PHD Position Supramolecular Mechano-chemistry Rijksuniversiteit Groningen 30-04-2024

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  2. PHD Position Supramolecular Mechano-chemistry Rijksuniversiteit Groningen 30-04-2024

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PhD position Supramolecular Mechano-Chemistry in the Early Earth Replication of RNA (1.0 FTE) (V24.0256)

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Job description

The origin of life on Earth stands as one of the great mysteries of science. We are excited to invite applications from outstanding candidates for a PhD position aimed at advancing research on the chemical origins of life on Earth, with a specific focus on our newly funded Protocell Project.

Researchers generally agree that basic RNA molecules likely appeared before proteins and other nucleic acids, and were thus present at the onset of life on Earth. The prevailing view is thus that life started with basic RNA molecules, enclosed in early cells (known as protocells), and capable of self-replication without assistance from other molecules. Multiple mechanisms have been proposed for this supramolecular replication, with a growing emphasis on those mechanisms that involve autocatalytic feedback. However, one key unknown remains: for multiple copying cycles to work, the template RNA molecule and the newly formed RNA strand have to separate mechanically after the first copy is made, and how this mechanical separation could have happened effectively remains unclear and heavily debated.

In the context of an ambitious NWO-Vici research program, we will explore the possibility that, in the presence of primordial lipids, RNA replication was enabled by flows established inside protocells, in the presence of amphiphilic molecules. We are looking for a chemist with a background in physical organic chemistry. Good understanding of molecular reactivity, macromolecular chemistry and/or supramolecular chemistry are of added value.

The outcomes of this research extend beyond unraveling the origins of life, because they involve the supramolecular chemistry of RNA and its catalytic properties. Harnessing the dual role of RNA as both genetic information carrier and catalyst opens avenues for innovative solutions to modern health challenges.

The position we are offering will be within the Active Molecular Systems, supervised by Prof. Nathalie Katsonis, and will be embedded in the Stratingh Institute for Chemistry.

The Stratingh Institute home to , including an active Nobel laureate in chemistry. Its mission is to perform excellent research and provide excellent education in chemistry. By placing emphasis on obtaining fundamental insights into molecular and supramolecular processes, the institute strives to (1) develop synthetic methods toward functional molecules and versatile building blocks, (2) realize new materials to meet the sustainability challenge, and (3) pursue innovative approaches to study, control, and mimic the processes that govern life. The impact analysis shows that the institute operates within the top-30 of chemistry institutes worldwide.

The University of Groningen is a research university with a global outlook, deeply rooted in Groningen, City of Talent. Groningen is the lively capital of The Northern Netherlands with a high quality of life and affordable living conditions. The university has 34,000 students in BSc and MSc programs, 4,400 PhD students, and 4,600 staff members. Our students and staff come from all around the world. Quality has been our top priority for over four hundred years, and with success: The University is currently in or around the top 100 on several influential ranking lists.


We are looking for candidates who meet the following requirements:

  • a MSc degree in chemistry or a related field
  • the ability to work independently
  • excellent grades
  • creativity, determination and motivation.

Experience in synthetic organic chemistry and/or physical chemistry is of added value. Prior knowledge in nucleic acid research is not a strict requirement.

Applicants whose first language is not English must submit evidence of competency in English, please see University of Groningen's English Language Requirements for details.


Conditions of employment

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

  • a salary of € 2,770 gross per month in the first year, up to a maximum of € 3,539 gross per month in the fourth and final year, based on a full-time position (1.0 FTE)
  • a holiday allowance of 8% gross annual income
  • an 8.3% year-end bonus
  • a position for four years; you will get 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 university PhD training program is part of the agreement and the successful candidates will be enrolled in the Graduate School of Science and Engineering. This training program will be completed with training on artificial intelligence and automatization in chemistry, under the umbrella of the "Big Chemistry" Foundation.

The starting date is flexible, but must be before March 2025.


Do you meet our qualification criteria? If yes, you are requested to upload the following documents:

  • a motivation letter stating your motivation to apply for the position and your key qualities relevant for this position
  • an up-to-date curriculum vitae
  • diplomas (BSc and Msc) and transcript of records
  • contact information of two academic references.

Vacature eisen



FunctietitelAssistant Professor
Indicatie salaris (min – max]onbekend – onbekend
Aantal uren (min – max)1 – 40
Contactgegevensonbekend , onbekend onbekend
Type contractTijdelijk
LocatieGroningen, Groningen,Nederland
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