Graduate School Scholarship Programme (DAAD)

The iGRAD-Plant graduate program invites applications for two full PhD scholarships which will be financed via the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) Graduate School Scholarship Programme (GSSP).

Application deadline extended to May 22, 2022

The starting date of the PhD projects is flexible between summer and fall 2022.

Please find all necessary information about scholarships, requirements, available projects and the application documents in the sections below:

Who can apply?

Excellent students who have completed a Master’s degree or equivalent in biology or a related field that fits the research focus of the graduate program. The degree must be completed at the latest by the time candidates begin their scholarship but not longer than 6 years ago.

The GSSP program is only open to non-German applicants – not living in Germany for longer than 12 months at time of application deadline.

The scholarship includes:

  • Monthly payments of 1,200 euros for 3.5 years
  • Payments towards health, accident and personal liability insurance cover
  • Travel allowance (depending on country of origin)
  • Annual research allowance

        Under certain circumstances, grant holders may receive the following additional benefits:

  • monthly rent subsidy
  • monthly allowance for accompanying members of family (about 200 euros child allowance per child; about 275 euros marriage allowance)

        Additionally, the host graduate school can receive an annual material resource and supervision allowance (1000 euros).

In the framework of the DAAD Graduate School Scholarship Programme program, scholarships are to be awarded after a specific competition and a two-step selection procedure.

1) In the first step students apply directly to the iGRAD-Plant graduate program. The graduate program selects and nominates candidates to DAAD. Please note: The graduate program needs to nominate at least two applicants per scholarship.

2) In the second step nominated applicants must further submit a complete application form with all required documents directly to DAAD.

The final selection is made by DAAD.

Available projects for 2022
Project ID: GSSP-2022-1

Project title: Modulation of resource allocation and plant performance by plant osmosensors

Supervising PI(s): Georg Groth, Matias Zurbriggen

Research project:  Osmotic stress due to drought or salinity is a major constraint affecting plant resource allocation and productivity. Climate change is expected to aggravate this situation further. Consequently, the development of new crops tolerant to osmotic stresses is required. However, a clear understanding of the mechanisms that facilitate osmotic stress perception in plants is still missing.

In our multidisciplinary project we will study putative plant osmo-sensors by a combination of molecular, genetic, physiological, synthetic biology and structural approaches. The putative sensors will be expressed in and purified from bacterial systems, characterized for their response to known osmo-effectors, and analyzed by x-ray crystallography for their detailed 3D molecular structure (Groth lab). Based on this knowledge we will design mutants with modified osmo-sensing activities that will be analyzed at varying osmotic environmentsusing phenotyping setups at the Forschungszentrum Jülich (FZJ) and MichiganState University (MSU).

Furthermore, we will reconstruct the signal perception and relay mechanisms of the sensors in an orthogonal, mammalian cell systems as we have previously established for a wide variety of plant receptors and signaling pathways (Zurbriggen Lab). This strategy will allow to characterize the activity and regulation of the sensor in an isolated environment, without the effects of other plant proteins and regulators present in the plant system. Moreover, we will transfer the wide variety of mutants generated as described above and determine the functionality, signal/perception specificity/selectivity and molecular mechanisms.

We have previously set up a synthetic biology platform for signal output monitoring in mammalian cells that yields quantitative data in mid-throughput experiments. Our comprehensive mechanistic and quantitatively experimental studies will be complemented by theoretical modelling approacheshelping us to integrate the putative osmo-sensors in the plant cellular stress network and to predict how certain mutations in these sensors may affect resource allocation and plant performance.. We are looking for a candidate wit a strong backround in Protein Biochemistry, Membrane Proteins & Molecular Biology

Project ID: GSSP-2022-2

Project title: Global drivers of gene regulation in response to biotic stress

Supervising PI: Laura Rose

Research project: The aim of this research project is to determine the regulatory networks modulating gene expression in plants exposed to pathogens. Exposure to pathogens is predicted to induce a strong reprogramming of plant cells resulting in a reallocation of resources away from growth and carbon acquisition and towards stress response pathways. Therefore, our first aim is to determine to what degree disease resistance genes are inducible and whether plants mount a generalized response to pathogens or a pathogen-specific response. We will also address how individual gene regulatory networks differ depending on tissue type, plant age or developmental stage.

Within this project, we will leverage the extensive number of publicly available transcriptomes of model plant species including Arabidopsis and tomato to address specific questions about gene regulation. The prevailing dogma in the field has been that R-genes typically show very low expression and are induced upon pathogen detection.

To our surprise, our preliminary work in tomato and potato revealed neither of these main observations (wide-spread low expression and induction in the presence of a pathogen) were overwhelmingly substantiated in these datasets. These surprising results led us to question whether other prevailing views of gene regulation in plants also deserve scrutiny. That is our mission within the framework of this PhD project.

Application procedure

Application documents

Please send the following application documents via email until May 22, 20222 to:

  • Application form completely filled-in. Please read the guide how to fill the application form“ before doing so
  • Curriculum Vitae detailing education, training, and previous research experience
  • Transcripts of previous study, including credit hours, marks obtained and copies of relevant diplomas and degrees in English or German
  • Documentation of proficiency in the English language, such as TOEFL, IELTS or Duolingo (can be waived for native speakers or if the university education was conducted in English)
  • Two letters of reference from previous supervisors, send directly by the referee to:

Please send a complete electronic copy of your application as a single PDF (file size not exceeding 5 MB!) by email to igrad-plant(at) 


iGRAD-Plant Coordinator

Dr. Petra Fackendahl

Institute of Plant Biochemistry
Universitätsstr. 1
40225 Düsseldorf Gebäude: 26.24
Etage/Raum: U1.066
40225 Düsseldorf

+49 211 81-10588 E-Mail senden

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