PhD position: Heat-stable plant resistances (NemEmerge II)

PhD position: Heat-stable plant resistances (NemEmerge II)

Published Deadline Location
13 Nov 4 Dec Wageningen

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Job description

The Laboratory of Nematology at Wageningen University and Research is looking for a PhD researcher to be a part of an EU HORIZON EUROPE project entitled “An integrated set of novel approaches to counter the emergence and proliferation of invasive and virulent soil-borne nematodes” (acronym: NemEmerge) (start: early 2024). NemEmerge concentrates on two drivers of emerging diseases: global warming (pathogens proliferate in a poleward direction) and genetic selection (due to ample use of a small set host plant resistances).
The project consortium comprises 19 partners from all over Europe that work together in ‘work packages’ that address different aspects of this project. The project allowed us to appoint three PhD’s: each will work on another work package, but together you will be a team of PhDs that contribute to the overall project goals.

Nematodes, also referred to as roundworms, are ubiquitous in soils. A small minority of the plant-parasitic nematodes seriously threatens food and feed production and needs to be controlled. NemEmerge concentrates on the two most impactful plant-pathogenic nematodes, namely root-knot and cyst nematodes. Chemical control of these nematodes is no longer a viable option, and durable alternatives have to be developed. Such solutions are - almost without exception - knowledge-intensive, and as a PhD you will directly contribute to sustainable disease control by addressing urgent scientific questions in a European framework.

A major strategy to address nematode-associated problems in the field is the use of resistant crop varieties. Many important plant resistance (R) genes, encode so-called intracellular NLR immune receptors that detect intruding pathogens and induce specific defence responses. However, the effective self-defence of crops via NLRs is threatened by global warming since some NLRs can break down under heat stress (see Fig. 1) leaving the plant (and growers) deprived of a specific defence mechanism.

The molecular mechanisms underlying the breakdown of NLR-dependent nematode resistance are virtually unknown. As a PhD candidate, you will investigate the molecular mechanisms underlying NLR heat (in)stability to obtain novel insights into the impact of heat stress on NLR-mediated nematode crop resistance. Moreover, you will contribute to the development of science-based solutions to prolong the lifespan of nematode NLR resistance genes under heat stress.

Your duties and responsibilities include:
  • the design of experimental setups to study the impact of heat stress on nematode resistance NLR proteins;
  • the use of bio-informatic tools for comparative sequence analyses, protein modelling and structural analyses;
  • the use of molecular and biochemical techniques to identify and characterize molecular determinants of NLR heat stability;
  • the use of structure-informed approaches for functional testing of NLR mutants;
  • the development of strategies to engineer and/or select novel candidate genes conferring nematode resistance under heat stress.

You will work here:
The research is embedded within the chair Laboratory of Nematology and members of the Nematology team, which is led by Prof. Geert Smant. You will be co-supervised by dr. Hans Helder and dr. Aska Goverse.


Wageningen University & Research


You are:
  • an accurate and enthusiastic PhD candidate with a fascination for plant immune responses to plant-parasitic nematodes, molecular mechanisms underlying the functioning of NLRs and how these are affected by abiotic factors like heat stress;
  • equipped with a MSc degree on plant biotechnology, or a related life sciences study, with demonstrable affinity to molecular biology and biochemistry, computational biology, and the performance of structure-function assays and mutant analyses;
  • willing to take on the role of supervising BSc and MSc students;
  • a team player and as such pro-active, constructive, and communicative;
  • someone who likes pioneering experiments, but also (complex) data analyses and interpretation, as well as dissemination of results through active contributions to publications, conferences and project meetings.

For this position your command of the English language is expected to be at C1 level. Sometimes it is necessary to submit an internationally recognized Certificate of Proficiency in the English Language. More information can be found here.

Conditions of employment

Wageningen University & Research offers excellent terms of employment. A few highlights from our Collective Labour Agreement include:
  • 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 € 2.770 - per month rising to € 3.539,- 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 18 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, 7,600 employees (6,700 fte) and 13,100 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!
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
  • P1366436-1


Wageningen University & Research

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Droevendaalsesteeg, 6708 PB, Wageningen

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