Job description: Are you interested in how the epigenetic landscape of a cell regulates gene transcription? Read more about this PhD project on the role of DNA methylation in plant transcriptional regulation!

The epigenetic landscape of the genome, with marks such as DNA methylation, helps establish gene expression in specific cells in response to developmental or environmental signals. DNA methylated loci are dynamic in the amount of DNA methylation and their resulting transcriptional consequences, making it challenging to identify a unified mechanism for how DNA methylation regulates gene expression.

In the Gardiner lab, embedded in the Translational Plant Biology chair group at Utrecht University, you will uncover and characterise methylation-sensitive promoters in Arabidopsis to identify DNA regulatory elements and transcription factors driving methylation-sensitive gene expression. You will capitalise on existing genome methylation data to build a library of candidate promoters potentially sensitive to DNA methylation.

You will use these to assemble and characterise fluorescent marker lines to determine how these promoters drive expression in methylated and unmethylated states at different developmental stages and under various environmental stresses. You will use the identified methylation-sensitive promoters to determine the core regulatory modules and the associated upstream regulators.

You will deploy state-of-the-art synthetic biology approaches combining CRISPR-based systems that target epimutagenesis and the development of control modules to understand how plants use DNA methylation to interpret and remember developmental and environmental signals.

The existing research infrastructure and the extensive industry collaboration network within the Translational Biology group will help you translate the fundamental findings to applications in engineering and breeding sustainable crops.


For this vacancy, we are looking for an enthusiastic, intrinsically motivated candidate who meets the following criteria:

  • an MSc (or equivalent) in the area of molecular biology, epigenetics, biotechnology, genetics, synthetic biology, or any plant science-related field;
  • experience in biochemistry and molecular biology techniques;
  • basic knowledge in bioinformatics and eager to learn new computational methods;
  • a good command of both written and spoken English;
  • demonstrated communication and organization skills;
  • a team player who is courteous, curious, and creative.

We consider it a plus if you have the following:

  • experience in Arabidopsis research;
  • experience with microscopy or RNA-related work;
  • basic knowledge of CRISPR-based technologies;
  • affiliation with synthetic biology or biotechnology.

We offer:

  • a full-time position for 4 years;
  • a full-time gross salary starting at €2,541 in the first year and increasing to €3,247 in the fourth year (scale P Collective Labor Agreement Dutch Universities (cao));
  • 8% holiday bonus and a 8.3% end-of-year bonus.

In addition, Utrecht University offers excellent secondary conditions including an attractive retirement scheme, (partly paid) parental leave and flexible employment conditions (multiple choice model). For more information, please visit working at Utrecht University

About the organisation

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 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.

Research within this department is organised in two institutes: the Institute of Biodynamics and Biocomplexity (IBB) and the Institute of Environmental Biology (IEB). The department of Biology coordinates the teaching of the Bachelor’s programme in Biology, as well as Master’s programmes and PhD courses that are offered through the Graduate School of Life Sciences.

You will be working within the Translational Plant Biology group at Utrecht University, focused on using molecular biology, genome editing, synthetic biology, and artificial intelligence to translate knowledge about plant biology into technologies for climate adaptation of crops and sustainable food production. Here you will have opportunities to collaborate intensively with PhD candidates and postdoctoral researchers of the TPB group and other groups within the Faculty of Science at Utrecht University.

Additional information

For more information about this position, please contact Dr. Jason Gardiner (Assistant Professor of Translational Plant Biology), via Do you have a question about the application procedure? Please send an email to

Are you an international applicant? Our International Service Desk can answer your questions about living in the Netherlands as international staff


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, please send your application via the ‘apply’ button. Please enclose:

  • your letter of motivation, clearly outlining why this position interests you, your motivation for joining our team, and what makes you a suitable candidate;
  • your curriculum vitae;
  • the names, telephone numbers, and email addresses of at least two references;
  • a copy of your Master’s certificate (or equivalent) or a letter from your university stating when your degree will be issued.

If this specific opportunity isn’t for you, but you know someone else who may be interested, please forward this vacancy to them. Some connections are fundamental – Be one of them, The application deadline is 15 May 2023.


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