PhD position to study the localization and logistics of alkaloids biosynthesis in medicinal plants

The Department of Natural Product Biosynthesis (Prof. Dr. Sarah E. O’Connor and Dr. Lorenzo Caputi)  at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology invites talented and highly motivated candidates to apply for a

3-year PhD position to study the localization and logistics of alkaloids biosynthesis in medicinal plants using single cell metabolomics and transcriptomics

Project description: Plant alkaloids are complex and structurally diverse specialized metabolites that exhibit a wide array of bioactivities. Alkaloids perform many ecological functions, and also have many applications in pharmacology for the treatment of pain, cancer, dementia, and other diseases. The biosynthesis of plant-derived alkaloids involves complex chemistry and highly branched metabolic pathways. Metabolic intermediates and final products must be synthesized, translocated and stored in a highly organized fashion to avoid being hijacked by other enzymes. Thus, biosynthetic pathways often involve chemical reactions that take place in different cellular districts and different cell types within plant tissues. The aim of this PhD project is to track and correlate metabolites and transcripts in biosynthetically relevant tissues using cutting-edge techniques, such as live single-cell mass spectrometry and single-cell RNA sequencing. The goal is to identify in which cell types different alkaloid biosynthetic reactions take place, to map transport of the biosynthetic intermediates and final products, and to ultimately develop models for the role that localization plays in controlling in plant alkaloid metabolism.

Candidate requirements: We are looking for a highly motivated candidate trained in at least two of these major areas: mass spectrometry, plant physiology and/or bioinformatics. Experience and good experimental skills in mass spectrometry are particularly advantageous. Knowledge about plant specialized metabolism is also desirable. A Master’s degree in Biology, Biochemistry or related disciplines is required for this position.

We are offering a 3-year PhD position. Payment will be based on the tariff contracts for the public service (65% E13). We provide an excellent research environment with enthusiastic scientists from different nationalities in the department of Natural Product Biosynthesis (Prof. S.E. O’Connor) at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany. The PhD student will be associated with the International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS,

How to apply: The Max Planck Society is an equal opportunity employer and strives to employ both genders equally, as well as to employ more individuals with disabilities. Therefore, we encourage all applicants, independent of their nationality, gender, or disability, to apply for this position. Please send your application as a single pdf in English including a letter of motivation and research interests, CV, relevant certificates (degree certificates etc.) and the name and address of at least one referee to Prof. Sarah O’Connor email:

The deadline for applications is March 31, 2021 and the position is available from May 1, 2021.