Société Française d'Exobiologie

PhD thesis position on the origins of biomolecular homochirality

Apply for a Ph.D. position on the origins of biomolecular homochirality


 Cornelia Meinert, Directrice de Recherche

Institut de Chimie de Nice (ICN), CNRS, Université Côte d’Azur

28 Avenue Valrose, 06108 Nice Cedex, France

+33 4 92 07 61 36

+33 6 34 52 03 24


Objective: We seek to hire an outstanding researcher at the Ph.D. level to join our laboratory at the Institut de Chimie de Nice, Université Côte d’Azur. The successful candidate will be proposed and supported for a Ph.D. project on the emergence of homochiral biomolecules funded by a doctoral fellowship of the French Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation.

Abstract: What is responsible for the emergence of homochirality, the almost exclusive use of one enantiomer over its mirror image? And what led to the evolution of life’s homochiral biopolymers, DNA/RNA, proteins and lipids, where all the constituent monomers exhibit the same handedness?

Our team is developing a synergistic methodology to build a unified theory for the origin of all chiral biological building blocks and their assembly into homochiral supramolecular entities. Multidimensional gas chromatographic analyses of astrophysical-relevant samples including interstellar ice analogues and meteorites will be combined with asymmetric photochemistry triggered by circularly polarized synchrotron and laser sources. To investigate the potential chirality transfer from chiral photons to prebiotic molecules, chiroptical data will be recorded in close collaboration with our colleagues at the Danish synchrotron facility ASTRID2. A unified theory on the asymmetric formation and self-assembly of life’s biopolymers will impact the conceptual foundation of the origin of life.


Background: Recent work central to the proposed research: i) Chiroptical activity of hydroxycarboxylic acids: implications for the origin of biological homochirality. Communications Chemistry 4, (2021); ii) Origin of alkylphosphonic acids in the interstellar medium. Science Advances 5 (2019); iii) Photon-energy-controlled symmetry breaking with circularly polarized light. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 53 (2014)


We offer:

  • The possibility to be involved in a timely research project in an emerging field, using state-of-the art equipment
  • A stimulating, diverse and international research team & advanced training opportunities, embedded in a networked research environment


We require:

  • Sc. (or equivalent) in chemistry, preferably specialized in analytical or physical chemistry.
  • The ideal candidate will have a strong background in analytical chemistry, derivatization methods, as well as gas and/or liquid chromatographic techniques. Further experience in photochemistry is advantageous but not mandatory.

Starting date: Fall 2022; Duration of contract: 3 years

Deadline: February 28th, 2022


Applications written in English, German or French should be sent to Dr. Meinert (combined as one pdf file), and should include:

(1) cover letter

(2) CV including your scientific skills and your research experience during your higher education

(3) a max 2-page summary of your Bachelor thesis and/or M1 internship

(4) for a prospective Ph.D. candidate, a transcript of results from the university-level courses taken

(5) contact information for at least 2 referees (recommendation letters should be sent directly to Dr. Meinert)




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