Are you looking for a PhD position and like to participate in an exciting interdisciplinary research project to discover the drivers of enhanced woodiness in plants? Are you a plant molecular geneticist with interest in developing tools for breeding crops for a Circular Bioeconomy? Then this PhD vacancy may be of interest to you.

In the framework of the NWO-XL project ‘Environmental and genetic drivers of wood and lignin formation in flowering plants’, the PhD candidate will collaborate with five other PhD candidates from Wageningen UR, Naturalis, University of Groningen and Leiden University. These are embedded in a unique multidisciplinary consortium bridging expertise in plant anatomy, evolution, development, physiology, genetics, molecular biology and lignin chemistry. The consortium will investigate different aspects of wood- and lignin formation in plants, including the gene regulatory network controlling the formation of wood/lignin, the role that this formation plays in drought tolerance and plant architecture, and the utilisation potential of lignin from plant stems for the production of biobased materials.

This vacancy only applies to the PhD position in the Plant Developmental Systems group at Wageningen University. In this project, research will be carried out to unravel the role of the SOC1-FUL-AHL15 gene module in woodiness in Arabidopsis, tomato and Brassica. While the importance of this module for the regulation of woodiness in Arabidopsis has been well established, not much is known about the role of these genes in woodiness regulation in tomato and Brassica. Both species contain multiple homologs of the three genes, and CRISPR/Cas mutants and natural accessions of tomato and Brassica will be studied to analyse the role of the different close homologs, also with respect to drought tolerance.

In addition, the apparent coupling of woodiness with other developmental traits that are regulated by SOC1, FUL and AHL15 will be investigated, such as flowering time and longevity, with the aim to facilitate uncoupling of these traits. In the second part of the project, we will therefore focus on the upstream regulators of FUL-SOC1-AHL15 to facilitate disentanglement of the different pathways. This will involve different molecular approaches.

Regular meetings will be organised for the entire consortium and the PhDs will be visiting the laboratories of the participating groups, for example to get assistance with phenotyping woodiness traits and detailed analysis of cell wall modifications. Also, the mutants/transgenic lines generated in this project will be further analysed by the other groups, to determine the effect of enhanced woodiness/lignification on drought tolerance and on the composition and extractability of lignin.

The research is embedded within the Plant Developmental Systems group of Prof. Gerco Angenent, which is part of the chair Molecular Biology. You will be co-supervised by Dr. Marian Bemer.

The focus of the group is on the molecular regulation of developmental processes, such as flowering, floral organ and fruit development, plant architecture, and embryogenesis with a major emphasis on the role of transcription factors in these processes. The group carries out fundamental research that has a potential impact on societal challenges and knowledge implementation in economically important crops. A multidisciplinary approach is followed, including molecular and cell biology, plant physiology, bioinformatics and various high-throughput ‘omics’  technologies. The team consist of a very social and highly motivated group of staff researchers, technicians, and (international) PhD students/post-docs.

We ask

We are looking for an enthusiastic candidate with the following skills:

  • MSc in Plant Sciences or Biology, with preference for candidates with good background in genetics and physiology. Experience and/or interest in microcopy is preferable.
  • An enthusiastic, problem solving person who likes to work in a multidisciplinary team
  • Experience with molecular techniques and knowledge in genetics
  • A team player that can also work independently
  • Fulfil the PhD Student English language requirement.
  • An interest in (co-)supervising under graduate students
  • For this position your command of the English language is expected to be at C1 level. Sometimes it is necessary to submit an internationally recognised Certificate of Proficiency in the English Language.

We offer

Wageningen University & Research offers excellent terms of employment. A few highlights from our Collective Labour Agreement include:

• sabbatical leave, study leave, and paid parental leave;
• working hours that can be discussed and arranged so that they allow for the best possible work-life balance;
• the option to accrue additional holiday hours by working more, up to 40 hours per week;
• there is a strong focus on vitality and you can make use of the sports facilities available on campus for a small fee;
• a fixed December bonus of 8.3%;
• excellent pension scheme.

In addition to these first-rate employee benefits, you will receive a fully funded PhD position and you will be offered a course program tailored to your needs and the research team. The gross salary for the first year is € 2.395,- per month rising to € 3.061,- in the fourth year in according to the Collective Labour Agreements for Dutch Universities (CAO-NU) (scale P). This is based on a full-time working week of 38 hours.

We offer a temporary contract for 18 months which will be extended for the duration of the project if you perform well. There are plenty of options for personal initiative in a learning environment, and we provide excellent training opportunities. We are offering a unique position in an international environment with a pleasant and open working atmosphere.

You are going to work at the greenest and most innovative campus in Holland, and at a university that has been chosen as the “Best University” in the Netherlands for the 16th consecutive time.

More information

Do you want more information?
For more information about this position, please contact prof. dr. Gerco Angenent ( or dr. Marian Bemer (

Do you want to apply?
You can apply directly using the apply button on the vacancy page on our website which will allow us to process your personal information with your approval.
This vacancy will be listed up to and including 21 November 2022. Preferred starting date February of March 2023.

We are

The mission of Wageningen University & Research is “To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life”. Under the banner Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen University and the specialised research institutes of the Wageningen Research Foundation have joined forces in contributing to finding solutions to important questions in the domain of healthy food and living environment. With its roughly 30 branches, 7,200 employees (6,400 fte) and 13,200 students and over 150.000 participants to WUR’s Life Long Learning, Wageningen University & Research is one of the leading organisations in its domain. The unique Wageningen approach lies in its integrated approach to issues and the collaboration between different disciplines.

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