PhD position 'Evolution of plant adaptation to selenium hyperaccumulation'

PhD position 'Evolution of plant adaptation to selenium hyperaccumulation'

Published Deadline Location
23 May 19 Jun Wageningen

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Job description

Do you want to participate in a world-renowned team investigating hyperaccumulator plants as a PhD researcher at Wageningen University and Research? Are you interested in unravelling the mechanisms responsible for selenium hyperaccumulation? Are you keen to discover why selenium hyperaccumulators thrive on selenium? We are looking for a PhD student to get to the bottom of this and discover how and why our model species Neptunia amplexicaulis hyperaccumulates selenium.

Your PhD research project entails:
  • Identification and validation of candidate genes and processes involved with selenium metabolism in Neptunia amplexicaulis, based on new and available comparative transcriptomics data
  • Characterising of target genes predicted to be involved in selenium uptake in the root and biochemical selenium detoxification pathways in the shoot
  • Gene function analysis of identified genes through CRISPR/Cas9 or other molecular genetic approaches

We are looking for
Our research aims at understanding the molecular and physiological mechanisms of selenium hyperaccumulation. In our research, we use the Australian legume Neptunia amplexicaulis, which is one of the strongest selenium hyperaccumulators known globally. The research programme to which the PhD position contributes, aims to develop a mechanistic understanding of selenium hyperaccumulation through resolving the ecology, physiology, and molecular biology of the selenium metabolism in Neptunia amplexicaulis. You will use advanced molecular genetic tools to identify relevant genes and processes that contribute to the extraordinary capacity of Neptunia amplexicaulis to hyperaccumulate selenium. You will compare Neptunia amplexicaulis with the closely-related, but non-accumulating, species Neptunia gracilis to tease apart the underlying mechanisms specific for selenium hyperaccumulation. You will develop and use comparative transcriptomics and functional genetics tools to identify and characterise candidate genes involved in selenium hyperaccumulation in Neptunia amplexicaulis.


Wageningen University & Research


  • You obtained an MSc degree in Plant Sciences, Biotechnology, Biology, or a related disciplin;
  • You have excellent knowledge of plant molecular genetics and/or plant biotechnology;
  • You have ample experience with comparative transcriptomics, plant transformation and/or functional genetics tools;
  • You have affinity with data driven investigations that involve bioinformatic analysis of plant genomes and transcriptomes, preferably with operational knowledge of R and/or Python;
  • You are intellectually curious and attracted by scientific challenges, you enjoy working in a committed and diverse team;
  • You have excellent scientific communication skills and proficiency in English (a minimum of CEFR C1 level). For more information about this proficiency level, please visit our special language page:;
  • You meet all the entry requirements of the WUR PhD programme.

Conditions of employment

Wageningen University & Research offers excellent terms of employment. A few highlights from our Collective Labour Agreement include:
  • sabbatical leave, study leave, and partially paid parental leave;
  • working hours that can be discussed and arranged so that they allow for the best possible work-life balance;
  • the option to accrue additional compensation / holiday hours by working more, up to 40 hours per week;
  • there is a strong focus on vitality and you can make use of the sports facilities available on campus for a small fee;
  • a fixed December bonus of 8.3%;
  • excellent pension scheme.

In addition to these first-rate employee benefits, you will receive a fully funded PhD position and you will be offered a course program tailored to your needs and the research team.
The gross salary for the first year is € 2.541,- per month rising to € 3.247,- in the fourth year in according to the Collective Labour Agreements for Dutch Universities (CAO-NU) (scale P). This is based on a full-time working week of 38 hours. We offer a temporary contract for 48 months which will be extended for the duration of the project if you perform well.

There are plenty of options for personal initiative in a learning environment, and we provide excellent training opportunities. We are offering a unique position in an international environment with a pleasant and open working atmosphere.

You are going to work at the greenest and most innovative campus in Holland, and at a university that has been chosen as the “ Best University ” in the Netherlands for the 18th consecutive time.

Coming from abroad
Wageningen University & Research is the university and research centre for life sciences. The themes we deal with are relevant to everyone around the world and Wageningen, therefore, has a large international community and a lot to offer to international employees.
Our team of advisors on Dutch immigration procedures will help you with the visa application procedures for yourself and, if applicable, for your family.

Feeling welcome also has everything to do with being well informed. Wageningen University & Research's International Community page contains practical information about what we can do to support international employees and students coming to Wageningen. Furthermore, we can assist you with any additional advice and information about helping your partner to find a job, housing, schooling. For instance under the "30% rule", certain categories of international staff can receive tax exemption on approximately 30% of their gross salary.


Wageningen University & Research

Wageningen University & Research
The mission of Wageningen University & Research is “To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life”. Under the banner Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen University and the specialised research institutes of the Wageningen Research Foundation have joined forces in contributing to finding solutions to important questions in the domain of healthy food and living environment. With its roughly 30 branches, 7,200 employees (6,400 fte) and 13,200 students and over 150.000 participants to WUR’s Life Long Learning, Wageningen University & Research is one of the leading organisations in its domain. The unique Wageningen approach lies in its integrated approach to issues and the collaboration between different disciplines.

Read the 5 reasons why your future colleagues enjoy working at WUR and watch this video to get an idea of our green campus!

You will work here
You will join the research team of Dr. Antony van der Ent and be co-supervised by Prof. Mark Aarts, at the Laboratory of Genetics.

We will recruit for the vacancy ourselves, so no employment agencies please. However, sharing in your network is appreciated.


  • PhD
  • Agriculture
  • max. 38 hours per week
  • University graduate
  • P1233388-1


Wageningen University & Research

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Droevendaalsesteeg, 6708 PB, Wageningen

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