PhD Lettuce Genetics

Published on
April 7, 2021
Location Wageningen
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We are looking for

Have you (almost) graduated with a MSc in Plant Science or Plant Biotechnology? Are you interested to explore an academic career in science or industry? Do you want to contribute to improving our knowledge of lettuce, one of the most important leafy greens in the world? Please read on, and apply!

An inventive, creative and talented PhD student to complement a multidisciplinary team of PhD students and post-docs unravelling the molecular nature of a range of important lettuce traits. Lettuce is an important component of a healthy diet with an extensive global use. You will be resolving the genetics of lettuce tolerance to abiotic stress, particularly the response of plant growth to fluctuating light conditions (limiting plant growth) and low Ca supply (causing leaf necrosis, or ‘tipburn’). The ultimate goal of your research will be to identify quantitative trait loci and the underlying responsible genes involved in abiotic stress response and crop resilience. In your research you are expected to apply a genome-wide association approach, in which you can make use of the available diversity panels for Lactuca sativa and its wild ancestor, L. serriola. You will be able to use the new state-of-the-art facilities of the Netherlands Plant Eco-phenotyping Centre for high-throughput phenotyping of plant growth and photosynthesis.

Your project will be part of the LettuceKnow research program. This is a public-private partnership, based on the collaboration of three Dutch universities (Utrecht, Wageningen and Leiden) and seven major vegetable breeding companies ( LettuceKnow researchers investigate key resilience and architecture traits of lettuce. The program aims to identify molecular mechanisms and genes by combining large-scale transcriptomics of diversity panels of 500 wild and cultivated Lactuca accessions; cutting-edge phenotyping; powerful integrative bioinformatics & machine learning; and state-of-the-art plant biology. LettuceKnow brings together a team of leading scientists in the areas of plant biology, genomics and data sciences to enable the optimal use of big data and discover the genes/alleles underlying important traits. It comprises a diverse research community with a strong focus on resolving major challenges for Dutch lettuce breeders to develop resilient and sustainable varieties that are adapted to changing climate conditions, emerging disease threats and technological growth innovations such as vertical farming and LED illumination. Combined with dedicated input of the participating highly innovative vegetable breeding industry, LettuceKnow provides a strong contribution to science-driven improvement of a healthy food crop, which will do justice to the economic importance of lettuce as a main contributor to global vegetable crop production.

The PhD position will be at the Laboratory of Genetics of Wageningen University & Research, under the supervision of Prof. Mark Aarts.

We ask

  • a successfully completed MSc degree in plant sciences, plant biology, plant biotechnology, or alike, with proven experience in molecular and/or quantitative genetics;
  • a strong interest in experimental plant research, plant phenotyping, photosynthesis; plant breeding;
  • a collaborative mindset, with good communication skills;
  • an excellent command of the English language, both in speaking and writing. For more information about the required level please take a look at:;
  • you to meet all entry requirements of the WUR PhD program.

We offer

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

  • sabbatical leave, study leave, and 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 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, we offer a competitive monthly PhD salary of €2,395 (in year 1) up to €3,061 (in year 4), for a full-time working week of 38 hours, in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreements for Dutch Universities (CAO-NU) (scale P). A contract for 0.8 FTE can be discussed.
Wageningen University & Research encourages internal advancement opportunities and mobility with an internal recruitment policy. 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 16th 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. Applicants from abroad moving to the Netherlands may qualify for a special tax relief, known as the 30% ruling. 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, and other issues.

More information

For more information about this function, please contact Prof. dr. Mark Aarts, telephone +31-317-485413 or by e-mail

For more information about the procedure, please contact

General information about the Laboratory of Genetics can be found on

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.

This vacancy will be listed up to and including April 28, 2021.
We hope to schedule the first job interviews soon thereafter.

In this first round please only send your resume and motivation letter. Any other documents will not be taken into consideration at this stage.

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. For more information please go to our inclusivity page. A good example of how WUR deals with inclusiveness can be read on the page working at WUR with a functional impairment.

We are

Wageningen University & Research The mission of Wageningen University and 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, 6.500 employees and 12.500 students, Wageningen University & Research is one of the leading organisations in its domain. An integrated approach to problems and the cooperation between various disciplines are at the heart of Wageningen’s unique approach. WUR has been named Best Employer in the Education category for 2019-2020.

These are the points our employees list as good reasons to come work at WUR: read the 5 reasons to come work at WUR.

We will recruit for the vacancy ourselves, so no employment agencies please. However, sharing in your network is appreciated.

Apply now