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PhD position Plant Ecophysiology/Molecular Plant Physiology, UU (1,0 FTE)

Job description

The successful applicant will work as a PhD student on an NWO-funded project entitled ‘Understanding responses to simultaneously and sequentially occurring abiotic stresses typical of climate change in rice and Arabidopsis.’ This project involves a consortium of partners from Dutch and Indian universities. The selected candidate will work at Utrecht University on the Arabidopsis part of the project in close collaboration with a post-doc specializing in structural-functional plant modelling based at Wageningen University. He/she will also extensively collaborate with the Indian consortium members including a PhD and postdoc working on the rice aspect of the project.

The program summary is as follows:

Environmental stresses seldom occur in isolation. Understanding how plants tolerate simultaneously and sequentially occurring stresses is a major challenge. In this bilateral research program with India, we will study the physiological and molecular mechanisms underlying acclimation of a major monocot food crop rice and the leading dicot model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, to the combined stresses: high ambient temperature + drought and the sequential stress: flooding followed by drought, both of which are projected to increase in frequency, severity and unpredictability due to climate change. We will characterize physiological, morphological and phenological traits associated with tolerance to the stress combinations in several Arabidopsis accessions and Indian rice varieties. This data will feed computational plant models that will predict a set of favorable trait combinations contributing to tolerance. The identified trait(s) will be further mechanistically studied using high throughput RNA-sequencing and comparative transcriptomics between rice and Arabidopsis to identify candidate genes regulating multiple stress tolerance.

The successful candidate is expected to characterize phenotypic and physiological traits associated with acclimation to high ambient temperature/drought and post submergence drought in natural Arabidopsis accessions. The phenotypic and physiological data will form the basis of structural-functional plant modeling (developed at Wageningen University), to predict trait(s) important for acclimation to temperature/drought and post submergence drought. The genes underlying these traits will be identified using high-throughput RNA sequencing approaches followed by molecular mechanistic studies on identified candidate genes.


  • An M.Sc in the area of experimental plant sciences;
  • A strong background in genetic and molecular techniques, whole plant physiology and phenotyping;
  • Excellent English oral, written and presentation skills.


The candidate is offered a full time position for one year with an extension for a further three years if the evaluation is positive.

The salary is supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8% and an end-of-year bonus of 8,3% per year. In addition we offer: a pension scheme, a partially paid parental leave, flexible employment conditions. Conditions are based on the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities. The research group will provide the candidate with necessary support on all aspects of the project. More information is available on the website.

The gross salary is in the range between € 2.125,- and € 2.717,-

About the organization

Utrecht University has great ambitions for its teaching quality and study success rates. This also applies to its clear research profiles which are centred around four themes: Dynamics of Youth, Institutions, Life Sciences, and Sustainability. Utrecht University plays a prominent role in our society and contributes to finding the answers to topical and future societal issues.


The Faculty of Science consists of six departments: Biology, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Information and Computing Sciences, Physics and Astronomy, Chemistry and Mathematics. The Faculty is home to 3500 students and nearly 2000 staff and is internationally renowned for the quality of its research. The Faculty's academic programmes reflect developments in today's society.


The Molecular Plant Physiology ( and Plant Ecophysiology group ( are two internationally recognized plant research groups embedded within the Institute of Environmental Biology at Utrecht University, one of Europe’s leading research universities. Both are highly dynamic and competitive research groups with multiple national and international collaborations. Successful candidates can expect to work with a highly ambitious, creative and international team of PhD students, post-docs, tenured staff and research assistants.


Additional information

Additional information about the vacancy can be obtained from: dr. R. Sasidharan, +31 30 2536838 or and dr. M. van Zanten, phone +31 30 2533111.


To apply please attach a letter of motivation, curriculum vitae including your publication list, a copy of the highest academic degree certificate, a list of courses (including marks) followed during your BSc and MSc programmes and (email) addresses of two academic referees.

Application deadline is September 30, 2015

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