PHD position in photosynthesis - biophysics/plant physiology

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • PHD position in photosynthesis - biophysics/plant physiology
  • University Graduate
We are looking for a PhD candidate for the EU project "CAPITALISE". You will be part of a European collaborative research project exploiting biodiversity to boost the efficiency of photosynthesis for better crops.  

FTE: 0.8 - 1

Job description

The improvement of light use efficiency by plants is potentially a game-changer for boosting photosynthetic yields in the field. The focus of the PhD project is on studying the effect of tuning the absorption properties of the plants with the aim of improving photosynthetic performances. Plant leaves both trap the light needed for their own photosynthesis and also deprive competitor plants of light through shading. This means that light distribution in a plant canopy is sub-optimal for photosynthesis. We aim to tune the profile of light absorption in a canopy to improve the efficiency of how plants capture and use light energy.  In the project we will analyse the effect of changes in the pigment composition of plants using natural variations, but also ad hoc produced mutants.  The goal is to identify a strategy that permits better light absorption in a canopy avoiding negative pleiotropic effects, e.g. a reduction of the efficiency in which light energy is used for photochemistry.

Your duties
The task of the Ph.D. student is to study the effect of changes in the pigment/protein composition of plants on the efficiency of photosynthesis, analyzing in detail the effects of these changes on the molecular mechanisms of light harvesting and its regulation.  The analysis will be done by combining advanced spectroscopy and plant physiology methods.  The research will be conducted at the VU, under the supervision of prof. dr. Roberta Croce


We are looking for an enthusiastic candidate with a master or equivalent degree in physics, chemistry, biology or related field, with a strong interest in multidisciplinary research. Candidates should have excellent analytical skills and be able to communicate in English both verbally and in writing. The successful candidate is expected to write a dissertation leading to a PhD degree towards the end of the 4-year project.
  • Master degree in physics, chemistry, biology or related topics
  • excellent analytical skills 
  • excellent communication skills  
  • interest for multidisciplinary research

What are we offering?

A challenging position in a socially involved organization. On full-time basis the remuneration amounts to a minimum gross monthly salary of €2,395 (PhD)
and a maximum €3,061 (PhD), depending on your education and experience. The job profile: is based on the university job ranking system and is vacant for at least 0.8 FTE.

The appointment will initially be for 1 year. After a satisfactory evaluation of the initial appointment, the contract will be extended for a duration of 4 years.
Additionally, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam offers excellent fringe benefits and various schemes and regulations to promote a good work/life balance, such as:
  • 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus, solid pension scheme (ABP)
  • a wide range of sports facilities which staff may use at a modest charge
  • discounts on collective insurances (healthcare- and car insurance)

About Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

The ambition of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is clear: to contribute to a better world through outstanding education and ground-breaking research. We strive to be a university where personal development and commitment to society play a leading role. A university where people from different disciplines and backgrounds collaborate to achieve innovations and to generate new knowledge. Our teaching and research encompass the entire spectrum of academic endeavour – from the humanities, the social sciences and the natural sciences through to the life sciences and the medical sciences.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is home to more than 26,000 students. We employ over 4,600 individuals. The VU campus is easily accessible and located in the heart of Amsterdam’s Zuidas district, a truly inspiring environment for teaching and research.

We are an inclusive university community. Diversity is one of our most important values. We believe that engaging in international activities and welcoming students and staff from a wide variety of backgrounds enhances the quality of our education and research. We are always looking for people who can enrich our world with their own unique perspectives and experiences.

The Faculty of Science
The Faculty of Science inspires researchers and students to find sustainable solutions for complex societal issues. From forest fires to big data, from obesity to medicines and from molecules to the moon: our teaching and research programmes cover the full spectrum of the natural sciences. We share knowledge and experience with leading research institutes and industries, both here in the Netherlands and abroad.

Working at the Faculty of Science means working with students, PhD candidates and researchers, all with a clear focus on their field and a broad view of the world. We employ more than 1,250 staff members, and we are home to around 6,000 students.

About the group
The project will be conducted in the Biophysics of Photosynthesis group at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. The group investigates the fundamental aspects of the natural process of photosynthesis in which the energy of the sun is stored in high-energy products. The major aim of the research is to understand the molecular basis of the photosynthetic process and to apply this knowledge to improve the efficiency of the natural process in plants and algae. The group offers a multidisciplinary environment in which biologists, chemists and physicists work in close collaboration, and state-of-the-art facilities for molecular biology, biochemistry, plant physiology and spectroscopy (steady-state and ultrafast). The group is part of LaserLaB, an internationally renowned research institute


If you are interested in this position, you are requested to write a letter in which you describe your abilities and motivation. Please apply via the application button and upload your letter, a detailed curriculum vitae, a list of grades, TOEFL and/or IETLS scores (if available) and if available a sample of a written report in English (e.g. Master Thesis).

Please apply as soon as possible. The position will remain open until a suitable candidate is found.

Applications received by e-mail will not be processed.

Vacancy questions
If you have any questions regarding this vacancy, you may contact:

Name: Prof. dr. Roberta Croce
Position: Supervisor

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