The mission of the Plant Hormone Biology group
of the Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences is to understand the chemical communication of plants with other organisms in their environment. With an international and diverse team of post-docs, PhDs and technicians with expertise varying from analytical chemistry to biochemistry to molecular biology we study how plants produce and secrete signaling molecules, particularly belowground, and how this affects the behavior of other organisms in the rhizosphere. This includes communication with nematodes and parasitic plants, and with microbial communities that have been shown to play a crucial role in the protection of plants against a range of stresses.
Our research is aimed at understanding the biological relevance of this chemical communication and use it as a basis for improving resistance and harnessing the potential of beneficial root microbes resulting in improved stress resilience in crops for sustainable food production with reduced inputs.
Parasitic plants are a major threat to agriculture in large parts of the world, and especially in the African continent where millet, rice and sorghum yields are severely affected by the witchweeds, Striga hermonthica and Striga asiatica. In a project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation, Promise 2, we will investigate with partners across the world whether the Striga problem can be tackled through the root microbiome of the host.
We are looking for a highly qualified and enthusiastic postdoctoral researcher with metabolomics expertise to strengthen our team and study the root (exudate) metabolome and its relationship with Striga and the microbiome. What are you going to do?
You will be responsible for the analysis of roots and root exudates from sorghum, millet and rice using LC- and GC-MS and phenotyping of the host-parasite interaction. LC-MS analysis will be done in collaboration with the Mass Spectrometry group (LC-QTOF-MS; metabolomics) and on our own triple-quad LC-MS (targeted analysis). Using data analysis, on the one hand you will identify signaling molecules that are crucial for the host-parasite interaction and may be targets for beneficial microbes. On the other hand, you will identify metabolites that play a role in the recruitment or support of these beneficial microbes. Selected interesting metabolic features that emerge from these analyses will be isolated using preparative methods, to validate their biological role, and identified. Tasks and responsibilities:
- Organize experiments and root/root exudate collection, sample prep and LC-MS analysis;
- Phenotype the host-parasitic plant interaction through bioassays;
- Process and analyse metabolomics and phenotyping data to find relationships between metabolic features
and biological phenotypes;
- Supervise a part-time technician, and bachelor and master students.