PhD Position in Seedling Establishment Under Stress

Wageningen University Laboratory of Plant Physiology


PhD Candidate in Seedling Establishment Under Stress

Location Wageningen

We are looking for

Are you interested to find out how plants deal with stress? Are you fascinated by the way young seedlings can sense and respond to their light environment? Do you wish to unravel the physiological and molecular pathways underlying developmental adaptations? And do you like working in a multicultural, interdisciplinary and exciting scientific environment?

We are searching for an enthusiastic and motivated PhD candidate to work on an interdisciplinary project to study the impact of salt stress on seedling establishment and development in darkness and light. You will combine plant physiology with cell biology, molecular biology and bioinformatics to unravel the response of young plants to light and salt stress using different approaches.

Project description

Light is life. Plants use solar energy to synthesize sugars from CO2 and this provides the basis for almost all life on Earth. This photosynthesis reaction takes place in specialized, green cell organelles: the chloroplasts. Directly after germination, young seedlings develop chloroplasts from proplastids present in the embryo. This transition requires light and is part of a life-changing developmental process known as photomorphogenesis: cotyledons (embryonic leaves) separate, turn green and start photosynthesizing. When buried under the soil, the seedling’s first mission is to outgrow the darkness towards the light. This is facilitated by strong elongation of the hypocotyl (embryonic stem) and the formation of a hook in the most apical part of the hypocotyl to protect the meristem, while the cotyledons, chloroplasts and the root remain undeveloped. This developmental program is called skotomorphogenesis.

Plants face various environmental stresses throughout their life. Soil salinization causes severe problems for agriculture, and global yield losses due to salinization are estimated at $27.3 billion each year. Salt (NaCl) causes osmotic stress as well as Na+ ion toxicity and affects plant growth at various levels. Despite the great research interest in physiological consequences of salt stress, very little is known about the impact of salinity on seedling photomorphogenesis and skotomorphogenesis. This project aims to identify and unravel this impact.

The PhD candidate will be supervised by dr. Charlotte Gommers ( You will become a member of the ‘chloroplast retrograde signaling’ team, which is embedded in the Laboratory of Plant Physiology. We are specifically interested in the role of chloroplasts in environmental (stress) signaling, and the role these signals play in plant development and stress survival. This project also involves close collaboration with our colleagues working on salt signaling (group leader: Prof. Christa Testerink:

We ask

  • You have an MSc degree in plant sciences, molecular biology, (plant) biotechnology, or equivalent study.
  • You have knowledge about or are familiar with performing (in vitro) seedling assays, molecular cloning, biochemical assays and microscopy.
  • You have experience with or are willing to learn genome-wide transcriptome analysis.
  • You work well in a team, contribute to an open and inclusive atmosphere, and are willing to involve in teaching activities and mentoring MSc and BSc students.
  • You have good organizational skills, work relaibly and are enthusiastic for the project.
  • You have a very good level of oral and written English. You are required to show us a certification of English skills. For more information about the required level please take a look at:

We offer

We offer you a PhD position at the Laboratory of Plant Physiology with a gross salary per month of € 2.395,= in the first year, building op to € 3.061,= in the 4th year for a full working week of 38 hours in accordance with the Collective Labor Agreement Dutch Universities. At first you will receive a contract of 1 year with extension of 3 years after successful evaluation.

In addition, we offer:

  • 8% holiday allowance;
  • a structural year-end bonus of 8.3%;
  • excellent training opportunities and secondary employment conditions;
  • flexible working hours and holidays can possibly be determined in consultation so that an optimal balance between work and private life is possible;
  • excellent pension plan through ABP;
  • 232 vacation hours, the option to purchase extra and good supplementary leave schemes;
  • a flexible working time;
  • a choice model to put together part of your employment conditions yourself, such as a bicycle plan;
  • a lively workplace where you can easily make contacts and where many activities take place on the Wageningen Campus. A place where education, research and business are represented;
  • use the sports facilities on campus
Wageningen University & Research stimulates internal career opportunities and mobility with an internal recruitment policy. There are ample opportunities for own initiative in a learning environment.
We offer a versatile job in an international environment with varied activities in a pleasant and open working atmosphere.

More information

For more information about this function, please contact dr. Charlotte Gommers, Project leader, by e-mail;

For more information about the procedure, please contact

General information about , more information on the abiotic stress research line at

How to apply

If you are interested in joining our team, please apply by uploading:

  • A motivation letter, and
  • Your CV, including the names and contact details of 2 referees
This vacancy is open until March 7, 2021.

We are

The mission of Wageningen University & Research is “To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life”. Within Wageningen University & Research, nine specialised research institutes from the Wageningen Research Foundation and Wageningen University have joined forces to help answer the most important questions in the domain of healthy food and living environment.

With approximately 30 locations, 6,000 employees, and 12,000 students, Wageningen University & Research is one of the leading organisations in its domain worldwide. An integrated approach to problems and the cooperation between various disciplines are at the heart of the unique approach of Wageningen.

For further information about working at Wageningen University & Research, take a look at the special career site.

Equal opportunities employer

We are an employer that offers equal opportunities. We are happy to receive applications from all suitably qualified people regardless of race, gender, functional impairment, religion / belief, sexual orientation or age.

We believe that a diverse and inclusive working environment makes us a more relevant, competitive and resilient organization. Click here for more information about working at WUR with a functional impairment.

Apply now

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