PhD in computational & experimental protein design for synthetic biology: The Netherlands

You are invited to apply for a 4-year position as a PhD candidate in the research group of Dr. Maximilian Fürst. Together with a second PhD student, the successful candidate will be the first members of the newly found group headed by Dr. Fürst, who starts his appointment as assistant professor in June 2022 at the University of Groningen, The Netherlands. The research focus of the group will be high-throughput protein engineering, combining computational design and directed evolution.


The University of Groningen (UG) is a highly international and renowned centre of higher education located in the north of the Netherlands. Groningen is a vibrant and international student city (1 in 4 of the ~220k inhabitants is a student, and 1 in 4 students is international) located ~2 h northeast of Amsterdam. The UG ranks among the world’s top institutes, and PhD students are very well supported. English is ubiquitously spoken in the Netherlands, and the university provides free language courses. The Dutch are famously direct and open, while hierarchies are typically flat. Even more so than is usual in academia, PhDs and postdocs are typically given considerable freedom and independency and are encouraged to team work.

The group is embedded in the Faculty of Science and Engineering (FSE, the largest faculty within the University), the Groningen Biomolecular Sciences and Biotechnology Institute (GBB), and the Biochemistry/Biotechnology department, headed by Prof. Dr. M. Fraaije. The labs are located in the Chemistry/Physics Department, for which the completely new Feringa building is currently being built (expected move in 2023/2024).

Job description

Proteins are increasingly used for biomedical and biotechnological applications—e.g. in pharma companies, which create tailor-made human drug antibodies, or the chemical industry that develops highly specific enzyme catalysts. Because naturally found proteins are usually not well suited to the human-desired task, scientists have developed protein engineering tools to mend their properties and function. The Fürst lab is conducting research that aims to push the boundaries of currently available protein engineering methods by combining cutting-edge techniques in molecular and computational biology. For an exciting interdisciplinary project, the Fürst lab seeks two PhD candidates that will engineer proteins of relevance to biomedicine, biocatalysis, and synthetic biology by:

  • predicting designer proteins using both computational biophysical tools (such as structure modelling, docking, and molecular dynamics simulations), as well as bioinformatic approaches (including deep sequencing analysis and machine learning)
  • creating high-quality genotype variant libraries with state-of-the-art molecular biology using i.a. synthetic DNA, molecular barcoding, and multi-fragment DNA assembly
  • developing and applying high-throughput biochemical protein variant screens using in vivo selections and in vitro screens, such as protein display, water-in-oil emulsions, and plate screens, in combination with next-generation sequencing
  • routinely performing standard molecular biology / biochemistry techniques such as PCR, cloning, protein expression and purification

The two available positions are either for candidates seeking to conduct an interdisciplinary computational and experimental project, or for specialised candidates with a focus on either.


The successful applicants will have a profile similar to this:

  • A master degree in the field of molecular life sciences (e.g. molecular biology, biotechnology, …) or field-adjacent natural sciences (e.g. chemistry, bioinformatics)
  • Research experience in molecular biology, biochemistry, and/or bioinformatics
  • Excellent command of English
  • Excellent interpersonal skills combined with an ability to work efficiently both independently and in a team

Candidates with experience in protein engineering or any of the above-mentioned project techniques are preferred. All candidates should have experience or at least a keen interest in computational biology and/or (bio)informatics.

Conditions of employment

We offer you, in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities:

  • a salary of € 2.443 gross per month in the first year, up to a maximum of € 3.122 gross per month in the fourth and final year
  • a full-time position (1.0 FTE)
  • a holiday allowance of 8% gross annual income
  • an 8.3% end-of-the-year allowance

The two successful candidates will first be offered a temporary position of one year with the option of renewal for another three years. Prolongation of the contract is contingent on sufficient progress in the first year to indicate that a successful completion of the PhD thesis within the next three years is to be expected. A PhD training programme is part of the agreement and the successful candidate will be enrolled in the Graduate School of Science and Engineering.

The starting date is flexible, although preferred is July-September 2022.


Do you meet our qualification criteria? If yes, please send us a complete and convincing application with the below-mentioned supporting documents:

  • cover letter with background and motivation to apply for this position
  • curriculum vitae, including details of bachelor and master degrees, work and research experience, and a publication list (if applicable)
  • detailed (max. 1 page) description of previous research experience, such as the bachelor/ master research projects
  • contact details of at least two academic references who can provide information on your suitability for the position.

The applications can be submitted before April 01, 2022 (until March 31, 23:59 Dutch local time), by means of the application form (click on “Apply” on the advertisement on the university website).

Unsolicited marketing is not appreciated.

We are an equal opportunity employer and value diversity at our University. We are committed to building a diverse faculty so you are encouraged to apply. Our selection procedure follows the guidelines of the Recruitment code (NVP), and European Commission’s European Code of Conduct for recruitment of researchers,


For further information or questions please contact Dr. Max Fürst (

More information and apply
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