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Postdoctoral Scientist - Neurobiology - Dr Michael Hastings

Open Date: 22/07/2020, 15:45
Close Date: 23/08/2020, 23:55
Research Institute: The MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB)

The MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) is one of the birthplaces of modern molecular biology and has played an important role in the development of many new techniques, most notably protein crystallography, cryo-electron microscopy, DNA sequencing and monoclonal antibodies.  The LMB has a clear goal of understanding biological processes at the molecular level, with the ultimate aim of using this knowledge to tackle specific problems in human health and disease.  We aim to tackle difficult, long-term problems, which often require investment over many years.

There are four scientific Divisions - Structural Studies, Protein and Nucleic Acid Chemistry, Cell Biology and Neurobiology.  However, scientific collaboration between the different Divisions is extensive.  Scientists are well supported by excellent scientific facilities and by the LMB Operations Group which maintains the core infrastructure and services of the institute.

The LMB provides an unsurpassed environment for both new and established researchers.  Scientists are drawn to the LMB from all over the world, thus creating a lively and international community for the exchange of ideas and technical innovation.

UK Research and Innovation is a new entity that brings together nine partners to create an independent organisation with a strong voice for research and innovation, more information can be found at

MRC - 4
£31,602 - £34,443 per annum
Fixed Term
Full Time
3 Years
Overall purpose:

To work within the Group of Dr Michael Hastings at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB), within a programme aimed at the molecular neurobiology of circadian time-keeping in mammals.  Specifically, to undertake research to investigate the in vivo role of the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) in controlling circadian behaviour.  The Hastings lab research programme aims to understand how individual nerve cells of the SCN operate as daily (circadian) clocks, and how they function together in a temporally co-ordinated circuit to control the rest/activity and sleep/wake cycles and daily physiological rhythms.  There has been recent success in showing how distinct cell populations of the SCN (neurons and astrocytes) contribute differentially to the period and to the stability of the SCN clock (Maywood et al. PNAS 2018, Brancaccio et al. Science 2019, Patton et al. Nature Communications in press).  Even more recently we have established a single-cell RNA sequencing library of the SCN, which identifies, in a broad and comprehensive way, the molecular identities of diverse cell populations in the SCN.  The goal is to exploit this new insight into cellular identity and function to define how the SCN as a neural circuit directs circadian behaviour and physiology.  Critical to this is the ability to map, monitor and manipulate defined cell groups in vivo, by applying virally based intersectional techniques, and then to determine the consequences of specific manipulations for circadian behaviour and so reveal causal relationships and relevant mechanisms.  Techniques will include stereotaxic neurosurgery, translational switching of protein expression, virally mediated transynaptic tracing, in vivo fibre fluorimetry and opto- and chemogenetic approaches, and automated recordings of circadian rest/activity cycles.  These will be complemented by transcriptomic and other molecular genetic approaches, alongside high content fluorescent light microscopy to map relevant brain circuitry.  

Main duties:

•    To undertake research aimed at elucidating the in vivo role of the suprachiasmatic nucleus in controlling circadian behaviour in mice.  
•    To identify, develop and apply a broad range of techniques to pursue the research objectives.
•    To present scientific work at seminars within the Laboratory and at external meetings.
•    To contribute to Laboratory-wide discussions on developments within the field.
•    To draft scientific papers, and contribute to the overall preparation of research for publication.
•    To contribute to the LMB’s mission in the public engagement of science, and the translation of research findings into improvements in health care.
•    To assist in the training of PhD Students and other members of the LMB.

Key responsibilities:

Within the overall direction of the programme, the Group, the remit of the project and in discussion with the Group Leader, you will make a significant input into determining the direction of the project within a three-year lifespan.

To plan your own work and objectives on a 12-month basis and manage your experimental work within the project along with your Supervisor.

To work with limited supervision to identify, develop, modify and apply the necessary techniques to achieve the goals of the project.

To introduce and apply new techniques across a wide range of disciplines and to have the creativity and initiative to develop novel approaches and methods where required.

To ensure the research is carried out in accordance with good practice and in compliance with local policies and legal requirements.

To contribute to the smooth running of the Group, including the effective use of resources, training of others and taking responsibility for use of communal facilities.

To enhance your research and generic skills through a tailored development programme.

Working relationships:

You will report to Dr Michael Hastings and will interact and collaborate with other Postdoctoral Scientists, Research Support Staff and Students, not only in your Group, but also across the LMB and with external Groups as necessary.

Additional information:

This is a three-year training and development position for a Postdoctoral Scientist who has recently completed their doctoral studies, is moving into a new research discipline or has limited experience of key transferable skills. We support Postdoctoral Scientists with a range of formal and on-the-job training, including:
•    MRC training courses.
•    External training and personal development courses.
•    One-to-one training with your Supervisor and other Scientists.

You will commit to undertaking the following:
•    Developing and following a personal development plan.
•    Attending training courses.
•    Identifying additional training which will support you to develop your career.

The above lists are not exhaustive and you are required to undertake such duties as may reasonably be requested within the scope of the post.  All employees are required to act professionally, co-operatively and flexibly in line with the requirements of the post and the MRC.

Academic qualifications:

These should include a PhD in a relevant subject or due to complete PhD within 6 months.

Technical skills and expertise:

Experience of and ability to perform techniques relevant to the project.  Particularly useful would be experience of:


Rodent stereotaxic surgery.

A solid background of molecular neurobiology approaches.

Confident and comprehensive ability to describe, discuss and explore advanced concepts of molecular neurobiology.

Commitment to advance in the fields of behavioural and/or molecular neuroscience.

A desire to conduct practically based research.


Experience of virally mediated neural circuit tracing and/or fibre fluorimetry.

Design, production and /or utilisation of viral vectors for mapping and manipulating the brain.

Whole-brain fluorescent microscopy.

A desire to refine and advance surgically based approaches to study of brain function in rodents.

Track record of research:

This will include achievements, and contributions to published papers.

Other relevant evidence of:

•    Commitment.
•    Originality.
•    Ability to communicate.
•    Working with others.

Additional information:

Home Office licence for mouse (rodent)-surgery.  

The MRC is a great place to work and progress your career, be it in scientific research or the support functions.The MRC is a unique working environment where our researchers are rewarded by world class innovation and collaboration opportunities that the MRC name brings. The MRC is an excellent place to develop yourself further and a range of training & development opportunities will be available to you, including professional registration with the Science Council.

Choosing to come to work at the MRC (part of UKRI) means that you will have access to a whole host of benefits from a defined benefit pension scheme and excellent holiday entitlement to access to employee shopping/travel discounts and salary sacrifice cycle to work scheme, as well as the chance to put the MRC and UKRI on your CV in the future.

Our success is dependent upon our ability to embrace diversity and draw on the skills, understanding and experience of all our people. We welcome applications from all sections of the community irrespective of gender, race, ethnic or national origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, disability or age. As "Disability Confident" employers, we guarantee to interview all applicants with disabilities who meet the minimum criteria for the vacancy.

UKRI supports research in areas that include animal health, agriculture and food security, and bioscience for health which includes research on animals, genetic modification and stem cell research. Whilst you may not have direct involvement in this type of research, you should consider whether this conflicts with your personal values or beliefs.

We will conduct a full and comprehensive pre-employment check as an essential part of the recruitment process on all individuals that are offered a position with UKRI. This will include a security check and an extreme organisations affiliation check.

Posted on 27/07/2020

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