PhD Elucidating specificity determination in plant transcription factor complex formation:

Are you looking for a PhD position and like to participate in an exciting interdisciplinary research project to discover how proteins select their partners to interact with? Are you a plant molecular biologist with interest in how transcription factors function and in the link between protein sequence, structure and function? Then this PhD vacancy may be of interest to you.

Biological processes are controlled by transcription factor proteins (TFs), which interact in many different combinations to regulate gene expression. However, it is still largely unclear how the specificity of protein-protein interactions is encoded in protein sequence and structure and how this determines which combinations of proteins with unique functions can be formed. Ultimately, this knowledge is important to steer and control biological processes, and investigate for example the cause of human diseases or govern modern plant breeding approaches.

In the framework of the NWO-M2 project ‘Machine learning-based prediction of transcription factor protein-protein interactions’, two PhD candidates will collaborate to develop a robust computational method to predict protein-protein interactions of TFs with complex evolutionary histories. The method will be developed based on the MADS-domain transcription factor family, which regulates important plant processes such as flowering and fruit development.

One of the PhD candidates will work in the Bioinformatics department on the development of the computational prediction method. The other PhD candidate will perform wet-lab experiments to gain insight into the specific requirements for protein-protein interactions and will work in the Plant Developmental Systems group of the department Molecular Biology. 

This vacancy only applies to the PhD position for a molecular biologist in the Plant Developmental
Systems group at Wageningen University. This PhD student will perform experiments to identify protein features that influence the interaction capacity, and identify and verify amino acids essential for MADS-domain TF protein-protein interaction specificity.

As such, the PhD student will work in close collaboration with the PhD student at Bioinformatics, to both generate input for the model and to test it. Additionally, the impact of changes in interaction specificity on the biological function of several transcription factors in Arabidopsis and tomato will be investigated.

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 supervised by Prof. Richard Immink (web page) and 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.

Your qualities

  • A successfully completed MSc degree in (plant) molecular biology
  • Excellent laboratory skills
  • Knowledge of various molecular techniques
  • Affinity with bioinformatics
  • An interest in plant development and evolution
  • Perseverance in problem solving
  • An interest in (co-)supervising undergraduate students
  • Excellent writing and oral communication skills in English

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 you

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

  • sabbatical leave, study leave, and partially 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 compensation / 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 € 2.541,- per month rising to € 3.247,- 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 18th consecutive time.

Coming from abroad: Wageningen University & Research is the university and research centre for life sciences. The themes we deal with are relevant to everyone around the world and Wageningen, therefore, has a large international community and a lot to offer to international employees. Our team of advisors on Dutch immigration procedures will help you with the visa application procedures for yourself and, if applicable, for your family.

Feeling welcome also has everything to do with being well informed. Wageningen University & Research’s International Community page contains practical information about what we can do to support international employees and students coming to Wageningen. Furthermore, we can assist you with any additional advice and information about helping your partner to find a job, housing, schooling. For instance under the “30% rule”, certain categories of international staff can receive tax exemption on approximately 30% of their gross salary.

Do you want more information?

For more information about this position, please contact dr. Marian Bemer, Bioscience,  by e-mail or mail to:

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.

Equal opportunities: Wageningen University & Research (WUR) employs a large number of people with very different backgrounds and qualities, who inspire and motivate each other. We want every talent to feel at home in our organisation and be offered the same career opportunities. We therefore especially welcome applications from people who are underrepresented at WUR.

Wageningen University & Research
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.

Apply now

This vacancy will be listed up to and including June 5, 2023.

Leave a Reply