Postdoctoral Researcher: From self-reproduction to evolution in the RNA world

The Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences (MPI MiS) invites applications for the position of a

Postdoctoral Researcher

in the research group Structure of Evolution of Matteo Smerlak. We seek a RNA bioinformatician to join our young and dynamic group of evolutionary theorists.

MPI MiS is a research institute located in Leipzig, Germany. Our research advances outward looking mathematics. We develop mathematical methods for applications, and we translate problems from the sciences, humanities and engineering into mathematical challenges. We are committed to innovative fundamental research, and to transferring concepts and structures from mathematics into other academic fields.

How probable is the emergence of self-reproduction in the prebiotic world? Recent work has demonstrated that RNA catalysts (ribozymes) can build copies of themselves by the recombination of smaller RNA fragments. A well-studied system has been engineered from a specific ribozyme (a group I intron). Traditional low-throughput engineering approaches have prevented a thorough investigation of the probability of this type of reproduction contributing to life’s origins. In collaboration with the groups of P. Nghe (ESPCI, France), E. Hayden (Boise State University, USA) and A. Ramesh (National Center for Biological Systems, India), this project aims to develop high-throughput engineering approaches to fill this knowledge gap.

The project is funded by the Human Frontier Science Project and involves labs with complementary expertise, located in four countries (USA, Germany, India and France). Sufficient travel funds are also available to facilitate international collaboration and training.

Candidates should hold a PhD in bioinformatics or a related field. Some familiarity with RNA structure prediction software and R/Python/Matlab would be ideal for this project.

Funding is available for up to 3 years pending satisfactory progress. Starting date as soon as possible given the current international situation.


  • Deadline: None (applications are evaluated on a rolling basis)
  • Please submit the following information:
    • Résumé
    • Cover letter
    • Contact information of two references
  • Submissions of applications should proceed via Email to Matteo Smerlak

The Max Planck Society strives for gender diversity. We welcome applications from all backgrounds. The Max Planck society is committed to increasing the number of individuals with disabilities in its workforce and therefore encourages applications from such qualified individuals.

For more information concerning this position, please contact Matteo Smerlak

14.10.2020, 15:01