Date Posted
16 Mar 2024

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PhD Project
University of Auckland

PhD scholarship: Developing inhibitors of methanogenic archaea for greenhouse gas mitigation

16 Mar 2024

NOTE: this position listing has expired and may no longer be relevant!

Position Description

A PhD scholarship is available to join a Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment Smart Ideas-funded research project into understanding and exploiting the secondary metabolites produced by methanogenic archaea, the organisms responsible for ruminant methane production. The research focuses on secondary metabolites produced by megasynthase enzymes, large protein assembly lines that synthesise diverse bioactive molecules. Products of megasynthase enzymes include many antibiotics and other pharmacologically important molecules. This groundbreaking research project is investigating the first set of megasynthase genes of archaeal origin to be identified.

Our success in understanding these methanogen enzymes has provided us with an opportunity to develop inhibitory molecules based on their secondary metabolite products to reduce methanogen growth and thus decrease ruminant methane emissions. These emissions make up a third of New Zealand’s total greenhouse gas emissions and a significant and increasing proportion of global emissions.

This is an opportunity for the successful scholar to take on a key role in all aspects of inhibitor development. The research will involve expression and purification of the megasynthase enzymes and production of the secondary metabolite molecules in vitro using these enzymes. This will be followed by structural characterisation of the secondary metabolites and functional testing via methanogen culture. Analogues of the secondary metabolites will be designed and synthesised and culture-based inhibition testing carried out.

The scholar will be based at the University of Auckland, jointly hosted by the School of Biological Sciences and the School of Chemical Sciences, and will spend periods of time at the world-leading Rumen Microbiology facility at AgResearch, Palmerston North.

For more information please contact Dr Verne Lee (

More information about Dr Verne Lee’s research can be found here:

How to Apply

Candidates should have a First or Upper Second Class Honours degree or Masters or equivalent with a background in synthetic chemistry and a strong interest working at the interface between chemistry and biology. Experience with protein expression and purification, biochemistry and microbiology will be an advantage. International students are welcome to apply. Fluency in English is essential. The scholarship includes a tax-free stipend of NZ$25,000 plus fees for 3 years. To apply please send your curriculum vitae, academic transcript and a cover letter outlining your interest and suitability for the position to