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Research Associate - Plants for Space

Perth (Suburb), Western Australia (AU)
$76,686 - $103,202 p.a. plus 17% employer contributed superannuation
Closing date
8 Jan 2024

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Academic Discipline
Biological Sciences, Life sciences
Job Type
Research Related, Research Associate
Contract Type
Fixed Term
Full Time
  • We seek to appoint up to 6 high-calibre individuals to use Plant Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Synthetic Biology approaches to create innovative and translatable solutions to important biological challenges that are relevant to growing and utilizing plants in space and in vertical farming on earth
  • Full time and fixed term appointment for 3 years
  • Salary range: Level A $76,686 - $103,202 p.a. plus 17% employer contributed superannuation

About the environment

The University of Western Australia (UWA) is in the top 100 of the world’s prestigious research universities, located in a beautiful and diverse biological and geographical region. With an incredibly rich local heritage, the University taps into global networks of knowledge, education and research.

Our research is interdisciplinary and aligned to 6 strategic themes (global challenges) where our expertise is ideally placed to have a transformative impact: Preventing, Diagnosing and Treating Disease; Energy and Mineral Resources for a Sustainable Future; Furthering Human Knowledge and Serving Humanity; Managing and Restoring the Natural Environment; Feeding the World; and Enhancing Physical Mental and Social Wellbeing and Performance.

UWA houses a series of Research Institutes and Centres that support this interdisciplinarity including the International Space Centre that brings together Space-aligned research teams to develop space research capacity; create new education opportunities, enable engagement with industry and government; and inspire the general public through space.

About the team

The ARC Centre of Excellence in Plants for Space (P4S) is a >$90 million initiative led from the University of Adelaide with more than 35 partners across Australia and around the world. P4S aims to create on-demand, zero-waste, high-efficiency plants and plant products to address grand challenges in sustainability for Space and on Earth. The multi-disciplinary team in plant, food, and sensory science; process and systems engineering; law and policy; and psychology will deliver transformative solutions for Space habitation – and create enhanced plant-derived food and bioresources to capitalise upon emergent and rapidly expanding domestic and global markets. Anticipated outcomes include industry uptake of innovative plant forms, foods, technologies, and commodities; and an ambitious education and international co-ordination agenda to position Australia as a global leader in plant-based research supporting Space habitation.

The School of Molecular Sciences is home to UWA’s Centre for Plant Energy Biology and the research laboratories of Professor Harvey Millar, Professor Ryan Lister and Professor Ian Small, who collaborate as the P4S node at the University of Western Australia. The school provides an excellent environment for generating translatable, practical solutions to key global problems in agriculture, environmental science, biology, medicine and health, and engineering. Spanning the fields of chemistry, chemical biology, biochemistry, molecular biology, molecular genetics, nanotechnology and systems biology, our internationally-recognised experts publish in the best journals, hold patents, spin out companies and collaborate with industry, hospitals and community stakeholders.

About the opportunity

These foundation postdoctoral appointments in Plant Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Synthetic Biology will allow you to start your career in an internationally recognised program of research. You will be mentored in the laboratory of Professor Harvey Millar, Professor Ryan Lister or Professor Ian Small and engage in engage in collaborative research projects across P4S University collaborators and with Industry partners. You will take part in supervising students in high quality postgraduate teaching programmes and in educational outreach activities, and be involved in translation of fundamental biomolecular science to provide innovative solutions to the future of plant use on earth and beyond.

Specific projects you could focus on include:

  • Increasing plant protein content with better amino acid balance for human nutrition for space agriculture as caloric replacement and for Earth in higher protein plant food development.
  • Building of Synbio parts and tools for using plant chloroplasts as protein production factories (for producing high value therapeutics such as edible vaccines and antibodies, and useful biomolecules such as enzymes).
  • Modifying target plants for better hypoxia/low oxygen tolerance to overcome the effect of water clinging to plants in microgravity and better adaptation to hydroponics for virtual farming.
  • Synthesizing materials and medicines in plants at scale and/or on demand, such as antibodies, analgesics, neutraceuticals, or plastics precursors.
  • Engineering plants for sophisticated spatiotemporal and conditional control of biosynthetic pathway activity, for example tissue or cell type specific production upon chemical/temperature/light induction.
  • High resolution and high throughput ‘omics’ analyses of plants to guide biosynthetic pathway engineering and characterize effect upon cellular processes.

To be considered for one of these positions, you must completed or be near completion (3 months or under for submission) a PhD in plant biochemistry, molecular biology, or genetics. You will also have a track record of research output and capabilities in plant biology and molecular sciences. You will possess the ability to work both independently and co-operatively with collaborators and as part of a team.

Full details of the responsibilities of these positions and the selection criteria are outlined in the position description. In preparing your application, you are asked to demonstrate clearly that you meet the selection criteria and indicate your particular focus and relevant skills in a two-page cover letter and a current curriculum vitae in support of your application.

There will also be additional roles with P4S available in the upcoming months, including PhD studentships in Western Australia and post-doctoral researcher, research assistant and PhD studentships in Victoria and South Australia in multiple other disciplines. Please email for more details.

You may also submit an additional statement (1 page max) outlining any personal circumstances which should be considered when assessing your application. Applicants who have experienced periods of academic/professional interruption or other relevant events can include a description of achievements relative to opportunity in this statement.

Closing date: Monday, 8 January 2024

This position is open to international applicants.

Please see the position description prior to applying: Download File PD - Research Associate Plants for Space 516015.pdf

Our commitment to inclusion and diversity

UWA is committed to a diverse workforce and an equitable and inclusive workplace. We celebrate difference and believe diversity is fundamental to achieving our goals as a globally recognised Top 100 educational and research institution. We are committed to creating a safe work environment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, women, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, the LGBTIQA+ community and people living with disability.

  • We have a globally competitive, gender neutral parental leave policy with 26 weeks paid leave after 12 months service and 36 weeks after 5 years.
  • We have on-campus childcare facilities for children aged 6 weeks to kindy.
  • We facilitate flexible working, with part-time and job-sharing arrangements considered.
  • We have an ongoing partnership with Pride in Diversity and were recently awarded a Bronze Employer status for LGBTIQA+ inclusion.
  • We have Athena SWAN Bronze accreditation and actively work to improve gender equity.

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