Group Leader position in Biomolecular Archaeology

Jena, Thüringen (DE)
Salary and Research funds are competitive, reflecting qualifications
April 13 2018
Position Type
Full Time
Organization Type

Group Leader position in Biomolecular Archaeology

The Department of Archaeology at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History (MPI-SHH) is offering a 5-year funded Group Leader position to head a Biomolecular Archaeology Group. The successful candidate will have the opportunity to co-develop a state-of-the-art biomolecular archaeology facility, supervise a growing research group, and undertake cutting-edge research on archaeological biomarkers, including lipids, amino acids, carbohydrates and small molecules. This appointment forms part of the broader aims of the Department of Archaeology to develop and apply novel archaeological science methods to shed light on patterns of human evolution, behavior, and culture through time.

The extraction, identification, and analysis of biomolecules from human and animal-derived remains (bones, shell, teeth, etc.), as well as other archaeological sources (ceramics, lithics, residues, dental calculus, etc.), is a rapidly expanding area of interdisciplinary research. We seek an applicant who will drive this field forward, focusing on 1) methodological developments in the extraction of ancient biomolecules (including lipids, amino acids, waxes, hormones and metabolites) from diverse archaeological materials, 2) developing novel approaches to improve the identification and measurement of characteristic molecules from these extracts and 3) applying these techniques as part of broader archaeological programmes of research in order to improve understanding of past evolutionary relationships, dispersals, diet, environment, health, food preparation, storage, and trade. We particularly seek applicants who can demonstrate familiarity with cutting-edge new methods in biochemistry and molecular biology, and who can demonstrate a capacity to develop novel approaches and methodologies.

Facilities for Gas Chromatography and Gas Chromatography Combustion Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry currently exist in the Department of Archaeology, but one of the Group Leader’s roles will be to expand the facilities and equipment available for biomolecular extraction and identification, drawing on the Department’s start-up funds. The successful Group Leader applicant will be expected to collaborate closely with other groups in the Department, including those engaged in archaeological science, palaeoenvironmental, and field archaeological research, to help expand and develop the Department’s unique multidisciplinary approach to the study of the human past.

Applicants from the fields of biology, biochemistry and chemistry are encouraged to apply, as well as established archaeological science researchers. The successful applicant will have a proven track record of peer-reviewed publication in their relevant discipline. Applicants should also be able to demonstrate competence in student supervision and the management of a laboratory and research group. The successful applicant will develop an ambitious program of research that addresses key archaeological and biological research questions and envisions new ways to apply biomolecular techniques to archaeological questions.

The initial appointment of the Group Leader is for 5 years with the possibility of extension after international review and conditional on legal and financial options. The position start date is flexible, but ideally between October 2018 – January 2019.

Your qualifications


  • Have a PhD degree or qualification equivalent, in Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry, Biology or Archaeological Science.
  • Training and experience of laboratory research, maintenance, and management.
  • Training and experience in the application of the latest statistical and bioinformatics approaches for the analysis of biomolecular data.
  • Experience writing scientific peer-reviewed publications and a strong publication record.
  • Applicants are expected to be enthusiastic about learning and exploring research topics in the archaeological, evolutionary and palaeoecological sciences. They must also be willing to work as part of a research team, helping build up and develop the Department of Archaeology while simultaneously spearheading an ambitious and cutting-edge research programme.
  • We are looking for individuals who are fascinated by archaeology, passionate about research, and keen to be part of a young, growing, and dynamic interdisciplinary Department.


  • Experience with various laboratory techniques in the biological sciences or archaeological sciences,
  • Experience with relevant systems such as HPLC (High Performance Liquid Chromatography) and UPLC-MS (Ultra-Performance Liquid Chromatography Mass Spectrometry) including equipment maintenance.
  • Experience of fieldwork in archaeological, biological, ecological, or palaeoenvironmental settings.
  • Experience or interest in Pleistocene and Holocene archaeology.
  • Experience of securing research funding and leading a team or research group.

We offer

  • Relative freedom to develop a biomolecular research agenda with a focus on methodological advances and new applications.
  • The opportunity to build a research team of PhD students and postdoctoral researchers.
  • Technical support in the day-to-day running of the laboratory.
  • Integration into our interdisciplinary research team within the Department of Archaeology and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  • Intellectual, technical and resource support for the development of new biomolecular archaeological studies and directions.
  • Access to cutting-edge facilities and equipment
  • An excellent, friendly research environment
  • An English language working environment

The Max Planck Society is committed to employing more handicapped individuals and especially encourages them to apply. The Max Planck Society also seeks to increase the number of women in the sciences and therefore explicitly encourages women to apply.

Submit, by 28 May, 2018, a cover letter expressing your experience and interest in the topic, a proposal outlining your vision for the group, highlighting plans for research, methods development and engagement with the themes and research of the wider Department of Archaeology (3 pages maximum, not including references and figures), your CV, and your undergraduate and master’s transcripts. Three referees should also submit reports by the deadline and it is the candidate’s responsibility to request these and ensure they are submitted on time. Submissions will only be accepted if they are sent through the online application and are received in full by the 28 May.