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Research Fellow in Theoretical Quantum Biology

Department of Chemistry

Location:  Guildford
Salary:  £33,309 to £37,468
Post Type:  Full Time
Advert Placed:  Thursday 09 September 2021
Closing Date:  Sunday 31 October 2021
Interview Date:  Sunday 31 October 2021
Reference:  055521

Applications are invited for the post of Research Fellow in Computational Chemistry of Enzyme Function based at the University of Surrey.

The post is funded by the John Templeton Foundation and is part of a multidisciplinary research project entitled “Life on the Edge: quantum thermodynamics, quantum biology and the arrow of time” that aims to elucidate how irreversibility emerges from quantum mechanics. The nature of the arrow of time remains poorly understood, despite advances in quantum physics, thermodynamics and cosmology. While the direction of time can be understood from thermodynamic considerations as a manifestation of the law of entropy increase, it is not clear on what scale, nor precisely how, nature becomes irreversible. The over-arching question that we wish to investigate is how an external environment maintains, and even manipulates, the reversibility of quantum processes, particularly in biological systems.

The overall project is organized into a series of parallel, complementary and interconnected themes, led by different academics across a range of disciplines (theoretical physics, computational chemistry, applied mathematics, molecular biology and philosophy). The successful candidate for this post will undertake research in a vibrant, inter-disciplinary research environment with excellent reputation and collaborations, and will be one of five RAs working on this multidisciplinary project.

The aim of this computational chemistry project, led by Dr Marco Sacchi and Dr Brendan Howlin,  is to study two important processes in quantum biology alongside experimental programmes. The first is to study quantitatively the role of tunnelling and coherence in the function of certain enzymes, such as the methylamine dehydrogenase (MADH) and the effects caused by the coupling of intrinsically quantum processes through phonon and vibronic interactions. Enzymes are able to 'tune' their environment to drive reactions forward by making use of quantum effects to shape activation barriers and enhance processes such as quantum tunnelling. The second project is to study the role of energy transfer between tethered fluorescent proteins and provide modelling predictions for the parallel experimental programme in quantum biology, carried out at Surrey and UCLA.

We seek highly motivated and qualified candidates with a background in one of the following areas: computational chemistry, theoretical physics, computational biophysics, computational biology. Qualified candidates should have a PhD in Theoretical or Computational Chemistry, Theoretical Physics or Biophysics. The successful applicant will have scientific curiosity and strong skills in team-working and communicating scientific results. Experience with computational codes such a Gromacs, NWChem, Gaussian or CASTEP would be beneficial. Working knowledge of Python or other coding languages will also be highly beneficial.

This position is for 2.5 years, starting at any point between 1 December 2021 and 1 March 2022. For an informal discussion about the role, please contact Dr Marco Sacchi via email at

In addition to salary you will receive a generous annual leave entitlement and excellent development opportunities. The University of Surrey offers benefits packages which include pension, childcare assistance and leisure facilities.

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Please note, it is University Policy to offer a starting salary equivalent to Level 3.6 (£32,344) to successful applicants who have been awarded, but are yet to receive, their PhD certificate.  Once the original PhD certificate has been submitted to the local HR Department, the salary will be increased to Level 4.1 (£33,309).

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