Department of Systematic and Evolutionary Botany

PhD Position in Chemical Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (4-year appointment)
60 %

I am seeking a highly motivated PhD student to join my ERC-funded research project CARDEVOL at the Department of Systematic and Evolutionary Botany, University of Zurich. For more information on my research, click here

Plants are under constant attack by a diverse community of insect herbivores, and in response they often produce a tremendous diversity of defensive secondary metabolites. Plants in the Brassicaceae genus Erysimum have gained the ability to produce novel toxic cardenolides, in addition to the ancestral glucosinolate defenses of all Brassicaceae plants. This has apparently allowed Erysimum to partially escape its co-evolved herbivores. The CARDEVOL project aims to elucidate the causes and consequences of phytochemical diversification in this system. Through a combination of a diverse set of experimental approaches, we will quantify the costs and benefits of novel chemical defenses for the plant, and identify mechanisms of generalized tolerance as well as specialized resistance evolution in co-evolved insect herbivores.

Your responsibilities

The successful candidate will be involved in sampling the natural variation of the annual plant Erysimum cheiranthoides in Central and Eastern Europe. They will then lead the efforts to characterize the collected natural accessions for eco-physiological and chemical traits in the greenhouse, and to generate inbred plant lines for further experiments. The main task of the candidate will then be to manage several season-long field experiments in which the performance of different chemical phenotypes will be evaluated under field conditions with ambient insect herbivory or herbivore exclusion treatments.

Your profile

The ideal candidate will have completed an MSc degree in Plant Biology, Ecology, or a related field, and has a strong interest in natural history, fundamental science, and field-based research. A basic knowledge of native European fauna and flora is advantageous, and a willingness to learn some methods in molecular biology and analytical chemistry is required. Good English skills in speaking and writing and a familiarity with the R statistical language and basic statistical methods are expected.

What we offer

We offer varied and interesting work in an inspiring and socially relevant environment.
Diversity and inclusion are important to us.

The successful candidate will be the first to join my newly established research group at the University of Zurich, which will be complemented by a postdoctoral fellow, a technician, and a second PhD student within the first year of the project.

Place of work

Zollikerstrasse 107, 8008 Zurich

Start of employment

The intended start date for this position is April 2021, although a later date could be negotiated. Applicants are encouraged to apply as soon as possible. The review of applications will begin in January 2021, and the position remains open until filled. To apply, submit a 1-page letter of motivation detailing previous research experience and relevant skills in field- and lab work, a CV including publications, and the names and contact information of two academic references as a single pdf to . Please reference PHD1_CARDEVOL in the subject line.

Further information