PhD position in Experimental Plant Biology (1.0 FTE)

PhD position in Experimental Plant Biology (1.0 FTE)

Published Deadline Location
21 Jan 14 Feb Utrecht

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Come join our team for this challenging experimental PhD position on plant root nutrient foraging in Arabidopsis

Job description

Project overview
Plants flexibly adjust the architecture of their root system to the environmental conditions they find themselves in. With regards to nutrients plants have been shown to optimize acquisition of a single nutrient through stimulating root growth in patches where nutrient levels are high, while repressing growth in places were nutrients are low or absent. Interestingly, the key plant nutrients nitrate and phosphate show disparate spatial distributions in natural soil. Yet how plants forage for both these nutrients simultaneously has so far remained elusive. In our team we aim to decipher how plant root foraging decision making arises from the integration of and feedbacks between local, long distance and systemic nutrient signalling processes and their effects on root developmental processes.

Experimental PhD Position
To further address these questions we are looking for a PhD candidate to work on plant root nutrient foraging in Arabidopsis. In this experimental project a combination of molecular biology (qRT-PCR, transcriptomics), confocal microscopy (single root development) and phenotyping (overall root system architecture growth) approaches will be applied. This experimental project will be performed in close collaboration with a parallel project on developing multi-scale computational models of root foraging behaviour (this Computational PhD position is currently also published on the website of Utrecht University). You will work under the direct supervision of Prof. Kirsten ten Tusscher from the Computational Developmental Biology group and will be co-supervised by Prof. Ronald Pierik from the Plant Ecophysiology group.

Your core tasks will include:

  • co-designing, and performing the research outlined above;
  • (co-)supervising MSc and BSc students in the lab;
  • contributing to teaching of BSc/MSc courses;
  • collaborating in an interdisciplinary team of experimental and computational biologists;
  • communicating the research through publications, conference presentations and outreach.


Utrecht University


We are looking for a Phd candidate with great communications skills, who is able to work in an international and interdisciplinary team. We encourage you to apply if you:

  • hold a Biology/Life Sciences Msc degree;
  • have experience in plant molecular biology;
  • have affinity with teaching and/or outreach;
  • are organized and efficient;
  • are able to work in an international and interdisciplinary team;
  • are fluent in English.

Conditions of employment

  • a full time position for one year which can be extended after good evaluations with three more years;
  • a full-time gross salary starting at €2,443 in year one and increasing to €3,122 in year four (scale P Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities (cao));
  • 8% holiday bonus and 8.3% end-of-year bonus;
  • a pension scheme, partially paid parental leave, and flexible employment conditions based on the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities.

In addition to the employment conditions laid down in the cao for Dutch Universities, Utrecht University has a number of its own arrangements. For example, there are agreements on professional development, leave arrangements and sports. We also give you the opportunity to expand your terms of employment via the Employment Conditions Selection Model. This is how we like to encourage you to continue to grow.

More information about working at the Faculty of Science can be found here.


The Computational Developmental Biology group of Prof. Kirsten ten Tusscher focuses on the deciphering of developmental patterning processes in plants and animals. For this the group uses state-of-the-art multi-scale modeling approaches combined with experiments, Experiments are performed in the host lab of Prof. Ronald Pierik or performed by other close collaborators. Current research encompasses three major research lines:

  • plant root development and adaptation to environmental conditions;
  • plant water transport and resource partitioning and its effects on plant growth;
  • regulatory networks controlling cell fate decisions.

The group is part of the chairgroup Theoretical Biology, and as such part of the Institute of Biodynamics and Biocomplexity (IBB) within the Biology department  of the Faculty of Science.

At the Faculty of Science, there are six departments to make a fundamental connection with: Biology, Chemistry, Information and Computing Sciences, Mathematics, Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Physics. Each of these is made up of distinct institutes that work together to focus on answering some of humanity’s most pressing problems. More fundamental still are the individual research groups – the building blocks of our ambitious scientific projects. Find out more about us.

Utrecht University is a friendly and ambitious university at the heart of an ancient city. We love to welcome new scientists to our city – a thriving cultural hub that is consistently rated as one of the world’s happiest cities. We are renowned for our innovative interdisciplinary research and our emphasis on inspirational research and excellent education. We are equally well-known for our familiar atmosphere and the can-do attitude of our people. This fundamental connection attracts researchers, professors and PhD candidates from all over the globe, making both the university and the Faculty of Science a vibrant international and wonderfully diverse community.


  • PhD
  • Natural sciences
  • 38—40 hours per week
  • €2443—€3122 per month
  • University graduate
  • 1182772



Domplein 29, 3512 JE, Utrecht

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