PhD Position: Enzyme Design and Evolution

100%, Basel, fixed-term

Do you want to become a bioengineer, and build sustainable enzymes to fight the energy and climate crisis? Then we - the Bunzel group at the Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering - are looking for you to combine computational design and directed evolution to create photocatalytic enzymes for biohybrid solar cells.

Our interdisciplinary team uses computational and experimental methods to design novel enzymes. The group is headed by Dr. Adrian Bunzel, an SNSF Ambizione Principal Investigator and Group Leader at ETH Zurich. The doctoral thesis will be co-supervised by Prof. Panke, head of the Bioprocess Laboratory at the D-BSSE.

Project background

We are experiencing a climate emergency!

The growing world population demands an ever-increasing supply of energy and food while soaring greenhouse gas emissions threaten the global climate putting human lives at risk. To fight these urgent challenges, the Bunzel group creates photocatalytic enzymes that harness sunlight for biosynthesis and energy production. We do so by endowing existing biocatalysts with photocatalytic activity using computational design. Subsequently, we submit our designer enzymes to directed evolution to improve photocatalysis by mutagenesis and selection.

During your doctoral studies, you will engineer photovoltaic enzymes that power biohybrid solar cells. You will be a member of a vibrant research team that combines synthetic biology and photo-biocatalysis to create sustainable solutions for societal challenges such as energy production, food security, carbon capture, and solar fuel synthesis.

Job description

You will create photovoltaic enzymes by:

  • Creating photocatalytic activity using computational design
  • Testing your designs in the laboratory
  • Improving photocatalysis by directed evolution
  • Constructing biohybird solar cells 

You will be part of a highly interdisciplinary and collaborative team, supporting your work and fostering your research ideas.

Your profile

  • Essential: Background (M.Sc. or equivalent) in biochemistry, synthetic biology, chemical biology, or related field.
  • Desirable: Some experience in computational chemistry, biomolecular simulations, electro- or photochemistry, or protein engineering would be helpful but is not vital.

Your workplace

We offer

We offer a supportive environment in an interdisciplinary team. We will share our fascination for enzymes, encourage your research ideas, and support your ventures into all aspects of enzyme engineering - spanning theory (computational design, molecular dynamics simulation, machine learning) and experiment (directed evolution, ultrahigh-throughput methods, biophysics, mechanistic enzymology, applied biocatalysis). We will assist you in developing your scientific thinking, professional communication, and presentation skills. You will have access to the cutting-edge facilities of ETH Zurich and the D-BSSE (soon in our brand-new building), and will have all the benefits of becoming an employee of ETH.

Working, teaching and research at ETH Zurich

We value diversity

In line with our values, ETH Zurich encourages an inclusive culture. We promote equality of opportunity, value diversity and nurture a working and learning environment in which the rights and dignity of all our staff and students are respected. Visit our Equal Opportunities and Diversity website to find out how we ensure a fair and open environment that allows everyone to grow and flourish.

Curious? So are we.

We are looking forward to receiving your online application with the following documents:

  • Letter of application
  • CV
  • University transcripts
  • Contacts of two references

Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal. Applications via email or postal services will not be considered.

Further information about our group can be found here. Questions regarding the position should be directed to Dr. Bunzel at (no applications).

About ETH Zürich

ETH Zurich is one of the world’s leading universities specialising in science and technology. We are renowned for our excellent education, cutting-edge fundamental research and direct transfer of new knowledge into society. Over 30,000 people from more than 120 countries find our university to be a place that promotes independent thinking and an environment that inspires excellence. Located in the heart of Europe, yet forging connections all over the world, we work together to develop solutions for the global challenges of today and tomorrow.