A PhD fellowship in plant microbe interaction is available at the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences. The focus is on plants, microorganisms and the environment as a basis for sustainable production of food and other biological products. Research and teaching cover natural resources, agriculture, biotechnology and synthetic biology from the molecular level to the ecosystem level. Starting date is 15 October 2023 or as soon as possible thereafter.

The PhD student will be financed by a distinguished investigator grant from the Novo Nordic Foundation to Professor Barbara Ann Halkier, and with the aim to decipher molecular mechanisms of beneficial plant-microbe interactions in both model plants and crops.

Project description:

A biotechnological solutionto sustainably increase food supply is to integrate beneficial microbes into agricultural production. Harnessing plant microbiome is regarded a cornerstone in the next green revolution. The root microbiome composition is largely determined by the soil inoculum, with a distinct contribution from the host.

The overall aim of the PhD project is to investigate the underlying molecular mechanisms by which plants recruit microbial organisms as well as the physiological significance of the establishment of these (beneficial) interactions.

The tasks will be diverse and include:

  1. Screening, identification and characterization of beneficial microorganisms for growth promotion, nutrient delivery, and disease resistance in selected soils
  2. Investigate the chemical cues for establishment of beneficial plant-microbe interaction in the rhizosphere and phyllosphere
  3. Mechanistic studies of invasion, colonization process of the beneficial microbes
  4. Translation of the finding to crops in field trails

Who are we looking for?

We are seeking a competent, highly qualified, talented PhD student, who is enthusiastic about the opportunity to advance his/her skills in plant-microbe interactions for improving plant growth, nutrition and health. Outstanding candidates wishing to be trained in holistic thinking and forefront technologies are cordially invited to apply.

Our research group and what can we offer?

You will be part of the DynaMo Center that has approx. 25 members. We offer an inspiring, creative and international research environment, with emphasis on the training of next generation of young scientists.

The DynaMo Center is part of Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of SCIENCE, University of Copenhagen. We are located at Frederiksberg Campus in Copenhagen.

Principal supervisor is Professor Barbara Ann Halkier, email bah@plen.ku.dk, phone (+45) 35 33 33 42, co-supervisor Scientific consultant Deyang Xu email dyxu@plen.ku.dk, phone (+45) 35333555

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

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. Biology-Biotechnology, Biology, Ecology, Agronomy or a closely relate field. For information of eligibility of completed programmes, see General assessments for specific countries and Assessment database.

Responsibilities and tasks in the PhD program

Your key tasks as a PhD student are to:

  • Manage and carry through your 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
  • Write scientific papers aimed at international peer-reviewed journals
  • Participate in conferences
  • Teach, supervise BSc and MSc students, and disseminate your research
  • Write and defend a PhD thesis on the basis of your project

We are looking for the following qualifications

  • A MSc in Biology-Biotechnology, Biology, Ecology, Agronomy or a closely relate field
  • Curious mind-set with a keen interest in plant-microbe interaction
  • Excellent written and spoken English
  • Relevant work experience
  • Other relevant professional activities

Key criteria for the assessment of candidates

Special importance will be attached to applicants having the following professional and personal qualifications:

  • An excellent grade point average in undergraduate and graduate studies
  • Documented laboratory experience within molecular plant biology and/or molecular microbiology
  • Expertise and/or strong interest in beneficial plant microbe interaction
  • Experience with microbiome sequencing and/or data analysis in R/python will be an advantage
  • Well-developed collaborative skills
  • Relevant research publications

Emphasis for selecting the successful candidate will be on previous publications (if any) and relevant work experience.

Terms of employment:

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.

Terms of appointment and payment accord to the agreement between the Danish Ministry of Taxation and The Danish Confederation of Professional Associations on Academics in the State. The position is covered by the Protocol on Job Structure. The application, in English, must be submitted electronically by clicking APPLY NOW below.

Please include

  • Motivation letter (max. one page)
  • Curriculum vita
  • Original diploma for 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.
  • Complete publication list (if applicable )
  • Reference letters/contact information for two to three reference persons

The deadline for applications is 13 August 2023 at 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..


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: Barbara Ann Halkier E-mail: bah@plen.ku.dk

Application deadline: 13-08-2023

Employment start: 15-10-2023

Working hours: Full time

Department/Location: Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences


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