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The successful applicant will work as a PhD student on a TTW partnership project entitled “PATHOVIEW: automated imaging of pathogen-infection of crops to understand, track, and quantify disease resistance traits”, which is a collaboration between Utrecht University, Delft University of Technology and the vegetable breeding company Rijk Zwaan. The selected candidate will work under supervision of Prof.dr. Guido Van den Ackerveken at the Plant-Microbe Interactions group.
The PATHOVIEW project summary is as follows:
Research on pathogenic microbes and host plant resistance is hampered by the lack of automated imaging methods. To effectively identify and use plant resistance traits, also those that contribute quantitatively, we aim to develop new imaging solutions to quantify pathogen infection and plant resistance. We will work on downy mildew, which is the number one disease of lettuce and is caused by Bremia lactucae. New automated imaging tools and methods will strongly enhance our knowledge on downy mildew diseases, resistance mechanisms, and new traits for resistance breeding. The project is a combination of biological and technical research aimed at uniting different expertise and methods to develop a sensitive, unbiased, and automated platform for digital plant disease phenotyping. It will involve the development of fluorescent Bremia strains, the discovery of optical biomarkers, e.g. using optical coherence tomography, and multiscale 3D plant imaging.
The PhD project at Utrecht University focusses on developing methods for genetic modification of downy mildews and to use engineered fluorescent (GFP) strains to visualize and study the infection process and resistance traits. In parallel, biomarkers for pathogen and plant will be identified and used, in collaboration with the team of Delft University of Technology, to develop new visualization methods. The imaging methods will be instrumental in the research on pathogen virulence and plant immunity traits that is envisioned within the project. The candidate will work in an interdisciplinary team and in close collaboration with the Department of Imaging Physics of Delft University of Technology and Rijk Zwaan.
The candidate is offered a full-time position for 1 year with an extension for a further three years if the evaluation is positive. The gross salary is in the range between € 2.266,- (p-scale 0) and maximum €- 2.897 (P-scale 4) according to the Collective Employment Agreement of the Dutch Universities) gross per month for a full-time employment.
The salary is supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8% and an end-of-year bonus of 8,3% per year. In addition we offer: a pension scheme, a partially paid parental leave, flexible employment conditions. Conditions are based on the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities. The research group will provide the candidate with necessary support on all aspects of the project. More information is available on the website.
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The Plant-Microbe Interactions group of the Department of Biology aims to explore and exploit the plant's natural immune system. Our research is focused on understanding the molecular and biological details of how pathogens infect plants, how resistant plants successfully defend themselves, and how beneficial microbes in the root microbiome promote plant growth and defense. The research goals are being achieved by using model and crop plant species in combination with state-of-the-art techniques and methods in phytopathology, microbiology, molecular biology, biochemistry, genetics, genomics and bioinformatics. With our fundamental research we aim to provide a rational basis for developing sustainable strategies for disease resistance in next-generation crops.