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Doctoral Researcher Position / Opportunistic mutualistic bacterial associations of Nicotiana attenuata

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The Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology – Hans Knöll Institute – in cooperation with the Friedrich Schiller University and the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology are offering an international graduate training program. The

International Leibniz Research School (ILRS Jena)

gives doctoral researchers the possibility to prepare for their PhD exam in an ambitious program providing excellent research conditions. We invite applications for a

Doctoral Researcher Position (Ref.No. ILRS_01/2015)
Opportunistic mutualistic bacterial associations of Nicotiana attenuata

Plants are embedded in the enormous amount of microbial life that lives in the soil in which they grow, and we have been able to show that a native plant recruits particular bacterial taxa from the soil to help solve various physiological challenges they face and thereby establish opportunistic mutualisms. This project will build on this work and can follow a number of different research paths, as long as the research illuminates in some way the fitness consequences of the bacterial association for the plant.

The native annual tobacco ( Nicotiana attenuata ) germinates after fires in the Great Basin Desert to grow in the primordial agricultural niche of a post-fire environment and copes annually with an unpredictable community of herbivores and pathogens. N. attenuata has been developed as an ecological model plant for more than two decades during which hundreds of transgenic plant-lines have been released on a field station in Utah, USA to identify and functionally test genes relevant for survival in nature [for example, see, 1]. A collection of plant-associated bacteria from N. attenuata with plant growth promoting effects have been identified [2], and one in particular has been studied in detail, and shown to increase the availability of reduced sulfur for their host plant [3], and increase survival of ethylene deficient plants in nature [4]. We have characterized a fungal pathogen outbreak in a native population [5], components of which likely proliferated into a wilt disease in our field plantations and more recent work has shown that consortia of 5-6 of the native bacteria can be used as biocontrol agents that protect plants from this fungal wilt disease. Hence, inoculation of N. attenuata with a small core-set of the root-associated bacterial community was sufficient to rescue field grown plants from a wilt disease which emerged by continuous cropping. The inoculated bacteria had antagonistic effects against the pathogen and dramatically reduced plant mortality. The main goal of this project is to unravel the (multiple) possible mechanisms likely involved in this fungal biocontrol mutualism using the ecological, molecular and metabolomics toolboxes established in the department of Molecular Ecology of the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology.

[1] Kallenbach M et al. 2012, Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 109, E1548-1557.
[2] Long HH et al. 2010, New Phytologist 185, 554-567.
[3] Meldau DG et al. 2013, Plant Cell 25, 2731-2747.
[4] Meldau DG et al. 2012, Frontiers in Plant Science 3, 112
[5] Schuck S et al. 2014, PLoS One 9, e102915.

We expect:
  • a Master’s degree (or equivalent ) in Natural or Life Sciences. Research at ILRS is centred around “Microbial and Biomolecular Interactions”. Candidates about to earn their degree are welcome to apply.
  • high motivation and interest to join one of the research areas of ILRS
  • creativity and interest in shaping your own thesis project
  • an integrative and cooperative personality with enthusiasm for actively participating in our lively community
  • very good communication skills in English
We offer:
  • a top-level research environment
  • efficient supervision by a team of advisors
  • a comprehensive mentoring program (cf. Program of Study)
  • courses in state-of-the-art technologies and soft skills
  • strong communication and interaction between the involved institutions
  • Jena – City of Science: innovative business activities, successful scientific centres and a vibrant cultural scene around the famous Friedrich Schiller University
The three-year Doctoral Researcher position is available starting from June 2015. Salary will be paid according to TV-L (salary agreement for public service employees). HKI is an equal opportunity employer.

Further information:
Prof. Ian T Baldwin, PI,
Dr. Christine Vogler, ILRS Coordinator,

The application process is handled exclusively online. Please acquaint yourself with the scientific projects offered on our website and thoroughly follow the instructions for the online application process:

Deadline for application: March 13, 2015.
Successful applicants will be invited to attend a recruitment meeting in Jena (envisaged date: May 11-13, 2015).


Art des Bewerbungszugangs
The application process is handled exclusively online. Please acquaint yourself with the scientific projects offered on our website and thoroughly follow the instructions for the online application process:
Kontakt für Bewerbungen
Dr. Christine Vogler (ILRS Coordinator),

Details der Stellenanzeige

Befristete Anstellung
Berufserfahrung nicht vorausgesetzt
Deutschland (Thüringen)
07745 Jena
Biologie & Life Sciences, Chemie