Plants recruit and nurture billions of microbes on their roots, the so-called root microbiome. Microorganisms living inside plant tissue, the endosphere, have a largely unexplored functional potential to expand the genomic capabilities of their host by improving nutrient uptake, enhancing tolerance to environmental stress, and by providing protection against pests and diseases.
Unraveling the beneficial functions of these endophytic microorganisms and the mechanisms involved in the interplay with their host provides enormous opportunities to address key societal problems of the 21st century, in particular the increased global demands for crops that are more resilient to (a)biotic stress and less dependent on fertilizers and pesticides.
Exciting breakthroughs in this novel research field revealed that plants can "cry for help" from their root microbiota in response to leaf pathogen infection, 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 be using transcriptome studies in Arabidopsis to investigate the root gene regulatory networks that are key to how plants recruit beneficial microbes to their root system in response to pathogen attack, and decipher which plant traits (regulators of the networks and enzymes in biosynthetic pathways) are involved in optimizing root microbiomes for improved host supporting health functions.
You will work closely with other members of the larger NWO-ENW-Groot consortium : a PhD student at Utrecht University (studying the recruited endophytes, how plants recruit them and how they impact the plant), and two Postdocs that work at NIOO-KNAW, Wageningen University and Utrecht University (integrating the transcriptome data with metabolome data and validating the predictions of these studies).
We are looking for a highly motivated and creative PhD candidate with :
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.
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 is how we like to encourage you to continue to grow.