Postdoctoral Position in Biological Science

Utrecht University


Postdoctoral Position in Biological Science


Job description

Do you want to help developing AI technology to predict the health, resilience and immune responses of plants? Join us in understanding high dimensional image and genomic data on crops, such as lettuce.

This position is a unique opportunity for you to apply your talent in AI to understand and improve the immune system of crops. You will help to make AI models that can make predictions on multi-modal data, in the form of complex high dimensional image and genomics data. These AI models will have the aim to predict (regulation of) plant health, plant immune responses, plant growth rates and plant physiological characteristics. You will develop a research line within a well-connected team of researchers as part of the AI Technology for Life  group in collaboration with the Translational Plant Biology group and Bioinformatics groups at Utrecht University.

In this position you will:

  • develop image based models, for example using data from hyper/multi-spectral drone images on 25,000 plants;
  • develop genomic based models that can predict these images, and vice versa;
  • take multi-modal data, to predict plant health, plant immune responses, plant growth rates and plant physiological characteristics.
  • actively communicate and discuss research with your colleagues and industry partners;
  • demonstrate and promote high standards of academic research;
  • write publications and publish AI models. 

In this postdoctoral research position, you will be provided with data from the LettuceKnow consortium, which focuses on making lettuce a model plant. You will closely collaborate with the consortium which is made up of 11 research groups (PIs) and 7 companies, moreover it includes a team of 18 PhD candidates, postdocs and technicians working in Utrecht, Wageningen and Leiden.

You will have access to a rich set of tools and data available for your research:

  • 400 genome-sequenced Lactuca lines (lettuce) for which phenotypes are available (see below);
  • field experiment ~25,000 plants 2 days mulitspectral Drone + 10 days hyperspectral Traitseeker (robot);
  • 3 plant growth chamber phenotypes, RGB time series;
  • single timepoint separated leaf images (1500-6000 leaves for each of 6 treatments);
  • RNAseq data for >3,000 samples;
  • several RNA-seq time-series on individual lines;
  • access to a high performance CPU/GPU cluster;
  • help from experts on plant genomics, plant immunity and physiology and in AI technology for the Life Sciences.


We are looking for an enthusiastic new colleague who meets multiple of the following criteria:

  • a PhD degree in AI, Computer Vision, Biological/Medical Imaging or Bioinformatics with a strong AI component (finishing PhD candidates are also welcome to apply);
  • experience with image segmentation, classification and/or generative models;
  • an interest to research fundamental aspects of plant immunity and physiology;
  • an interest to learn about high-dimensional genomic data;
  • communication and collaboration skills that ensure and are vital for optimal exchange of knowledge and ideas between the academic groups and the seven breeding companies within the Lettuce Know consortium;
  • working proficiency in English.

  • A position for 3 years;
  • a full-time gross salary ranging from € 2,960 to €4,670 in scale 10;
  • 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 (CAO).

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 Pathways to Sustainability.

At the Faculty of Science, there are six 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 working at the Faculty of Science

You will be embedded in the interdepartmental research group AI Technology for Life, and affiliated with both the Department of Biology and the Department of Information and Computing Sciences.

You will be working in collaboration with the vibrant and growing Translational Plant Biology group within the Department of Biology of Utrecht University. You will collaborate intensively with PhD candidates and postdocs in the LettuceKnow programme.

Additional information

If you have any questions that you’d like us to answer, please contact Sanne Abeln (Professor) at

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

Are you an international applicant? Find out more about what our International Service desk does and for more info about the what and how on living in the Netherlands.


Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives.

If you are enthusiastic about this position, just apply via the 'Apply now' button! Please enclose:

  • your motivation letter, in which you cover:
    • your motivation to apply;
    • explain how your previous experience makes you suitable for this position;
  • your curriculum vitae, including a list of publications;
  • the names, telephone numbers, and email addresses of at least two referees;
  • a copy of your PhD certificate, or a letter from your university stating when your defence will take place.
Are you interested in this position? Then don't wait to apply. We will close the vacancy when we have found a suitable candidate for the position.

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

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The application deadline is

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