PhD fellowships in Plant Science: PhD Project in Plant Cell Wall and Nutrient Signalling, Department of Plant & Environmental Sciences (PLEN) Faculty of Science, University of Copenhagen

Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences (PLEN), Section of Plant Glycobiology, Faculty of Science at University of Copenhagen is offering a PhD position. The position is a joint position between the Plant Cellulose/Cell Biology research group (Prof. Staffan Persson) at the Glycobiology Section and the Pioneer center LandCRAFT at Aarhus University.

The work is in the field of molecular biology and will mainly be done at University of Copenhagen and will aim to address important questions in plant signalling. More specifically, the work aims to decipher certain aspects of cell wall and nutrient signaling in plant cells. Start date is (expected to be) 1 October 2023 or as soon as possible thereafter.

The project: All plant cells produce a carbohydrate-rich extracellular matrix, called the cell wall. Cell wall synthesis and regulation is critical for many physiological processes, such as growth, tissue morphology development, and as the first line of defence against pests and pathogens. Cell walls act as a major carbon sink and are an abundant source of economically important materials; therefore, knowledge of cell walls is highly relevant for both fundamental and applied research.

When the cell wall is challenged by mechanical or biotic disruption, a cell wall integrity (CWI) sensing pathway is triggered to reprogram many cellular processes. Although some proteins involved in CWI sensing have been identified, it remains an understudied field of high importance in plant biology. Interestingly, there appears to be crosstalk between nutrient signalling and cell wall synthesis pathways, as nutrient-specific deficiencies trigger distinct changes in tissue growth and morphology that are dependent on cell wall synthesis and remodelling.

The aims of this project include: (1) further investigate the CWI sensing pathway by identifying and characterizing candidate proteins; (2) investigate nutrient signalling by engineering plants with fluorescent proteins to report the availability status of various macronutrients and validate using fertilizer application regimes. The successful candidate will use a range of molecular, microscopic, and physiological techniques to address these questions, including developing nutrient biosensors and harnessing new proteomics techniques.

The outcomes of the project will provide key insights into how nutrient signalling and CWI sensing govern plant development via cell wall regulation, which will benefit fundamental plant science and will contribute to advances in precision agriculture by generating methods for plants to report nutrient status.

Who are we looking for? We are looking for candidates within the field(s) of molecular and cell biology, biochemistry, and plant physiology. Experience with cloning, plant transformation, engineering plants with reporters, bioinformatics, phylogenetics, genome assembly, and different types of microscopies will be advantageous.

Applicants should hold an MSc degree, or equivalent, in any area of Molecular & Cell Biology or related fields. Applicants should demonstrate strong English skills, high academic standing, and passion for research. As criteria for the assessment of your qualifications, emphasis will also be laid on previous publications (if any), relevant work experience, reference letters, and interviews.

Our group and research- and what do we offer? This is a collaborative research project between PLEN (University of Copenhagen), and the Center for Landscape Research in Sustainable Agricultural Futures (LandCRAFT, Aarhus University). The project will be hosted at the University of Copenhagen, in a highly cross-disciplinary and exciting team with expert backgrounds in microscopy, proteomics, glycomics, biochemistry, and molecular biology.

The group currently holds around twenty people, ensuring that you will receive a broad but cutting-edge experience that will build a solid foundation for your future scientific career. Together, we will generate an exciting environment to investigate CWI sensing, nutrient signaling, and cell wall regulation.

Principal supervisor: Prof Staffan Persson, University of Copenhagen,
Secondary supervisor: Prof Klaus Butterbach-Bahl, Aarhus University, Co-supervisor: Dr. Mike Ogden, University of Copenhagen,

The PhD programme: A three year full-time study within the framework of the regular PhD programme (5+3 scheme), if you already have an education equivalent to a relevant Danish master’s degree.


Getting into a position on the regular PhD programme

Qualifications needed for the regular programme: To be eligible for the regular PhD programme, you must have completed a degree programme, equivalent to a Danish master’s degree (180 ECTS/3 FTE BSc + 120 ECTS/2 FTE MSc) related to the subject area of the project, e.g., Plant Science. For information of eligibility of completed programmes, Terms of employment in the regular programme, Employment as PhD fellow is full time and for maximum 3 years.

Employment is conditional upon your successful enrolment as a PhD student at the PhD School at the Faculty of SCIENCE, University of Copenhagen. This requires submission and acceptance of an application for the specific project formulated by the applicant.

The terms of employment and salary are in accordance with the agreement between the Ministry of Finance and The Danish Confederation of Professional Associations on Academics in the State (AC). The position is covered by the Protocol on Job Structure.

Responsibilities and tasks

  • Carry through an independent research project under supervision
  • Complete PhD courses corresponding to approx. 30 ECTS / ½ FTE
  • Participate in active research environments, including a stay at another research institution, preferably abroad
  • Teaching and knowledge dissemination activities
  • Write scientific papers aimed at high-impact journals
  • Write and defend a PhD thesis on the basis of your project

We are looking for the following qualifications:

  • Professional qualifications relevant to the PhD project
  • Relevant publications
  • Relevant work experience
  • Other relevant professional activities
  • Curious mind-set with a strong interest in nutrient signalling, plant cell walls, and cell wall integrity sensing
  • Good language skills

Application and Assessment Procedure;

 Your application including all attachments must be in English and submitted electronically by clicking APPLY NOW below.

Please include

  1. Motivation letter of application (max. one page)
  2. Project proposal, i.e., what approach would you use to engineer a plant to report the availability status of macronutrients, such as nitrate and phosphate, and what methods would you use to identify and characterize cell wall integrity sensing proteins? Write a research project of max one page.
  3. Curriculum vitae including information about your education, experience, language skills and other skills relevant for the position
  4. Original diplomas for Bachelor of Science or Master of Science and transcript of records in the original language, including an authorized English translation if issued in another language than English or Danish. If not completed, a certified/signed copy of a recent transcript of records or a written statement from the institution or supervisor is accepted.
  5. Publication list (if any)
  6. Reference letters (if available), or contact details for references

Application deadline:

The deadline for applications is Thursday 4 July 2023, 23:59 GMT +2. We reserve the right not to consider material received after the deadline, and not to consider applications that do not live up to the abovementioned requirements. The further process: After deadline, a number of applicants will be selected for academic assessment by an unbiased expert assessor. You are notified, whether you will be passed for assessment.

The assessor will assess the qualifications and experience of the shortlisted applicants with respect to the above-mentioned research area, techniques, skills and other requirements. The assessor will conclude whether each applicant is qualified and, if so, for which of the two models. The assessed applicants will have the opportunity to comment on their assessment. Interviews with selected candidates are expected to be held end of August 2023.

Questions: For specific information about the PhD fellowship, please contact the principal supervisor. The University of Copenhagen wishes to reflect the surrounding community and invites all regardless of personal background to apply for the position.


Part of the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU), and among Europe’s top-ranking universities, the University of Copenhagen promotes research and teaching of the highest international standard.

Rich in tradition and modern in outlook, the University gives students and staff the opportunity to cultivate their talent in an ambitious and informal environment. An effective organisation – with good working conditions and a collaborative work culture – creates the ideal framework for a successful academic career.

Contact: Staffan Persson E-mail:

Application deadline: 04-07-2023

Employment start: 01-10-2023

Working hours: Full time

Department/Location: Section Glycobiology

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