme is extensively collaborative, Good communication skills are essential as the post holder will need to work well in a team and collaborate with other researchers in the Institute and across institutions, and to agree on goals and meet deadlines is essential.



  • Strong publication record in peer-reviewed journals, commensurate with stage of career.
  • A track record of presenting research at conferences, symposia, or meetings, commensurate with stage of career.
  • Demonstrable ability to develop research proposals and designs in collaboration with other academics.
  • Experience of overseeing students with respect to the development of their practical/research skills e.g. acting as a demonstrator; supervising student projects/practicals.
  • Experience in NGS statistical analysis.


  • Demonstrable ability to plan and manage independent research. 

DBS Requirement: Not Applicable.