Postdoctoral Research Associate in Lipid Medicinal Chemistry

Durham, United Kingdom
£33,797 - £35,845 per annum
05 Mar 2021
End of advertisement period
02 Apr 2021
Academic Discipline
Physical Sciences, Chemistry
Contract Type
Fixed Term
Full Time

Department of Chemistry

Grade 7: - £33,797 - £35,845 per annum
Fixed Term - Full Time
Contract Duration: 18 months
Contracted Hours per Week: 35
Closing Date: 02-Apr-2021, 6:59:00 AM

Durham University

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 breath-taking 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

This post is based in the Durham Chemistry Department but will be conducted jointly with Dr Wing Man Lau (School of Pharmacy, Newcastle University).

Durham Chemistry is one of the very best UK departments with an outstanding reputation for excellence in teaching, research and employability of our students. Ranked 5th in REF2014 in terms of grade point average and 1st for research impact. It routinely features high in national league tables and is 7th in the Complete University Guide 2021. Our research spans the range of organic, inorganic, physical and theoretical chemistry. There is strong research in synthetic organic chemistry, including the groups of Prof. Patrick Steel, Prof. Ian Baxendale Prof. AnnMarie O’Donoghue, Dr. David Hodgson, Prof. Steven Cobb and Dr. Paul McGonigal. There is also considerable strength in all aspects of lipid chemistry, including Prof. Colin Bain, Prof. Mark Wilson, Dr. Sharon Cooper and Dr. Matthew Kitching

The Role

A Postdoctoral Research Associate position is available to synthesise organic probes for assaying lipidation and deamidase reactions in both in vitro in model systems and in vivo in cell lines.

The work will be supervised by Dr John Sanderson (www.dur.ac.uk/chemistry/staff) and Dr Wing Man Lau (https://www.ncl.ac.uk/pharmacy/staff/profile/winglau.html). The project involves close collaboration between Durham and Newcastle and is EPSRC funded.

The post-holder will have specific responsibility for the following areas of research:

  • Assist with the development of research objectives and proposals.
  • Conduct individual and collaborative research projects under the direction of the Principal Investigator or Grant-holder.
  • Laboratory work: design, synthesis, purification and characterisation of new organic probes (approx. 35% of the RA’s time per year).
  • Determination of probe reactivity in liposomes (approx. 25% of the RA’s time per year).
  • Preparation of cell free extracts and screening for enzyme activity (approx. 20% of the RA’s time per year).
  • Growth of cell lines and screening for compound reactivity (approx. 20% of the RA’s time per year).
  • Deal with problems that may affect the achievement of research objectives and deadlines, especially related to (a) the design and synthesis of new molecules; (b) screening for reactivity in vitro; (c) screening for reactivity in vivo.
  • Manage, plan and prioritise research within the agreed framework of the project, including planning several months in advance to meet deadlines.
  • Write detailed, accurate and accessible reports of experimental work undertaken and draw conclusions from the results obtained.
  • Write, or assist writing, the results of the research in a form suitable for presentation at meetings, patents and manuscripts for submission to world-class journals under the direction of the Research Supervisor.
  • Interact closely with collaborators at Newcastle to facilitate the overall cross-disciplinary aims of the project. This will include presenting results in regular teleconferencing calls, travelling to, and presenting work at, Newcastle University (School of Pharmacy).
  • Present research results (orally and as posters) at national and international conferences.
  • Contribute to the general day-to-day running of the laboratory to a high standard. This will involve, for example, ensuring a safe working environment, passing on expertise to other colleagues, sharing resources, maintaining supplies of solvents, cryogens and chemicals.
  • Undertake other duties commensurate with the post as requested by the Research Supervisor and to contribute to the overall activities of the research team and department as required.

The post is an 18-month PDRA position available from 01 May 2021 until 31 October 2022. Funding is available for this fixed period only.

The post-holder is employed to work on research/a research project that 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.

How to Apply

For informal enquiries please contact Dr John Sanderson (j.m.sanderson@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 three (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:

  • Essential: A CV and covering letter which details your experience, strengths and potential in the requirements set out above;
  • Optional: You may wish to include PDFs of two of your most significant pieces of work, at least one of which should be published in the period 2018-2020.

Next Steps

Short-listed candidates may initially be contacted for an informal Zoom discussion and may then, if appropriate, have the opportunity to meet with key members of the Department and be given a tour of the facilities. This will either be conducted in person or, or given virtually, as appropriate. The assessment by a panel for the post will include an interview and we anticipate that the assessments will take place in March 2021.

The Requirements – Person Specification



  • A good first degree in chemistry, biochemistry or pharmacology
  • A PhD (or be close to submission) in organic Chemistry involving elements of organic synthesis, or a project with a significant amount of synthetic organic chemistry


  • Experience in conducting high quality academic research involving organic synthesis and analytical chemistry.
  • Demonstrable ability to write material of a quality commensurate with publication in highly-ranked journals.
  • Demonstrable ability to present research papers at [research] conferences and communicate complex information to specialists and within the wider academic community.
  • Experience in [post-specific experience required, e.g. technical expertise].

Technical Skills

  • High-level hands-on expertise in molecular design and multi-step organic synthesis.
  • Hands-on expertise of in-depth interpretation of NMR and mass spectra.
  • Hands-on expertise of biological chemistry, including the handling of biological samples.
  • Ability to write articles (published or in press) for high-quality peer-reviewed journals that demonstrate innovation (including method development) in synthetic organic chemistry or biological chemistry


  • Ability to work independently as a member of an interdisciplinary and multi-national research team, sharing expertise and resources within the research group.
  • Excellent interpersonal, communication skills and a willingness to interact cooperatively with academic and support staff.
  • Well-organised and highly motivated with good time-management skills and the ability to focus on the project objectives.
  • Willingness to assist with day-to-day operation of the research group and assume a share of group responsibilities.



  • Very 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 of working with lipids, including the preparation and manipulation of liposomes.
  • Experience of working with cells, including culturing and the preparation of cell free extracts.


  • Demonstrable ability to plan and manage independent research. 
  • Willingness to undertake assays involving cell cultures using standard protocols.
  • Willingness to undertake screens for enzyme activity.

DBS Requirement: Not Applicable