Two PhD positions in Chemical Biology: Glycans are the dark matter of the biological universe, greatly understudied yet omnipresent in all kingdoms of life and vital to fully understanding biological processes. This is especially true for the complex zone where microbes interact with their host via glycans.

About the project : In this NWO VIDI funded research program the vital role of glycans in host-microbe interactions will be studied and modulated by developing new smart chemical probes and imaging their real-time activity in vitro and in vivo. This chemistry-based approach offers an unique strategy for dissecting the complexity by asking the ‘right’ focused molecular-level question, i.e. targeting only one specific glycan or enzyme class, and devising a tailor-made chemical approach – a bioactive small chemical probe – to answer them.

In this multidisciplinary PhD project you will develop synthetic routes for these novel glycan-based chemical probes (e.g. fluoregenic  substrates, activity-based probes, metabolic glycan labels, inhibitors) and once in hand investigate their biological activity in a human gut-microbiome and rhizosphere plant-microbe model using a combination of bio-orthogonal labelling, confocal microscopy and mass-spectrometry methods

Requirements / qualifications: We are looking for an ambitious, motivated, creative and practically skillful student with an MSc degree in Chemistry / Molecular Sciences, or comparable curriculum. A strong background and hands-on experience in (bio-)organic synthesis is a prerequisite. A strong interest (or preferentially experience) in chemical biology/biochemistry-oriented research is also important. Your affinity for the multidisciplinary and collaborative nature of the project and good written and oral communication skills in English are additional requirements.

The candidate is offered a full-time position for four years.

The salary is supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8% and an end-of-year bonus of 8,3% per year. In addition we offer: a pension scheme, a partially paid parental leave, flexible employment conditions. Conditions are based on the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities. The research group will provide the candidate with necessary support on all aspects of the project. For more information visit Working at Utrecht University.

The gross salary is in the range between € 2146,- and maximum € 2744,- per month.

About the University: Utrecht University has great ambitions for its teaching quality and study success rates. This also applies to its clear research profiles which are centred around four themes: Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Sustainability. Utrecht University plays a prominent role in our society and contributes to finding the answers to topical and future societal issues.

The Faculty of Science consists of six departments: Biology, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Information and Computing Sciences, Physics and Astronomy, Chemistry and Mathematics. The Faculty is home to 3500 students and nearly 2000 staff and is internationally renowned for the quality of its research. The Faculty’s academic programmes reflect developments in today’s society.

The Medicinal Chemistry and Chemical Biology group aims to study and modulate biological processes at the molecular level, with a focus on their pathogenic relevance. The research in the Wennekes lab focusses on the role of glyans (carbohydrates) in host-microbe interactions. In order to do so relevant compounds are designed and prepared by chemo- and/or enzymatic syntheses. These tailor-made molecules are bio-inspired and well above the average small molecule drug size and represent an emerging medium sized bioactive compound with drug potential. Their bioactivities are studied in a variety of in vitro techniques including microarrays, but increasingly also in cellular contexts, either in-house or in collaboration. The group has state of the art facilities for chemical and enzymatic synthesis and the corresponding purification and analysis facilities, as well as dedicated laboratories for protein expression and cellular assays.  Areas of application include treatment and prevention of bacterial and viral infections, as well as cancer.

More Information: Additional information about the vacancy can be obtained from: Dr. Tom Wennekes ( For more information about the Wennekes lab visit

As part of the selection procedure, the candidate is expected to give an outline of his/her research plans in a written report and an oral presentation.

Application Procedure: To apply please attach a letter of motivation, curriculum vitae and (email) addresses of two referees.
Application deadline for this application is December 28st 2015
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