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Research Assistant/Associate in in Molecular Microbiology for Waterborne Hazard Detection

Requisition ID:  19924

Newcastle, GB

Contract Type:  Fixed Term
Working Pattern:  Full Time
Posted Date:  03-May-2022


We are a world class research-intensive university. We deliver teaching and learning of the highest quality. We play a leading role in economic, social and cultural development of the North East of England. Attracting and retaining high-calibre people is fundamental to our continued success.

We understand how important the full employment package is to our colleagues at Newcastle University and we are committed to providing a great range of benefits and discounts for all.  You can learn more about what is available here on our Benefits Website page.


Newcastle is an inclusive global University community where everyone is treated with dignity and respect.  As a University of Sanctuary, we aim to provide a welcoming place of safety for all, offering opportunities to people fleeing violence and persecution.

Newcastle University is committed to being a fully inclusive Global University which actively recruits, supports and retains colleagues from all sectors of society.  We value diversity as well as celebrate, support and thrive on the contributions of all our employees and the communities they represent.  We are proud to be an equal opportunities employer and encourage applications from everybody, regardless of race, sex, ethnicity, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, age, disability, gender identity, marital status/civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, as well as being open to flexible working practices.



Research Assistant: £28,756 to £30,497 per annum

Research Associate: £31,406 to £ £33,309 per annum


Closing Date: 1 June 2022


The Role


We have an exciting opportunity for a researcher to join a flourishing research community working to provide clean water and sanitation to all.  You will develop and demonstrate a novel approach to monitoring microorganisms in water and related hazards and exposure risks at a catchment scale. You will be familiar with DNA/RNA based diagnostics for waterborne hazard monitoring, such as next generation sequencing and qPCR assays, and will work to further develop and apply these methods for improved risk assessment and the protection of public health.


Your work will build on the successful development of a portable laboratory for molecular water microbiology, that readily fits into a suitcase. The risks from waterborne hazards to human and environmental health are multi-faceted, and you will develop context-appropriate monitoring and risk assessment methods suitable for applications in low resource settings. You will join the UKRI GCRF Water Security and Sustainable Development Hub and the Environmental Biotechnology Network, and work alongside partners in Ethiopia, Malaysia, Colombia, and India towards meeting the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 6: Clean water and sanitation for all. The Water Security and Sustainable Development Hub brings together over 100 researchers, from social scientists to hydrologists, economists to microbiologists. You will contribute to this diverse and thriving research community, and train less experienced Water Security Hub partners in the application of state-of-the-art microbiology and related risk assessment methods.


You will be required travel overseas for workshops, practical trainings and fieldwork in collaboration with Water Security and Sustainable Development Hub partners in Ethiopia, Malaysia, Columbia and India.


For more information please visit here.


This is a fixed-term, full time role, available for 12 months from 01/09/2022 - 31/08/2023


For informal queries, please contact Dr David Werner, Professor of Environmental Systems Modelling:


Key Accountabilities

  • Through desk study and field surveys identify and critically analyse different types of microbial hazards in water resources and related risks to environmental and human health from poor microbiological water quality, and their sources and exposure pathways in case study catchments
  • Further develop and apply portable molecular diagnostics using tools like the MinION of Oxford Nanopore Technologies and portable PCR and qPCR machines towards affordable and ubiquitous genomics for the tracking and control of microbial hazards
  • Capacity building of junior scientists and practitioners from across the Hub collaborators in molecular diagnostics and related risk assessment methods
  • Review different tools or systems for risk assessment, visualization, and communication
  • In collaboration with the wider team, develop a method for the spatiotemporal modelling and mapping of risks, and work alongside in-country teams to explore different interventions with other stakeholders as a mechanism to aid basin management and decision making
  • Identify the points and times of greatest risks within a catchment, and in collaboration with the wider team use scenario analysis to identify current and future vulnerabilities and effective risk mitigation strategies
  • Report the findings in an accessible form e.g. a guide for water security interventions, making information suitable for a range of social, economic, political and cultural contexts
  • To present information on research progress and outcomes at project meetings
  • To write up results from your own research activity and provide input into the research project’s dissemination, in a variety of forms (reports, journal articles, chapters, book)
  • To comply with University policies, including financial regulations, equal opportunities policy, Health & Safety policy, promoting race equality policy, information systems security policy, data security, intellectual property rights and safeguarding policies
  • To engage in personal, professional and career development, to enhance both specialist and transferable skills in accordance with desired career trajectory
  • To carry out other duties, commensurate with the grade of the post, as requested by the project

The Person


Knowledge, Skills and Experience

  • Knowledge of an area or areas of the water system demonstrating analytical skills
  • Experience with molecular microbiology methods and their application to water quality surveying
  • Experience of work using the MinION of Oxford Nanopore Technologies
  • Experience of collaborative or consortium working with academic and stakeholder partners from different countries and backgrounds
  • A developing track record of peer reviewed publications in internationally recognised journals and experience of presentation of work to the national/international research community
  • Knowledge of innovative ways of presenting research outputs


Attributes and Behaviours 

  • Excellent communication skills, both written and verbal; ability and willingness to communicate your research at national and international conferences, to fellow academics in other disciplines and to stakeholders
  • Excellent interpersonal skills to build trust with collaborating groups
  • The ability to work well both independently and as part of a team
  • Good planning, organisational and time management skills
  • Willingness to travel, potentially for extended periods, including to Hub partner destinations (Colombia, Ethiopia, India, Malaysia)



  • A good Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in a relevant subject e.g. Engineering, Agriculture, Chemistry, Biology, Environmental Sciences
  • PhD (or close to completion, or equivalent experience) focused in water security management or a related areas


The University holds a silver Athena SWAN award in recognition of our good employment practices for the advancement of gender equality. The University also holds the HR Excellence in Research award for our work to support the career development of our researchers, and is a member of the Euraxess initiative supporting researchers in Europe.

Requisition ID: 19924