Department of Chemistry

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Why we are recruiting

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As part of the future research strategy, the York Structural Biology Laboratory (YSBL), as part of the Department of Chemistry, is looking to recruit two members of academic staff in the areas of Cryo-electron Microscopy (Cryo-EM) and Chemical Glycoscience.

The new appointees will enhance the existing world-leading team based in YSBL with one post establishing a Cryo-EM imaging facility and the Chemical Glycoscience position strengthening further and expanding existing work in this area.

The University is committed to the acquisition of a 200 kV Cryo-EM instrument, together with appropriate computing resources, and is expected to be installed during 2017. Cryo-EM will complement the X-ray crystallography and NMR techniques currently used in the YSBL, and will bridge the gap between X-ray work and the optical microscopy in the Biology Technology Facility.

The Chemical Glycoscience position arises as a result of a Royal Society Ken Murray Research Professorship awarded to Professor Gideon Davies, FRS FMedSci. The new appointee will lead a programme of internationally excellent research which will complement and augment that of Professor Davies and other members of YSBL.

Both of the positions are offered at either senior (Chair / Reader) or junior (Lecturer/Senior Lecturer) level and we are hoping that the new staff will be in post by the beginning of the academic term in Autumn 2017.

Professor Duncan Bruce,
Head of Department

Our research areas

The York Structural Biology Laboratory is a large, internationally renowned group focusing on structural biology, glycoscience and biological chemistry:

  • Structural Biology: the determination of the structure(s) of proteins and their complexes with other proteins, nucleic acids and ligands. When integrated with exploration of the cell and molecular biology of the targets, the structural work provides major insights into the molecular mechanisms underlying biological function.
  • Chemical Biology and Biological Chemistry: probing the chemistry of biological processes in areas such as structural enzymology, reaction mechanisms and fundamental studies of molecular interactions. There is also growing interest in biocatalysis: the discovery, optimisation and exploitation of enzymes for chemical synthesis. In addition, the group uses structure-based methods to design ligands to act as chemical tools to disrupt and probe the biology of specific proteins and pathways.
  • Structural Biology Methods: York is world-renowned for the development of the experimental and in particular, computational methods used by crystallographers worldwide. This includes new approaches in molecular replacement and refinement (MOLREP and REFMAC) as well as increased streamlining model building into electron density (QUANTA and COOT). York is also a major centre for the UK collaborative effort in crystallographic computing, CCP4.

Cryo-electron Microscopy: The establishment of Cryo-EM in York is a key strategic priority for the Department and the appointee will be expected to lead research in this area. The position will be situated within YSBL and it is important that the successful candidate integrates well into that environment, forming collaborative research programmes with YSBL colleagues and with other members of the Departments of Chemistry and Biology.

Cryo-EM needs new software tools to optimise the extraction of information from Cryo-EM images and York is fortunate to have a research group led by Dr Kevin Cowtan, who has done pioneering work in software for crystallography and is now applying his expertise to Cryo-EM. York's efforts in Cryo-EM are supported via a strategic partnership with eBIC/Diamond.

Our new Glycoscience initiative will seek to break down the barriers between traditional ‘glyco‐silos’ such as chemical synthesis, enzymology, plant biology, structural biology, cell biology and drug discovery and bring a more integrated approach to research in these areas.

The biochemistry and cell biology of oligo- and poly-saccharides remains one of the least understood areas of biological chemistry. Glycosides, in the form of di-, oligo- and poly-saccharides, as well as lipid, protein and small molecule-linked glycoconjugates, play a vast assortment of roles in living organisms. Glycosides offer the structural solution to the plant, bacterial and fungal cell wall; they act as communication and signalling molecules between cells – a signalling that is all too often hijacked by pathogens and by cancerous tissues; and they fine tune the bioactivity of small molecules and the intracellular signalling of proteins. We are looking for an innovative and dynamic research leader to augment our work in these areas - dissecting key targets in glycoscience to decipher and exploit the complex cellular roles of carbohydrates in mammals and/or biomedicine.

The two new posts in glycoscience and cryo-EM will open up exciting new opportunities to link our chemistry and structural biology research with the work of the cell and developmental biology, microbiology and immunology groups, and strengthen York’s position as a centre of excellence in the biosciences.

Research leaders

Gideon Davies

Gideon Davies


Gideon’s research spans the disciplines of Chemistry and Biology, with a focus on the structural enzymology and chemical biology of proteins involved in the synthesis and degradation of carbohydrates. Current projects include:

  • the enzyme discovery and the enzymology of biomass conversion, focusing on the human intestinal microbiota and on fungal and bacterial lytic polysaccharide monooxygenases
  • the O-GlcNAc modification and its role in neurodegeneration
  • Glycan synthesis and degradation in health and disease, probing cancer viral invasion and lysosomal storage diseases
  • Opiate biosynthesis.

Gideon has won many awards including:

  • 2016 IChemE Global Energy award (with Walton and Henrissat)
  • 2015 Davy Medal of the Royal Society
  • 2014 Khorana Prize of the Royal Society of Chemistry
  • 2010 Gabor Medal of the Royal Society.

Gideon was elected as a Fellow of The Royal Society and a member of the European Molecular Biology Organization in 2010; he was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 2014.

Keith Wilson profile image

Keith Wilson


Keith was appointed to a Chair in the YSBL in 1995, and has led the group for the last 15 years. He was previously head of the EMBL Hamburg Outstation. He has researched in protein crystallography since 1971. He is seconded one day per week to act as the scientific advisor of the Collaborative Computational Project Number 4 for Protein Crystallography (CCP4).

