Are you excited to use your experience in plant biology and contribute to our research in a relatively under-explored but highly relevant area? Then join our team as PhD candidate. You will be working on a NWO-VIDI funded project investigating how oxygen distribution acts to guide plant development and stem cell protection.

Low oxygen was historically viewed as stressful condition associated with flooding, but recent research including ours, shows that the shoot apical meristem and lateral root primordia are paradoxically maintained under constant hypoxia, opening the way to discover how local hypoxic niches regulate plant development and stem cell protection.

You will work within Daan Weits’s team to engineer oxygen biosensors, visualize oxygen distribution in plant tissues and elucidate the molecular players that integrate oxygen concentration into developmental processes.

You will investigate the following questions in your project:

  • Do other meristematic niches maintain hypoxia and how is this regulated?
  • Does oxygen sensing play a role in newly discovered hypoxic niches?
  • Can we steer the development of these niches through the design of new genetic tools?

The project has a broad scope that will be narrowed down during the PhD depending on which new hypoxic niches are discovered and your own interests and inventiveness.

You will use a variety of techniques and tools, including fluorescence microscopy (laser-scanning confocal microscopy), transcriptomics (RNA-seq), biosensor engineering, and molecular biology (gateway/goldengate cloning, ChIP-seq, transactivation assays). You will be tasked with developing and executing experiments, data analysis and presentation, and writing manuscripts. You will have the opportunity to develop your teaching skills and be involved in outreach activities.

You will be directly supervised by dr. Daan Weits and join a team of two enthusiastic PhDs and one postdoctoral researcher working on other aspects of low oxygen sensing and regulation. This team is embedded within the vibrant chair group of Plant-Environment Signaling; a collaborative, international and fun group working on various topics related to how plants sense their environment and adapt their development accordingly.

We also organize various casual activities outside the lab such as after-work drinks (in Dutch: borrel), dinners, bouldering, yearly lab outings, and more! We currently also have a vacancy for a Postdoc position within our group.


We are looking for a committed, creative and collaborative candidate with a keen interest to learn and the motivation to work in a vibrant and international research environment.

You also bring the following essential requirements:

  • an MSc in the area of molecular plant biology; plant biotechnology, or any plant science-related field;
  • experience with molecular biology, biochemistry and/or microscopy techniques;
  • strong communication and English language skills
  • proactive, ability to think independently and creatively;
  • you work in an organized and efficient way.

We would like for you to have:

  • experience in Arabidopsis research;
  • experience in plant development, transcription factor functions or microscopy;
  • affinity with plant-environment interactions.


An exciting project that will investigate a relatively under-explored but highly relevant research area;

  • a full-time position for 4 years, possibility for a part-time contract (0.8 FTE) can be discussed;
  • 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));
  • benefits including 8% holiday bonus and 8.3% end-of-year bonus;
  • a pension scheme, partially paid parental leave, and flexible employment conditions
  • external link
  • based on the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities.

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.

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

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 6 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.

You will be working within Daan Weits’s research team, part of the Plant-Environment signaling group. We are a very diverse and international research group embedded within the Institute of Environmental Biology

You can expect to work in an inclusive, collaborative and motivating environment with a very creative, dedicated and international team of PhD students, post-docs, tenured staff and research assistants.

You will have access to world class research facilities (including top notch growth facilities, an automated phenotyping platform and the bioimaging center) and will benefit from our extensive national/international ongoing collaborations (including those with industry), facilitating network building essential to future jobs.

As a PhD student you will be embedded within the Graduate School of Life sciences (GSLS) in Utrecht and will also be part of the Graduate School Experimental Plant Sciences (EPS), a collaboration with Dutch universities. These offer courses on soft skills and organize yearly meetings to broaden your horizon.

Additional information

If you have any questions that you’d like us to answer, please contact Daan Weits at Do you have a question about the application procedure? Please send an email to


Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives and we attach great importance to diversity and gender balance.

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

  • your letter of motivation;
  • your curriculum vitae;
  • contact details of two references.

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 1 May 2023.


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