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University of Copenhagen PhD Scholarships in Plant-Microbe-Insect Interactions 2018, Denmark

Publish Date: Dec 26, 2017

Deadline: Jan 14, 2018

Three PhD scholarships in Plant-Microbe-Insect Interactions

Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Science, University of Copenhagen, University of Copenhagen is offering three PhD scholarships in Plant-Microbe-Insect Interactions, with expected commencement on 1 April 2018 or as soon as possible thereafter.  
The PhD positions are associated to a newly funded EU Marie Curie ITN project, “Microbe-Induced Resistance to Agricultural pests”, MiRA, with 12 other PhD positions at other participating institutions.
PhD 1 (ESR4) 
Project title: Effect of phytopathogens and entomopathogens on microbe-induced plant resistance and performance 
Project description 
The aim of the project is to test if the beneficial effects for plants of having associations with resistance-inducing microbes in the root zones is moderated by simultaneous attack by plant pathogens and root-associated insect-pathogens. The position will involve experiments with combinations of plants, microbes and insect pests, and evaluation of plant, microbe and pest performance (plant hormone and metabolite induction, plant growth, biomass, seed production, microbe colonisation, pest consumption and growth rates, etc.). Results will be integrated with parallel experiments done by other ESRs to evaluate context dependency of microbe-induced plant resistance. Candidates should have a strong background in plant, microbe and/or insect ecology and experimentation. 
Principal supervisor: Associate Prof Thure P Hauser,, Phone: +45 3533 2818 and Associate Prof Nicolai V Meyling,, Phone: +45 3533 2666; Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, University of Copenhagen  
Planned secondments: INOQ, Germany: Inoculation and mycorrhiza methods (2 months), Utrecht University, NL: Analyse hormone interactions, (3 months) 
Required qualifications for PhD 1: experimental experience with plants, microorganisms and/or insects, plant ecology, statistical analysis
Relevant skills: plant physiology, microbiology, insect biology
PhD 2  (ESR9) 
Project title: Impact of drought on plant resource allocation and its effect on intra and interorganismic signaling between resistance inducing rhizosphere bacteria and plants 
Project description 
The project aims to contribute to a mechanistic understanding of the interaction of tomato plants with beneficial Pseudomonas strains. Such microbial strains produce lipopeptides, volatiles and plant hormones, which are involved in antagonism against plant pathogens and probably MiR. The central hypothesis is that the mechanisms contributing to the holobiont stress physiology and tolerance include biofilm formation, regulation of primary carbohydrate metabolism and direct activation of plant defense responses. The work program will address the determination of (1) the  effects of drought on root colonization, biofilm formation and microbiome dynamics and elucidate the production of lipopeptides and plant hormones, (2) the contribution of resource allocation between plant organs and between roots and beneficial microbes to abiotic stress and insect pest resilience and (3) of the role of phytohormones produced by the plants and beneficial microbes in coordinating plant primary and secondary metabolism in response to abiotic stress and insect pests. 
Candidates should have a strong theoretical and practical background in plant - microbe interactions (beneficial or pathogenic) and the application of molecular or biochemical techniques.  
Principal supervisor: Professor Thomas Roitsch,, Phone: +45 3533 1526 and Associate Prof Ole Nybroe, , Phone: +45 3533 26 29; Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, University of Copenhagen  
Planned secondments: James Hutton Institute, UK: drought and phenotyping experiments (2 months); Netherland Institute of Ecology, NL: Test of microbial communities (4 months); INOQ, DE: Test of inoculants under field conditions (2 months) 
Required qualifications for PhD 2: experimental experience with plant – microbe interactions and with molecular or biochemical or cell physiological techniques 
Relevant skills: knowledge of plant physiology, biochemistry, microbiology 
PhD 3  (ESR14) 
Project title: Resistance-inducing benefits from root-associated entomopathogens: translation from lab observations to field application  
Project description 
The aim of this project is to elucidate how root-associated entomopathogenic fungi (fungi that can infect insects) affect plant resistance and how they co-exist with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF). This will be done by comparing the effects of root/rhizosphere colonizing fungi (entomopathogenic vs AMF) on resistance-induction, plant performance, below- and above-ground herbivores, when applied individually and in combination. Establishment efficiency of entomopathogenic fungi in the rhizosphere will be evaluated under variable growth conditions (abiotic effects) and in competition with other microbes (biotic effects) in lab and field situations to identify potential constraints for obtaining reliable efficacy under field conditions. Candidates should have a strong background in plant, microbe and/or insect ecology and experience in conducting experiments. 
Principal supervisor: Associate Prof Nicolai V Meyling,, Phone: +45 3533 2666 and Associate Prof Thure P Hauser,, Phone: +45 3533 2818; Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, University of Copenhagen 
Planned secondments for PhD 3: CSIC, Spain: Mycorrhiza inoculation methods (2 months), PlantResponse, Spain: test inoculation methods, conduct field experiments (2x4 months) 
MiRA is an International Training Network (ITN) funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement. 
Plants are intimately associated with a diversity of beneficial microorganisms in their root zone, some of which can enhance the plant’s resistance to insect pests. Thus, the use of Microbe-induced Resistance (MiR) to reduce pest losses in agriculture has emerged as a promising possibility to improve crop resilience and reduce use of harmful pesticides. European companies have therefore started to develop and market beneficial microbes. However, MiR appears to be strongly context dependent, with reduced benefits under certain biotic and abiotic conditions and in some crop varieties. Further, it is a challenge to deliver and ensure stable associations of beneficial microbes and plants, and avoid undesired effects on beneficial insects. Thus we absolutely must improve our understanding of MiR mechanisms and context-dependency, in order to improve context stability of MiR and promote the use of MiR for crop protection. The MiRA project will train early stage researchers in basic and applied research on context-dependency of MiR, mechanisms, and impacts on plant performance and other biocontrol organisms, and use this understanding to improve our ability to predict the effectiveness of MiR under different conditions, to select plant and microbial strains with improved context-stability, and to develop better methods for the formulation of microbial inoculants and their application in agriculture. Finally, we will analyse economic prospects and constraints for MiR development and use. We have assembled a consortium of academic institutions and companies, including microbial inoculant producers and agricultural advisors. Our ESRs will be trained within this multi-sectoral interdisciplinary network for a future career in research, product and service development in European horticulture and agriculture, pushing boundaries in European research and innovation. 
Job description 
Your key tasks as a PhD student in MiRA are: 
  • Participate in the research environment at PLEN and the network activities of MiRA 
  • Manage and carry through your research project 
  • Take PhD courses 
  • Write scientific articles and your PhD thesis 
  • Participate in congresses 
  • Teach and disseminate your research  
Key criteria for the assessment of candidates 
  • A master’s degree related to the subject area of the PhD project
  • The grade point average achieved 
  • Professional qualifications relevant to the PhD programme: see above for each PhD 
  • Previous research publications 
  • Other professional activities 
Language skills: fluency in English 
Formal requirements and eligibility  
At the time of commencement, it is required that the candidate has not been awarded a doctorate degree and are within the first 4 years (full-time equivalent) of their research careers. Furthermore, the candidate must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in Denmark for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to their recruitment. Short stays, such as holidays, are not taken into account. The candidate is required to spend part of their project period at other institutions in the the MiRA consortium on secondments. 

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