PhD position – Plant-microbiome interactions (1.0 FTE)

Onderwijs en onderzoek
Uren per week: 
36 tot 40
Faculteit of dienst: 
Faculteit Betawetenschappen
Department of Biology, Plant-Microbe Interactions
Uiterlijk reageren op: 
15 maart 2020


Plants recruit and nurture billions of microbes on their roots, the so-called root microbiome. In return, the root microbiome supports the plant by improving nutrient uptake, enhancing tolerance to environmental stress, and by providing protection against pests and diseases. Host microbiome research has emerged as a new imperative in Life Sciences. The realization that thousands of microbial species are an integral part of the biology of plant hosts and expand their genomic potential comes with great new opportunities for microbiome assisted agriculture. Exciting breakthroughs in this novel research field revealed that plants can "cry for help" from their root microbiota in response to leaf pathogen infection, or other types of stress, therewith alleviating the stress through microbiome encoded functions. These discoveries sparked a number of vital questions in host microbiome research: Which plant genes/traits optimize microbiomes for host-supporting health functions? What microbiome functions are recruited by stressed host plants and how do they improve plant performance? As part of your PhD research, you will investigate the molecular mechanisms of how plants recruit beneficial microbes to their root system in response to pathogen attack, and decipher which plant traits are involved in optimizing root microbiomes for improved host supporting health functions.


We are looking for a highly motivated and creative PhD candidate with:

  • a Master's degree or an international equivalent in the relevant fields of Biology or Plant Science;
  • research experience within the field of plant molecular biology;
  • a strong interest in host microbiome research;
  • excellent research and scientific writing skills;
  • excellent collaboration and communication skills (written and orally) in English;
  • a strong motivation to work in a multidisciplinary, international research team.


We offer a position (1.0 FTE) for four years in an international and interdisciplinary working environment and you will be provided with funding for research and training costs. This will provide you with an excellent basis and a strong network for a future career in the field of plant science and sustainable agriculture, in academia and industry. The gross salary ranges between €2,325 in the first year to €2,972 in the fourth year (scale P according to the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities) per month for a full-time employment. Salaries are supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8% and a year-end bonus of 8.3% per year. In addition, Utrecht University offers excellent secondary conditions, including an attractive retirement scheme, (partly paid) parental leave and flexible employment conditions. More information about working at Utrecht University can be found here.

Over de organisatie

Your PhD research will be conducted in the Plant-Microbe Interactions group of Prof Corné Pieterse at Utrecht University. Your project will be part of the recently awarded 'Zwaartekracht' programme MICROP: Harnessing the second genome of plants via microbial imprinting for crop resilience, which is funded by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW). In the first phase of the programme, MICROP will recruit 9 PhD students, who will be stationed at the Universities of Amsterdam (VU and UvA), Utrecht (UU) and Wageningen (WU) and NIOO-KNAW/Leiden (IBL). In collaboration with partners around the world, you and your colleague PhD candidates will investigate the plant and microbial traits that facilitate profitable plant-microbiome interactions. This knowledge will form the basis for the development of a new generation of stress resistant crops that require fewer fertilizers and pesticides through the help of microbes.


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. Within each department distinct institutes focus on answering some of humanity’s most pressing problems.


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 ambitious can-do mindset of our people. This fundamental connection attracts professors, researchers and PhD candidates from all over the world, making both the University and the Faculty of Science a vibrant international and wonderfully diverse community.

Aanvullende informatie

Do you have any questions that you would like an answer to first? No problem. Please contact Prof Corné Pieterse via


Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives. Are you interested? Or do you know someone who is? Then please forward the link. To apply, please send your letter of motivation and curriculum vitae via the 'apply' button below. Suitable candidates will be contacted and the best matches will be invited for a visit and interview.

Uiterlijk reageren op 15 maart 2020.