PhD position on Modeling of Plant Resilience to Temperature and Drought Stress (1.0 FTE)

Uren per week: 
38 tot 40
Faculteit of dienst: 
Faculteit Bètawetenschappen
Department of Biology
Uiterlijk reageren op: 


Do you want to be part of the development of resilient crops that require far fewer inputs that negatively impact our planet, and contribute to healthy life? Then you could be the ideal candidate to join our new, interdisciplinary research institute CropXR!

With a budget of 96 million Euro over the next decade, CropXR focuses on creating eXtra Resilient (XR), sustainable, and climate-adaptive crops. By combining plant biology, simulation modelling, and artificial intelligence we aim to develop ‘smart breeding and cultivation’ methods to speed up breeding for complex resilience traits in different growing systems for several crops. This collaborative effort involves four universities, numerous companies, and encompasses scientific research, data collection and sharing, education, and practical applications in agriculture and plant breeding. Learn more about CropXR on our website.

This PhD position is part of a project within CropXR’s core research programme. For this project we are looking for an enthusiastic PhD candidate to develop dynamical, process-driven computational models for the effects of combined temperature and drought stress on plant growth and performance as part of the CropXR consortium. You will develop state of the art functional-structural plant models simulating plant growth dynamics and incorporate into these the molecular signalling networks linking drought and temperature perception to responses in plant physiology, growth and development. To arrive at the relevant molecular signalling network submodels you will intensively interact with experimentalists and machine learning experts. The goal of the project is to identify the interplay between temperature and drought stresses and pinpoint the molecular hubs at which trade-offs and synergies arise that can be modulated through targeted breeding approaches.

As a PhD candidate, your core tasks will include:

  • co-designing, and performing the research outlined above;
  • (co-)supervising MSc and BSc students in the computational biology lab;
  • contributing to teaching of BSc/MSc courses;
  • collaborating in an interdisciplinary team of computational and experimental biologists at Utrecht University, Wageningen University and Research, University of Amsterdam, and/or TU Delft, as well as with experts from companies who are partners to CropXR;
  • communicating your research through publications, conference presentations and outreach.


We are looking for an enthusiastic and team-oriented PhD candidate to join us in CropXR.

You are:

  • a team player motivated to help CropXR in working towards its mission;
  • interested in collaborating with colleagues in academia and industry.

You have:  

  • A Msc degree in Computational Biology, Biophysics, Applied Mathematics or related field;
  • A strong interest in plant sciences, and in bridging biology and computational approaches;
  • Experience with differential equation based mathematical modelling and programming;
  • Affinity with teaching and outreach;
  • demonstrated organization and communication skills;
  • Excellent English oral and writing skills;
  • Affinity with data analysis and bioinformatics will be considered a plus. 

If you feel attracted to the position but are unsure whether you already meet all the criteria, we do encourage you to apply.


  • a full-time position for 4 years;
  • full-time gross salary ranging from €2,770 in the first year to €3,539 in the fourth year in scale P of the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities (cao);
  • 8% holiday bonus and 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.

    In addition to the employment conditions from the CAO for Dutch Universities, Utrecht University has a number of its own arrangements. These include agreements on professional development , leave arrangements and sports. We also give you the opportunity to expand your terms of employment through the Employment Conditions Selection Model. This is how we encourage you to grow.

    For more information, please visit working at Utrecht University.

    Are you an international applicant? Our International Service Desk can answer your questions about living in the Netherlands as international staff.

    Over de organisatie

    A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching. At Utrecht University, the various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major strategic themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Pathways to Sustainability. Sharing science, shaping tomorrow.

    At the Faculty of Science, six departments make fundamental connections with Biology, Chemistry, Information and Computing Sciences, Mathematics, Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Physics. Distinct institutes work together to focus on answering some of humanity’s most pressing problems. Individual research groups within them form the building blocks of our ambitious projects. You can find more information about  working at the Faculty of Science on our YouTube channel. 

    About the Computational Developmental Biology group:
    You will be co-supervised by Dr Monica L Garcia Gomez and Professor Kirsten ten Tusscher (head of the Computational Developmental Biology group) The research of our groups focuses on the deciphering of developmental patterning processes in plants. For this we use state-of-the-art multi-scale modeling approaches, combined with experiments. The newly established Garcia group studies the genetic-hormonal regulatory networks that allow plants to sense, respond and withstand sub-optimal temperature and drought conditions, and the  mechanisms underlying root tip regeneration. Current research of the Computational Developmental Biology group encompasses three major research lines:

    • deciphering the basic developmental patterning mechanisms that shape plant root system architecture;
    • unraveling the decision logical plants use to adapt their root system to environmental conditions such as salt, nutrients, drought, and flooding;
    • investigating how plant transport and resource partitioning affect plant growth. 

    Our groups are part of the chair group Theoretical Biology, and as such part of the Institute of Biodynamics and Biocomplexity (IBB) within the Biology department of the Faculty of Science.

    About CropXR:
    CropXR was launched in 2023 to help make agricultural production less vulnerable to climate change and less dependent on artificial fertilizers and chemical pesticides. The institute is a joint venture of the universities of Amsterdam, Delft, Wageningen and Utrecht in partnership with Plantum, the Dutch plant breeding sector association.
    CropXR brings together efforts from different academic disciplines (such as plant sciences, computational and data sciences, and social sciences) and private industry to help bring about sustainable change. It receives support from NWO, the Dutch National Growth Fund, and the Foundation for Food & Agricultural Research. Learn more about CropXR at

    Aanvullende informatie

    For more information about this position, please contact Professor Kirsten ten Tusscher  at, or dr. Monica L Garcia Gomez at

    For general questions about the application procedure, please email


    Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives. If you have become enthusiastic about this role, the simply respond via the "Apply" button!

    Please enclose:

    • your motivation letter;
    • your curriculum vitae;
    • a copy of your MSc certificate, or a letter from your university stating when your MSc studies will be completed;
    • reference letters or the names, telephone numbers, and email addresses of at least two references. 

    We highly encourage candidates from diverse backgrounds and nationalities to apply. We strive to create an open, diverse, and inclusive work environment for everyone. People of any gender identity, ethnicity and sexual orientation are welcome.

    If this specific opportunity isn’t for you, but you know someone else who may be interested, please forward this vacancy to them.

    Uiterlijk reageren op 16 oktober 2023.