PhD position in Photosynthesis

Updated: 2 months ago
Deadline: ;

We are looking for a PhD candidate for the project "Nanoscale regulators in photosynthesis". You will be part of a multidisciplinary project that combines biophysics, physiology, biochemistry, modeling and genetics to understand the molecular mechanism of light-harvesting regulation in plants. 

FTE: 0.8 - 1

Job description

Photosynthetic efficiency is tightly coupled to the fitness of plants in fluctuating environmental conditions. In excess light, the balance between light excitation and substrate availability is disturbed, causing the formation of lethal reactive species. As a photo-protective response, the photosynthetic antenna switches into a ‘safety mode’ where excitations are non-photochemically quenched. The switches are triggered by particular proteins that can detect the overflow of the electron transport chain by sensing the pH of the lumenal side of the thylakoid membrane and/or altered local electric fields. This switching occurs on various time scales, ranging from seconds to minutes. When light intensity decreases again, photoprotection switches off, again on various time scales, which can take many minutes, meanwhile causing unwanted losses of excitation energy.  Despite the central role of the photoprotective mechanisms in regulating energy conversion in photosynthetic cells and leaves, the underlying molecular mechanisms remain a mystery.

We aim to reveal the mechanisms of light-stress regulation and understand how the pH sensing protein PsbS operates from atom to organism level. To undertake this challenge, we have assembled a team of experts in the fields of biology, chemistry and physics from various universities in the Netherlands. The results will open smart ways for targeted engineering of plants and re-wiring the excitation pathways to combine optimal photosynthetic yields with high stress tolerance as adaptation to changing environmental conditions.

Your duties
The task of the Ph.D. student is to study the properties of the PsbS protein in vitro and in vivo. The analysis in solution and in liposomes will be combined with the creation of mutants in A. thaliana and their analysis. Additional measurements will be performed in collaboration with the other partners in the consortium. 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 biology, chemistry or related field, with a strong interest in multidisciplinary research. Candidates should have good experimental skills in molecular biology/biochemistry 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 biology, chemistry or related topics
  • Knowledge of and experience with molecular biology/biochemistry
  • Excellent communication skills  
  • Curiosity and result driven
  • 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).


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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