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2 PhD students: Microbial Induction of Plant Resilience to Drought Stress (MicroRes)

Vacancy number
Job type
PhD positions
Hours (in fte)
External/ internal
Placed on
9 November 2021
Closing date
19 December 2021 Vacancy closed

The Faculty of Science / the Institute for Biology is looking for a:

2 PhD students: Microbial Induction of Plant Resilience to Drought Stress (MicroRes)

Vacancy numbers 21-575

Key responsibilities

Drought (water deficit) is one of the most detrimental environmental factors that adversely affect crop production, thus jeopardizing food supplies for a growing world population. The aim of this project is to tackle the problem of drought and agricultural losses by seeking strategies that enhance the intrinsic ability of plants to interact with beneficial microbes (bacteria) and, therefore, augment their drought resilience. To this end, bacterial strains capable of enhancing the growth, and mitigating drought stress, of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana (thale cress) and major vegetable, cereal and oil crop plants will be identified. Using a combination of state-of-the-art omics, computational, and genetic engineering methods novel genes, metabolites and evolutionarily conserved regulatory pathways involved in bacteria-mediated plant drought tolerance will be discovered. The prime aim of the MicroRes project is to identify plant (PhD-1) and bacterial (PhD-2) genes as well as signaling molecules governing drought tolerance of plants by root-associated bacteria.

Key tasks include:

  • Plan and conduct research activities (incl. establishing new molecular techniques)
  • Present your work at (inter)national meetings and publish scientific articles
  • Team player
  • Willing to join an international project team of researchers: Salma Balazadeh, Víctor J. Carrión Bravo and Jos M. Raaijmakers.
  • Co-supervise graduate students

Selection Criteria

We seek candidates with:

Both PhDs

  • Language skills: fluency in English writing and speaking required
  • Good organizational skills
  • Being capable of presenting data at meetings and conferences.

Key criteria for the assessment of PhD-1 (Balazadeh lab)

  • Master degree in biology, biotechnology, biochemistry or related areas
  • Profound theoretical knowledge and experience in molecular biology, plant stress biology
  • Experience in bioinformatics

Key criteria for the assessment of PhD-2 (Carrión and Raaijmakers labs)

  • Master degree in plant-microbe interactions, microbiology
  • Hands-on experience in data mining, comparative genomics and microbiome data analyses, molecular microbiology, plant bioassays, mutational analyses of microbes
  • Experience in bioinformatics (R and Python) and/or (bio)chemistry will be of added value

Research at our faculty

The Faculty of Science is a world-class faculty where staff and students work together in a dynamic international environment. It is a faculty where personal and academic development are top priorities. Our people are committed to expand fundamental knowledge by curiosity and to look beyond the borders of their own discipline; their aim is to benefit science, and to make a contribution to addressing the major societal challenges of the future.

The research carried out at the Faculty of Science is very diverse, ranging from mathematics, information science, astronomy, physics, chemistry and bio-pharmaceutical sciences to biology and environmental sciences. The research activities are organised in eight institutes. These institutes offer eight bachelor’s and twelve master’s programmes. The faculty has grown strongly in recent years and now has more than 2300 staff and almost 5000 students. We are located at the heart of Leiden’s Bio Science Park, one of Europe’s biggest science parks, where university and business life come together.

For more information, see here and here.

The Institute for Biology

The research within the Institute of Biology Leiden (IBL) aims to work on the science base of biodiversity and health, which is reflected in our leading principle Harnessing Biodiversity for Health. We perform innovative curiosity-driven research to answer fundamental questions, and solutions-driven research to help solving major societal challenges. The latter include protecting nature’s biodiversity, creating sustainable biotechnology and agriculture and increasing good health. Our research focuses on four Research Themes: Bioactive Molecules, Host-Microbe Interactions, Development & Disease and Evolution & Biodiversity. Located in a thriving scientific environment with our Faculty of Sciences,  Naturalis Biodiversity Centre, the Leiden University Medical Centre and the Leiden Bioscience Park, IBL offers an exciting, internationally oriented and inclusive place to work and study.  

Terms and conditions 

We offer a  full-time position for initially one year. After a positive evaluation of the progress of the thesis, personal capabilities and compatibility the appointment will be extended by a further three years. Salary range from 2.434,-  to €3.111,-  gross per month (pay scale P in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities).

Leiden University offers an attractive benefits package with additional holiday (8%) and end-of-year bonuses(8.3 %), training and career development and sabbatical leave. Our individual choices model gives you some freedom to assemble your own set of terms and conditions. Candidates from outside the Netherlands may be eligible for a substantial tax break.

All our PhD students are embedded in the Leiden University Graduate School of Science . Our graduate school offers several PhD training courses at three levels: professional courses, skills training and personal effectiveness. In addition, advanced courses to deepen scientific knowledge are offered by the research school.

Leiden University is strongly committed to diversity within its community and especially welcomes applications from members of underrepresented groups.


Enquiries about the research can be made to Assoc. Prof. Dr. Salma Balazadeh and Assist. Prof. Dr. Víctor J. Carrión. If you have any questions about the procedure, please contact Sylvia Maas (jobs@biology.leidenuniv.nl).


To apply for this vacancy, please send an email to jobs@biology.leidenuniv.nl. Please ensure that you upload the following additional documents (combined in a single pdf file) quoting the vacancy number:

  • Cover letter
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Copy of higher education diploma
  • Two reference letters

Only applications received before 20.12.2021 will be considered.

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