PhD Position Genetic Insect Resistance for Sustainable Crop Protection

PhD Position Genetic Insect Resistance for Sustainable Crop Protection

Published Deadline Location
28 Sep 18 Oct Amsterdam

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Job description

The use of non-renewable resources is causing global-scale environmental problems, which threaten the stability of our planet earth. The safe operating space to maintain liveable conditions on earth has been formulated in the planetary boundaries, of which several are already overstepped. Many of these problems are caused by human interruptions of biogeochemical cycles of the biogenic elements carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur leading to the creation of waste.

Zero Waste is a part of the university-wide theme of Sustainable Prosperity presented in the University of Amsterdam’s (UvA) 2021-2026 strategic plan. With Zero Waste, the UvA Faculty of Science (FNWI) aims to contribute to alleviating these environmental problems resulting from the current linear use of resources by (re-)designing processes, materials, and products to keep materials in closed cycles while meeting our needs.

Zero Waste will strongly connect to education at the Faculty of Science, especially to the new BSc programme Science and Design that focusses on four interdisciplinary themes: 1) high-tech designer materials, 2) renewable energy and resources, 3) engineering life and health, and 4) information science, modelling and simulation. Six Science & Design Doctorates will form the start of the Zero Waste research theme. They will work together in physical proximity and intensive interaction to strengthen the common aspects of the projects, while researching a broad range of topics. Physically, research and demonstration activities and part of the research of the theme can be carried out in SustainaLab, the new Matrix ONE building at Amsterdam Science Park.

Insects and the viruses they carry can cause enormous losses in crop production systems world-wide, threatening food security. Traditionally, insects are combatted with heavy pesticides such as neonicotinoids. Approximately 3.5 million tons of pesticides are applied globally each year. These persistent chemicals however have severely negative impacts on ecosystems and pollute soils and groundwater. Hence many such chemicals are now being banned, leaving crop plants unprotected. Our approach towards a solution is a biotechnological one. Together with a leading vegetable breeding company we aim to re-arm crop plants by developing genetic insect resistant food crops. Exploiting the natural insect resistance still present in wild ancestors of our current day crops, we will add value by reducing crop (food) loss and contribute to a decreased reliance on chemical insecticides. The fundamental knowledge generated in this project will be converted into biochemical and molecular tools for directed breeding of a high-performance variety with added insect resistance. For this project we will explore insect resistance in wild ancestor species and profile the chemical composition in different species. We will apply a machine learning approach to select relevant features which will be validated using a variety of plant biotech approaches, including technologies like CRISPR-Cas, VIGS and advanced metabolomics.

What are you going to do

You are expected to:

  • perform high quality research in the field of plant biotechnology;
  • work independently but in close collaboration with other members of the team, including the industrial partner;
  • to be active and eager in research and constructive in collaborations;
  • to take part in scientific and social activities with other members of the research departments and the faculty;
  • actively contribute to the teaching of the new Science for Design Bachelor program and relevant programs.


University of Amsterdam (UvA)


What do we require

  • A MSc degree (or equivalent) in molecular biology or biochemistry focused on Plant sciences, with a research thesis in that direction.
  • Trained in molecular biology experimental work
  • Affinity for metabolomics and programming skills for data analysis is highly appreciated  
  • Experience or willingness to work with plants and insects is key.
  • The candidate should have affinity towards implementation of findings and is willing to work in collaborations between academic and industry partners.
  • The PhD candidate should have excellent communication skills, like teamwork and needs to be highly motivated for conducting scientific research.
  • You are able to show curiosity, drive and enthusiasm and display the willingness to learn and participate in scientific discussion.
  • You are fluent in English, both written and spoken, as evidenced in MSc theses.

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: 18 months.

A temporary contract for 38 hours per week for the duration of four years (the initial contract will be for a period of 18 months and after satisfactory evaluation it will be extended for a total duration of four years). This should lead to a dissertation (PhD thesis). We will draft an educational plan that includes attendance of courses and (international) meetings. We also expect you to assist in teaching undergraduates and Master students. 

The salary, depending on relevant experience before the beginning of the employment contract, will be €2,434 to €3,111 (scale P) gross per month, based on a fulltime contract (38 hours a week). This is exclusive 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus. A favourable tax agreement, the ‘30% ruling’, may apply to non-Dutch applicants. The Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities is applicable.

Are you curious about our extensive package of secondary employment benefits like our excellent opportunities for study and development? Take a look here.


University of Amsterdam

With over 6,000 employees, 30,000 students and a budget of more than 600 million euros, the University of Amsterdam (UvA) is an intellectual hub within the Netherlands. Teaching and research at the UvA are conducted within seven faculties: Humanities, Social and Behavioural Sciences, Economics and Business, Law, Science, Medicine and Dentistry. Housed on four city campuses in or near the heart of Amsterdam, where disciplines come together and interact, the faculties have close links with thousands of researchers and hundreds of institutions at home and abroad.  

The UvA’s students and employees are independent thinkers, competent rebels who dare to question dogmas and aren’t satisfied with easy answers and standard solutions. To work at the UvA is to work in an independent, creative, innovative and international climate characterised by an open atmosphere and a genuine engagement with the city of Amsterdam and society.


Faculty of Science – Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences

The Faculty of Science has a student body of around 7,000, as well as 1,600 members of staff working in education, research or support services. Researchers and students at the Faculty of Science are fascinated by every aspect of how the world works, be it elementary particles, the birth of the universe or the functioning of the brain.

The Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences (SILS) is one of the largest institutes in the Faculty of Science that performs research on four different themes: Microbiology, Neurobiology, Cell and Systems biology and Green Life Sciences (GLS) supported by several centers of technical expertise.  The research in the GLS departments aims at understanding, at a molecular level, of how plants deal with biotic and abiotic constraints, how they interact with insects, microbes and other organisms and how plants diversified in evolution. The position advertised here will be embedded in the department of Plant Physiology whose mission is to elucidate signal transduction pathways employed in biotic interactions, focusing on the role of metabolites. With an omics toolbox we aim to identify metabolites, genes and proteins in plants and insects that are important for their interactions. Much of our work has direct application in breeding for resilient crop plants.


  • PhD scholarship
  • Natural sciences
  • max. 38 hours per week
  • €2434—€3111 per month
  • University graduate
  • 21-774


University of Amsterdam (UvA)

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Science Park 904, 1098 XH, Amsterdam

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