Project Officer in Microbiology/Molecular Biology: UK

You are invited to apply for a Project Officer position within the Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, at The Open University. You will be working as part of the vibrant OU Astrobiology Group, which is comprised of four academics, five postdoctoral researchers and eight PhD students. The applicant will be based within the School of Environment, Earth and Ecosystem Sciences.

The group is investigating the limits of habitability in extreme environments similar to those found in the Solar System and identifying bio-signatures that could be used as evidence of life. For this work, we use a combination of field based studies and laboratory simulation experiments. The laboratory is equipped with two reaction vessels capable of mimicking the extreme environments found on other planetary bodies, an anaerobic chamber, laminar flow hoods for work with low biomass material, PCR and qPCR capabilities, a flow through bioreactor and a gas mixer.

We are seeking a Project Officer to further our investigations of extreme environments using culture-dependent and independent methods. The work will include extracting and processing DNA from extreme environments for community analysis. It will also involve isolation and characterisation of novel microorganisms. The role will support the on-going funded research within the group and ensure that work is carried out in a timely manner.

You will have a degree or equivalent in a relevant scientific subject and relevant laboratory based experience. Good organisational and team working skills are essential, and you should be highly motivated. Full training on the microbiology/molecular techniques will be provided, if necessary.

Main Duties

  • Perform culture-independent analysis of microbial communities from extreme environments.
  • Carry out basic bioinformatics analysis using QUIIME, Mauve, myRAST, Spades and other programs.
  • Carry out culturing and isolation of novel microorganisms (both aerobic and anaerobic).
  • Undertake morphological and chemical analysis of samples using Transmission Electron Microscopy
    (TEM) and Field Emission Gun-Scanning Electron Microscopy (FEG-SEM).
  • Undertake experiments for occasional or infrequent collaborators (both internal and external) as directed by the lead academic.
  • Coordinate with the lead academic to ensure that activities within the laboratory are timetabled efficiently.
  • To undertake operational control of laboratory research facilities, which include the anaerobic microbiology molecular biology, and general microbiology facilities to ensure that they function efficiently and effectively.
  • Will be familiar with the general range of equipment used within the laboratories, such as autoclave, safety cabinets, light microscopes, incubators, centrifuges and ensure that all research personnel is trained to use the equipment in accordance with Good Laboratory Practice.
  • Lead and manage the training of research personnel (postgraduate students, postdoctoral researchers, technical staff, visiting academics and researchers) on scientific techniques and basic laboratory equipment.
  • Manage and maintain the group’s extensive microbial culture collection, and archive environmental and other samples appropriately.

Education, qualifications and training

  • A first degree or equivalent in a relevant scientific subject (e.g. microbiology or molecular biology).

Knowledge, work and other relevant experience

  • Strong practical skills in molecular biology/microbiology.
  • Strong communication and organizational skills.
  • Practical IT experience in the suite of Microsoft Office programs.
  • Relevant health and safety knowledge.
  • Relevant technical knowledge of equipment typically used in molecular biology/microbiology laboratories.


  • Experience working with microorganism from extreme environments.
  • Experience working with bioinformatics software.
  • An understanding of the principles of anaerobic microbiology.
  • Experience in bioinformatics.
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