Postdoc position in quantitative imaging of pathogen infection of plants (1.0 FTE)

Hours per week: 
38 to 40
Faculty of Science
Department of Biology, Plant-Microbe Interactions
Application deadline: 

Job description

Are you enthusiastic for the endeavor to connect biology and physics to enable the development of innovative imaging methods for plant disease phenotyping? If so, you could be the right person to work as a Postdoc on a NWO 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, the Delft University of Technology (TUD) and the vegetable breeding company Rijk Zwaan. As the selected candidate, you will work under the supervision of Prof Guido Van den Ackerveken at the Plant-Microbe Interactions group at UU and Dr Jeroen Kalkman at the Department of Imaging Physics at TUD.

The PATHOVIEW project aims to provide new technology to improve the selection and breeding of resistant crops. Currently, research on pathogenic microbes and host plant resistance is hampered by the lack of automated imaging and analysis methods. To effectively identify and use plant resistance traits, we aim to develop new imaging solutions of novel biomarkers 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 the pathogen 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.

As a Postdoc you bring in experience in measuring plant phenotypes, using sensors and imaging methods, acquiring quantitative data, image processing/analysis, and the integration of biological and physical data. Your work will involve the discovery of biomarkers, the implementation of advanced visualization technologies, and multiscale 3D plant imaging. The developed methods will be instrumental in the research on pathogen virulence and plant immunity traits that is envisioned within the project.


We are looking for a committed, driven and collaborative colleague, who:

  • has a PhD in biology/physics and proven experience with image acquisition/processing/analysis and/or plant phenotyping;
  • has a fascination for applying state-of-the-art technology to answer biological questions and feels at ease at the interface of biology and physics;
  • has excellent communication, presentation and writing skills;
  • is a strong team player and shows initiative;
  • has a hands-on mentality.


  • an exciting research opportunity in our dynamic Utrecht Plant-Microbe Interactions group in close collaboration with the Delft Imaging Physics team;
  • a full-time position for 2 years and 4 months;
  • a full-time gross salary ranging from €2,790 to €4,402 in scale 10;
  • benefits including 8% holiday bonus and a 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 (cao).

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 yourself via the Employment Conditions Selection Model. This way we like to encourage you to continue to grow.

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

About the organisation

You will be working in the dynamic Plant-Microbe Interactions group at Utrecht University and in your position, you will act as a linking pin with the Imaging Physics group at TU Delft. You will closely collaborate with two PhD students on the project, one at UU and one at TUD. Your communication and collaboration skills will also be of great importance for an optimal exchange of knowledge and ideas between the academic groups and the breeding company. 

At the Faculty of Science there are 6 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 which 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.

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.

Additional information

If you have any questions about this position, please contact Prof Guido van den Ackerveken, via

Do you have a question about the application procedure? Please send an email to


Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives. If you have the expertise and the experience to excel in this role, please respond via the “Apply now” button!

Please enclose:

  • your letter of motivation;
  • your curriculum vitae;
  • the names, telephone numbers, and email addresses of at least two references.

If this specific opportunity is not for you, but you know someone who may be interested, please forward the link to them.

Please note: Due to the current situation regarding the Corona virus (COVID-19) the process of selection and interviews is subject to change. Initial interviews will most likely be conducted online.

Some connections are fundamental – Be one of them

The application deadline is 6 September 2020.