Two PhD position in Biocatalysis (Sustainable Chemistry) Netherlands

The Biocatalysis group is part of the Sustainable Chemistry research theme. A new group leader has been very recently appointed to lead the Biocatalysis group and we are currently recruiting several new members to start a new and exciting research programme that is funded by the European Research Council (ERC) – BioSusAmin and the Dutch national Sector Plan on Physics and Chemistry (Sectorplan Natuur- en Scheikunde).The current manufacture of chemical compounds is based on processes that require non-renewable resources and generate copious amounts of waste. In such scenario, enzymes provide the opportunity for the development of a new generation of chemical processes as enzymes (i) fulfil all the twelve principles of green chemistry, (ii) catalyse complicated chemical reactions with elevated chemo-, regio- and stereoselectivity, (iii) can be combined to carry out sequential multi-step processes in a single flask (or reactor, vessel) without the need for isolation and purification of the intermediates. Furthermore, protein engineering techniques allow for the creation of new enzymes capable of catalysing chemical reactions that are not known in Nature. These variants can be integrated into artificial pathways to further shorten synthetic routes and improve efficiency.

One PhD candidate will design and develop novel biocatalytic cascades using isolated enzymes for the sustainable manufacture of chemical products, in particular amines. The project includes the preparation, purification and biochemical characterization of the enzymes that constitute the biocatalytic cascades. The project will also involve the generation of novel enzymes through semi-rational protein engineering (e.g. analysis of enzyme crystal structures, generation of enzyme libraries and screening) and their implementation into cascade processes.

The second PhD candidate will apply a novel class of enzyme, the amine dehydrogenases, in organic synthesis to give access to structurally diverse and optically active primary as well as secondary amines that have important industrial applications. This project will involve the chemical synthesis of organic compounds (substrates, intermediates and specific final targets) as well as the enzyme engineering of amine dehydrogenases with new or improved catalytic properties and their application for synthetic purpose.

Both PhD candidates will be appointed at the University of Amsterdam (research Group Mutti, UvA).


For the first position, the required background is a MSc. degree in a relevant field such as biochemistry or non-medical biotechnology (e.g. industrial). For the second position, the required background is a MSc. Degree in chemistry (e.g. synthetic, organic, pharmaceutical). Theoretical and practical knowledge in enzyme catalysis, biocatalysis or chromatographic analysis (e.g. GC, HPLC) or chromatographic separation techniques (e.g. FPLC) is an advantage. Ability to collaborate and adapt in an international team is required. Candidates must possess good communication skills in oral and written English.

Further information

For further information, please contact:

Dr Francesco Mutti


Positions are available starting from 1 July 2015. A later starting date (up to 1 September 2015) is also possible.

The full-time appointment will be on a temporary base for a maximum period of four years (18 months plus a further 30 months after a positive evaluation) and should lead to a dissertation (PhD thesis). An educational plan will be drafted that includes attendance of courses and (international) meetings. Based on a full-time appointment (38 hours per week) the gross monthly salary will range from €2,125 in the first year to €2,717 in the final year, according to the Dutch salary scales for PhD candidates. This is excl. 8% holiday allowance and 8,3% end of year bonus. The Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities is applicable.

Job application

Applications for the position at the University of Amsterdam may only be submitted by sending your application to To process your application immediately, please quote vacancy number 15-185 and the position you are applying for in the subject-line.

Applications must include a curriculum vitae, a list of publications, a motivation letter (why did you choose to apply for this position), and the names and contact details of two academic referees. All these should be grouped in one PDF attachment.

Applications will be accepted until 1 July 2015.

No agencies please

The Van ‘t Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences (HIMS) is one of eight institutes of the University of Amsterdam Faculty of Science. HIMS performs internationally recognized chemistry and molecular research, curiosity driven as well as application driven. This is done in close cooperation with the chemical, flavour & food, medical and high-tech industries. Research is organised into four themes: Sustainable Chemistry, Analytical Chemistry, Computational Chemistry and Molecular Photonics.

Faculty of Science – Van ‘t Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences

Level of education


Salary indication

€2,125 to €2,717 gross per month, based on 38 hours per week.