PhD Position in Cell Wall Alteration and Sensing in Response to Abiotic Stress in Plants

Utrecht University


PhD Position on Cell Wall Alteration and Sensing in Response to Abiotic Stress in Plants (1.0 FTE)

Job description

Plants perceive the environment and dynamically respond to their surroundings. One of the main features of plant cells is the cell wall, crucial to provide support and generate the turgor pressure vital for cell expansion. Plants also use the cell walls as antennas to alert the cell about its own status. How? Plants have evolved proteins that sense the integrity of the walls. When the cell wall is perceived to be damaged, intracellular responses are activated.

In the Cell Wall Abiotic Stress group, led by Dr. Nora Gigli Bisceglia, we aim at identifying the perception mechanisms and the intracellular signaling molecules required to activate responses to abiotic stresses. In fact, it remains unknown how plants do this. We use a combination of biochemical and molecular techniques to understand plant behavior that allows us to dissect the pathways required for stress sensing.

You, as our PhD candidate, will be helping us in answering the following questions in this research area:

How do stresses alter the cell wall composition and morphology?
Are these modifications perceived and how?
Can we generate plants able to overcome the activation of the responses induced by the stress?
Your research will be mostly performed in our model plant, Arabidopsis thaliana, but we plan on expanding it also to food crops. The findings of your research will contribute to expanding our knowledge of plant stress response and will have an impact on the future of sustainable agriculture.

By joining us as a PhD candidate, you will become a member of the Cell Wall Abiotic Stress team which is embedded in the vibrant chair group of Plant Stress Resilience. In which professors, researchers and students jointly work to understand how plants respond to environmental stresses.


For this vacancy, we are looking for an enthusiastic, passionate candidate, who meets the following criteria:

  • an MSc in the area of molecular plant biology, plant biotechnology, plant genetics, or any plant science-related field;
  • experience in biochemistry and molecular biology techniques;
  • good command of both written and spoken English;
  • demonstrated communication and organization skills;
  • proactive, curious with creative ideas.

We consider it a plus if you have:

  • experience in Arabidopsis research;
  • experience with microscopy or RNA-related work;
  • basic knowledge of cell wall biochemistry;
  • affiliation with plant-stress signaling.


  • A full-time position for 4 years;
  • a full-time gross salary starting at €2,541 in the first year and increasing to €3,247 in the fourth year (scale P Collective Labor 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.

About the organization

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 Sustainability.

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 that 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. Find out more about the Faculty of Science.

You will be embedded in the Department of Biology. Research within this department is organized in two institutes: the Institute of Biodynamics and Biocomplexity (IBB) and the Institute of Environmental Biology (IEB). The department of Biology coordinates the teaching of the Bachelor’s programme in Biology, as well as Master’s programmes and PhD courses that are offered through the Graduate School of Life Sciences.

You will be working in the vibrant Plant Stress Resilience group in the Cell Wall Abiotic Stress team of Dr. Nora Gigli Bisceglia.

Additional information

If you have any questions that you’d like us to answer, please contact Dr. (Nora) Gigli Bisceglia (Assistant Professor Plant Stress Resilience), via

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

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


Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We aim to embed good equality and diversity practices in all our activities so that we can provide an inclusive, welcoming and inspiring place to work and study regardless of age, disability, trans identity or history, marital status, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.

If you are enthusiastic about this position, just apply via the "Apply now" button!

Please enclose:

  • your letter of motivation, clearly outlining why this position interests you, your motivation for joining our team and what makes you a suitable candidate;
  • your curriculum vitae;
  • the names, telephone numbers, and email addresses of at least two references;
  • a copy of your Master’s certificate, or a letter from your university stating when your degree will be issued.

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

Some connections are fundamental – Be one of them

The application deadline is

In your application, please refer to


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