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View Vacancy -- Postdoctoral Scientist - PNAC - Dr Leo James - LMB 634

Open Date
18/08/2017 16:10
Close Date
18/09/2017 23:55
MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology

The MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) is one of the birthplaces of modern molecular biology and has played an important role in the development of many new techniques, most notably X-ray crystallography of proteins, DNA sequencing and monoclonal antibodies. The LMB has a clear goal of understanding biological processes at the molecular level, with the ultimate aim of using this knowledge to tackle specific problems in human health and disease. We aim to tackle difficult, long-term problems, which often require investment over many years.

There are four scientific Divisions - Structural Studies, Protein and Nucleic Acid Chemistry, Cell Biology and Neurobiology. However, scientific collaboration between the different Divisions is extensive. Scientists are well supported by excellent scientific facilities and by the LMB Operations Group which maintains the core infrastructure and services of the institute.

With the new laboratory the LMB provides an unsurpassed environment for both new and established researchers. Scientists are drawn to the LMB from all over the world, thus creating a lively and international community for the exchange of ideas and technical innovation.

UK Research and Innovation is a new entity that brings together nine partners to create an independent organisation with a strong voice for research and innovation, more information can be found at

MRC - 4
£30,162 - £32,975
Fixed Term
Full Time
3 years
Overall purpose:

To work within the Group of Leo James at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB), within a programme aimed at understanding the role of intracellular antibody immunity in human health.  Leo James’s group carries out internationally competitive and innovative research on antibodies and their role in antiviral immunity. As demonstrated by several recent pandemics, viruses represent a significant threat to global health. Developing vaccines and antiviral therapeutics is therefore a major priority for biological research. Antibodies are the principle correlate of protection for vaccination and a first-line treatment for new viral infections.

Recent work in the James lab has led to the discovery of a cytosolic antibody receptor called TRIM21 that is expressed by all cells in the body. The existence of TRIM21 had gone undetected for over a century yet it is the highest affinity antibody receptor in humans. Understanding how TRIM21 mediates intracellular antibody immunity to protect us against pathogen infection has wide-ranging implications for the study and treatment of infectious disease.

An essential aspect of understanding TRIM21 in human health is determining how it is regulated to ensure correct activity during infection. Our recent data suggests that regulation occurs at the molecular level through changes in protein structure. TRIM21 is a member of the largest family of E3 ligases in mammals yet comparatively little is known about their structure/function.
TRIM21 is a complex multi-domain protein that undergoes post-translational modification and catalyses multiple ubiquitination events. In order to decipher the relationship between structure and function we need a skilled postdoctoral researcher to join our team who is capable of independently determining atomic structures of components of TRIM21, alone and in complex with co-factors and modifying molecules. Atomic-level detail is required in order to characterize the molecular interactions that underpin TRIM21 function. Structure-guided mutagenesis combined with cutting-edge CRISPR gene editing will allow dissection of TRIM21 function in unprecedented detail.

Main duties:

•   To undertake research aimed at a structural understanding of host-pathogen infection, with an emphasis on the early post-entry events that determine restriction or replication.
•   To identify, develop and apply a broad range of techniques to pursue the research objectives.
•   To present scientific work at seminars within the Laboratory and at external meetings.
•   To contribute to Laboratory-wide discussions on developments within the field.
•   To draft scientific papers, and contribute to the overall preparation of research for publication.
•   To contribute to the LMB’s mission in the public engagement of science, and the translation of research findings into improvements in health care.
•   To assist in the training of PhD Students and other members of the LMB.

Key Responsibilities:

Within the overall direction of the programme, the Group, the remit of the project and in discussion with the Group Leader, you will make a significant input into determining the direction of the project within a predicted three year lifespan.

To plan your own work and objectives on a 12 month basis and manage your experimental work within the project along with your Supervisor.

To work with limited supervision to identify, develop, modify and apply the necessary techniques to achieve the goals of the project.

To introduce and apply new techniques across a wide range of disciplines and to have the creativity and initiative to develop novel approaches and methods where required.

To ensure the research is carried out in accordance with good practice and in compliance with local policies and legal requirements.

To contribute to the smooth running of the Group, including the effective use of resources, training of others and taking responsibility for use of communal facilities.

To enhance your research and generic skills through a tailored development programme.

Working relationships:

You will report to Dr James and will interact and collaborate with other Postdoctoral Scientists, Research Support Staff and Students, not only in your Group, but also across the LMB and with external Groups as necessary.

Additional information:

This is a three-year training and development position for a Postdoctoral Scientist who has recently completed their doctoral studies, is moving into a new research discipline or has limited experience of key transferable skills. We support Postdoctoral Scientists with a range of formal and on-the-job training, including:

•   MRC training courses.
•   External training and personal development courses.
•   One-to-one training with your Supervisor and other Scientists.

You will commit to undertaking the following:
•   Developing and following a personal development plan.
•   Attending training courses.
•   Identifying additional training which will support you to develop your career.

Academic qualifications:
These should include a PhD in biology, biochemistry, biophysics or chemistry with a background in structural approaches.

Technical skills and expertise:
Experience in protein chemistry and x-ray crystallography, including protein expression and purification, independent determination of structures, data processing and refinement.

Experience and/or appreciation of complementary methods such as NMR, biophysical techniques, EM would also be of benefit.

Track record of research:
This will include discoveries and achievements, and contributions to published papers.

Other relevant evidence of:
•   Commitment.
•   Originality.
•   Ability to communicate.
•   Working with others.

The MRC is a great place to work and progress your career, be it in scientific research or the support functions.

The MRC is a unique working environment where our researchers are rewarded by world class innovation and collaboration opportunities that the MRC name brings. The MRC is an excellent place to develop yourself further and a range of training & development opportunities will be available to you, including professional registration with the Science Council.

Choosing to come to work at the MRC (part of UKRI) means that you will have access to a whole host of benefits from a defined benefit pension scheme and excellent holiday entitlement to access to employee shopping/travel discounts and salary sacrifice cycle to work scheme, as well as the chance to put the MRC and UKRI on your CV in the future.

Our success is dependent upon our ability to embrace diversity and draw on the skills, understanding and experience of all our people. We welcome applications from all sections of the community irrespective of gender, race, ethnic or national origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, disability or age. As "Disability Confident" employers, we guarantee to interview all applicants with disabilities who meet the minimum criteria for the vacancy.

Final appointments will be subject to pre-employment screening.

This opportunity is closed to applications.