Come and join us!

Come and join us!

We have been awarded a prestigious Human Frontiers Grant to study the evolution of flagellar complexity, together with the Beeby Lab (UK), Pedaci Lab (France), and Cary lab (New Zealand). We are looking to recruit a postdoc on this project as soon as possible. Read below for a more detailed description of opportunities in this exciting project!

How does evolution create novelty? The underpinning of evolution is molecular; cells are filled with molecular machines whose origins involved evolution of many new components. Understanding how evolution created such novelty is a substantial gap in evolutionary theory. Current understanding, however, is limited by the absence of a molecular fossil record and challenges in determining the structures and functions of molecular machines from diverse species. We are looking for highly motivated PhD and postdoctoral candidates willing to tackle these challenges as part of a globe spanning collaboration, involving the Hochberg Lab at the Max Planck Institute in Marburg (evolutionary biochemistry), The Beeby lab at Imperial College London (cryo electron tomography), the Pedaci Lab at CNRS Montpellier (single molecule biophysics), and the Cary Lab at Waikato University in New Zealand (metagenomics). This collaboration is funded by a highly competitive Human Frontiers grant, with funding for 3 years.

Our vision is to assemble an international team of researchers that will combine breakthroughs in metagenomics, evolutionary biology, structural biology, and single molecule biophysics to provide a unparalleled empirical description of the evolutionary path of a molecular machine as it gained new parts. Our focus will be on the evolution of the high-torque flagellum from epsilon-proteobacteria (εPB). This machine incorporated many new parts as it became a more powerful motor.  This project aims to reveal whether the evolution of molecular machines follows traditional gradualist theories of evolution, or whether their construction from discrete proteins necessitates discontinuous evolutionary leaps and whether nature’s nanomachines come from efficient evolutionary optimization or whether historical accidents have introduced gratuitous complexity. More generally, we will extend the reach of comparative evolutionary biology to the nanomachines that drive cells and make a first step in uncovering the rich molecular natural history of the cell.

This is an exciting opportunity to do ground breaking fundamental research in a truly international collaborative setting, with all participants intended to spend at least some time in all participating groups.

The consortium is looking for candidates in 2 different areas to work on this joint project

1)      Phylogenetics, resurrection and characterization of ancient flagellar components

The Hochberg lab in Marburg specializes on evolutionary biochemistry and ancestral sequence reconstruction. Our previous work has focused on the evolution and preservation of molecular complexity, using both experimental biophysics and molecular phylogenetics. We are looking to recruit a postdoc or PhD student to reconstruct gene histories for all flagellar components and use this information to resurrect ancestral flagellar components to test their functions in vivo as well as in vitro. Situated in the Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology, our group is works right at the heart of one of the world’s leading microbiology research centers. You would join an expanding group of evolutionary biochemists with expertise ranging from structural biochemistry to bioinformatics. We are looking for either a PhD or Postdoc candidate with experience in molecular phylogenetics. Some biochemical experience is desirable. If interested, please email

2)         Single molecule quantification of flagellar motor properties   

The Pedaci lab, located at the Centre de Biologie Structurale in Montpellier (France), has developed cutting edge techniques to quantify the mechanical and dynamical output of individual flagellar motors in living cells. We will further develop these techniques to quantify and characterize motor output across the evolutionary trajectory from motors with simple to complex architecture. Our expertise is in single-molecule manipulation, using optical and magnetic tweezers. We are looking for either one PhD or Postdoc candidate with a strong background in experimental biophysics. Expertises in programming,  data analysis, and basic cellular biology are desirable. If interested, please email

Start dates are from August-October 2021. Interested candidates should send letters of intent to the labs they are interested in, including a CV and contact details for at least 2 referees.

If you are interested, please contact 

We are also looking for a PhD student together with Prof. Helge Bode to study how Non-Ribosomal Peptide Synthetases evolved to produce a diverese array of potentially useful natural products. Read below for more info

Non-ribosomal peptide synthetases (NRPS) are gigantic, multi-domain enzymes that act as assembly lines for microbes to synthesize an array of important natural products. Their products are very variable and many have potentially useful activities, such as very specific antibiotics. But we lack an understanding how the modular structure of any one NRPS encodes the exact natural product it produces. This hampers our ability to realize the biotechnological potential of these enzymes. To overcome this challenge, we seek a PhD candidate who would be excited to combine evolutionary analysis with very high-throughput biochemical analysis to elucidate how evolution encoded different activities across different families of NRPS. The candidate would work between the Bode lab and the Hochberg lab at the Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology in Marburg. The Bode lab is world-leading in understanding the biochemistry of NRPS and high-throughput characterization of their activities. The Hochberg lab specializes in ancestral sequence reconstruction and the experimental characterization of resurrected proteins that last existed millions or even billions of years ago. Combining the expertise from both groups, the candidate will retrace the evolutionary history of families of NRPS proteins that have diversified their activities. They will then experimentally recreate and characterize enzymes that existed at different points in history to understand how diverse present-day activities evolved. This approach will yield unprecedented insights into how the specific activities of present day NRPSs are encoded in their sequence and structure.

The ideal candidate has experience in experimental biochemistry and some basic knowledge of either phylogenetics, evolutionary biology, or simple programming or scripting (in python or R). The position will remain open until filled, with a start date as soon as possible. As part of their PhD, the candidate would join the thriving graduate community at the International Max Planck Research School in Marburg. The Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology in Marburg is a world-leading hub of microbiology with state of the art research infrastructure and a highly stimulating intellectual environment.

Interested applicants should send a cover letter, CV and contact details of at least two referees to or For more information about the two groups, please visit our websites at and

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