Keith’s research focuses around protein crystallography and structural enzymology; in particular, the relation between structure and function in biologically active macromolecules using the techniques of protein crystallography for which the YSBL is extremely well equipped. Current interests include:

  • methods development for structural biology; map interpretation and graphical representation (with Kevin Cowtan and CCP4)
  • industrial enzymes, where we collaborate strongly with Novozymes A/S
  • structural insight into iron uptake mechanisms (with Professor Anne Duhme-Klair).
Martin Fascione

Martin Fascione


Martin joined the Department in 2014 as a lecturer in synthetic and chemical biology specialising in the glyco area. As recognition of the capacity and excellence of glycoscience research at York, the University (Davies, Fascione and others) was recently awarded funding by the BBSRC to purchase the first oligosaccharide synthesiser in the UK, the Glyconeer. The successful glycoscience appointee will work closely with Fascione, where appropriate, harnessing the potential of the Glyconeer.

Martin’s research covers bioorthogonal chemical glycobiology:

  • bioorthogonal chemistry
  • exploration of rare sugars in bacterial infections
  • nechanisms of stereoselective glycosylation
  • chemical and enzymatic modification of proteins
  • chemoenzymatic and automated oligosaccharide synthesis
  • solid phase peptide synthesis
  • unnatural amino acid mutagenesis
Kevin Cowtan profile image

Kevin Cowtan

Senior Research Fellow

Kevin is a research fellow in computation methods development for structural biology, funded by STFC. He currently holds two BBSRC grants, for the development of novel methods for the refinement of atomic models and automated model building tools for electron microscopy reconstructions. Kevin’s research covers multiple disciplines connected by the computational analysis of data, including X-ray crystallography, electron microscopy and climate science.

  • automated building of atomic models in electron density maps
  • image processing for the improvement of X-ray crystallography data
  • feature recognition in electron microscopy reconstructions
  • graphical tools for interactive interpretation of electron density maps
  • modelling and validation of sugars using X-ray data
  • historical climate reconstructions
  • uncertainty in the projection of future climate change

A great place to work


The Department has nearly 60 academic staff, more than 750 students and over 80 research associates and fellows. Watch an introduction to the Department on our Youtube channel.

The Gold award from Athena SWAN for encouraging the advancement of women's careers in science was won by the Department of Chemistry in 2007 and renewed in 2010 and 2015. This was the first Gold award made in this scheme. The Athena SWAN Charter was established to recognise and celebrate good employment practice for women working in science disciplines in higher education and research, and now extends to include all academic disciplines.

What our staff think

Lucy Carpenter profile image

Professor Lucy Carpenter

Deputy Head of Research

I've had two periods of maternity leave since joining the Department in 2000, and I benefited from supportive management and flexible working on my return from both absences, which really helped whilst the children settled. Since then I've moved from full-time to various degrees of part-time and back again, to balance the changing demands of work and family.

The Department also supported my career helping me with promotion (including to Professor) when working part-time. Now the children have longer hours at school, I returned to full-time work in 2016, but like many working parents or carers, I'm thankful for flexible and home working.

Alison Parkin profile image

Doctor Alison Parkin


I was appointed as an Anniversary Lecturer in 2012, and was able to settle into life at York quickly and easily due to help from my mentor, Professor Anne Duhme-Klair, and other colleagues in the Inorganic group who offered support on both practical and personal levels. I now have a thriving research group which includes a number of shared students, and strong collaborative links within and beyond the Department.

From very early on, I held positions on Departmental committees such as Research Committee, Equality and Diversity Group, and the Management Team, and my experience has been of an inclusive and egalitarian management ethos reflecting a genuine desire to support transparency and equality in order to foster excellence.

The University of York

Founded on principles of excellence, equality and opportunity for all, the University of York opened in 1963 with just 230 students. In 2016 it is the centre for almost 16,000 students across more than 30 academic departments and research centres. In over 50 years we have become one of the world's leading universities and a member of the prestigious Russell Group.

The University has consistently been recognised as one of the leading Higher Education Institutes and is one of just six post-war universities which appear in the world top 100 (2013-14) and 15th in the Times & Sunday Times league table (2016). The University of York has won six Times Higher Education (THE) Awards and five Queen’s Anniversary Prizes.

We are proud of our association with Athena SWAN, holding ten awards in support of women in science, with gold awards for Chemistry and Biology as well as a University-wide bronze award.

Of 154 universities that took part in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) in 2014, the University of York ranked 14th overall and 10th on the impact of our research. The University is consistently in the top ten UK research universities and attracts over £60m a year of funding from research alone.

Centred around the picturesque village of Heslington on the edge of the city of York, our colleges are set in an attractive landscaped campus. With a compact and easy to get around design, York enjoys a safe, friendly atmosphere. The campus offers a wealth of facilities, which includes bars, shops, theatres and concert halls all within easy walking distance.

Find out more about the University of York

Currently recruiting

Professor / Reader / Senior Lecturer or Lecturer in Glycoscience

The position arises as a result of a Royal Society Ken Murray Research Professorship awarded to Professor Gideon Davies, FRS FMedSci, and will further strengthen and expand York's work in Chemical Glycoscience.

Applications are now closed

Closing date 5/2/17

Professor / Reader / Senior Lecturer or Lecturer in Cryo-Electron Microscopy

A key component of the future research strategy of the Department is the establishment of a cryo-electron microscopy (Cryo-EM) imaging facility. We are seeking to appoint a high-calibre researcher in Cryo-EM with a clear vision and proven track record to lead their own programme of internationally excellent research.

Applications are now closed

Closing date 12/2/17


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