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Exciting PhD Opportunity in Molecular Plant Breeding at the University of Kiel, Germany

Position Overview and Project Details

The Plant Breeding Institute at the Christian-Albrechts University of Kiel, Germany, is currently offering an exciting research assistant position at the PhD level. This opportunity, available starting October 1, 2024, spans a duration of three years. The role is generously funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) within the ‘plantscochallenge’ research unit. It focuses on the project titled ‘Genetic and Metabolic Determinants of Biotic and Abiotic Stress Responses in Quinoa.’

The successful candidate will engage in in-depth phenotyping, transcriptome analysis, and genotyping to identify genetic loci that control drought tolerance and downy mildew resistance in quinoa. This comprehensive approach aims to uncover the genetic basis of these vital stress responses. Furthermore, the project will delve into stress-responsive metabolites and the specific role of flavonoids. An additional area of investigation will be the impact of biotic stress on the microbiome composition within various quinoa lines.

This research assistant position offers a salary based on the German public pay scale (TV-L 13), equating to 65% employment, or 25.155 hours per week. This competitive remuneration reflects the importance and complexity of the project. The selected PhD candidate will have the opportunity to contribute to groundbreaking research in molecular plant breeding, with potential applications in enhancing crop resilience to both biotic and abiotic stresses.

Overall, this position at the University of Kiel provides an exceptional platform for a motivated individual to advance their career in plant genetics and breeding. The project’s outcomes are expected to offer significant insights into the genetic and metabolic mechanisms underlying stress responses in quinoa, a crop of growing global importance. This research not only aims to improve our understanding of plant stress responses but also to contribute to the development of more resilient quinoa varieties.

Key Responsibilities and Tasks

The PhD candidate at the University of Kiel will play a pivotal role in advancing molecular plant breeding research. One of the primary responsibilities involves conducting extensive field and greenhouse trials with various quinoa lines. These trials are essential for understanding the plant’s responses to different environmental conditions and stress factors. The candidate will work closely with scientific project partners, ensuring that the experiments are meticulously designed and executed.

A significant portion of the role entails performing association analyses using genome-wide sequence data. This task is critical for identifying genetic markers linked to desirable traits such as stress tolerance. By pinpointing these markers, the research will contribute to developing quinoa varieties that can withstand biotic and abiotic stresses more effectively.

Identifying candidate genes for stress tolerance is another key task. Through the use of advanced genomic tools, the candidate will analyze data to uncover genes that play a crucial role in the plant’s defense mechanisms. This includes conducting RNA-seq analysis to observe gene expression changes in response to various stress factors. The findings from these analyses will provide valuable insights into the genetic basis of stress responses in quinoa.

Additionally, the role encompasses metabolome analysis to identify metabolites that respond to stress conditions. Understanding the biochemical pathways involved in stress responses will aid in developing strategies to enhance the resilience of quinoa plants. The candidate will also study the effects of biotic stress on the microbiome composition in quinoa lines, shedding light on how microbial communities interact with the plant under stress conditions.

Innovation and active participation are highly encouraged. The candidate is expected to contribute fresh ideas and approaches to the research project, fostering a collaborative and dynamic research environment. This role offers a unique opportunity to make significant contributions to the field of molecular plant breeding while working in a supportive and intellectually stimulating setting.

Required Qualifications and Skills

Candidates interested in the PhD opportunity in Molecular Plant Breeding at the University of Kiel must meet several essential qualifications and possess particular skills. Primarily, applicants should hold a Master’s degree in agriculture or a related field, with a minimum B-grade. This educational background is crucial as it ensures the foundational knowledge necessary for advanced research in plant breeding and molecular biology.

In-depth knowledge of eukaryote genetics, plant breeding, and plant molecular biology is imperative. Applicants should be well-versed in molecular biology techniques, including DNA isolation, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and quantitative real-time PCR. Mastery of these techniques is vital for the successful execution of the project’s molecular breeding components.

Proficiency in English, at least at the C1 level, is required. This ensures effective communication within the international team and comprehension of scientific literature. Additionally, candidates should be adept in using MS Office tools, which are essential for data analysis and presentation.

Fieldwork experience and plant phenotyping skills are highly desirable, as these will be integral to the practical aspects of the research. Familiarity with Genome-Wide Association Studies (GWAS), RNA sequencing (RNA-seq), and metabolome analysis would be advantageous, providing a broader scope of expertise that can be applied to various facets of the project.

Experience with the statistical software R is also sought after. This skill is important for data analysis and interpretation, particularly in handling complex datasets typical of molecular plant breeding research.

Finally, the ideal candidate should exhibit strong motivation and commitment to the project. The ability to work effectively within an international team is crucial, as collaborative efforts are fundamental to the success of this research endeavor.

Application Process and Additional Information

The Christian-Albrechts University of Kiel is renowned for providing a stimulating and well-equipped workplace that fosters a highly motivated and collaborative team environment. The PhD position in Molecular Plant Breeding offers ample opportunities for further qualifications and career development. Successful candidates will have the chance to attend both national and international scientific events, thereby enhancing their academic and professional growth.

The University of Kiel is committed to promoting diversity and inclusivity. Applications are welcomed from candidates of all ages, genders, cultural and social backgrounds, religions, worldviews, disabilities, and sexual identities. The university particularly encourages applications from women, persons with recognized disabilities, and individuals with a migration background.

Interested candidates should prepare a comprehensive application package, which must include a cover letter, an up-to-date CV, references, and copies of all relevant degree certificates. Completed applications should be sent via email to Dr. Nazgol Emrani at by August 31, 2024. It is important to note that incomplete applications will not be considered, and photographs are not required.

The University of Kiel assures applicants that all submitted documents will be handled with the utmost confidentiality and will be destroyed following the completion of the recruitment process. This ensures that applicants can confidently submit their information, knowing it will be used solely for the purpose of the application process.

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