Funded Positions in Plant Breeding and Quantitative Genetics at University of Illinois, United States

PhD or Masters Funded Positions in Plant Breeding and quantitative genetics at University of Illinois, United States; Dr. Rutkoski is currently seeking Masters or PhD students to work on research that will improve the profitability of wheat production in the Midwest. When included as part of the crop rotation, wheat provides multiple benefits including improved soil health, better pest management, and reduced nutrient lossess. In Illinois, wheat is predominantly grown in a double-crop system with soybeans.

A major goal of Dr. Rutkoski’s research is to develop wheat varieties that enhance profitability of the wheat-soybean double-crop system in the Midwest in order to improve the economic well-being of growers while enhancing the long-term sustainability of agriculture. In line with this long term goal, the graduate students that will be hired will develop independent research in the area of plant breeding and quantitative genetics.

They will specifically focus on one of two topics: 1) improved phenotyping and selection methods for traits in wheat that are critical for profitability of the wheat-soybean double-crop system, or 2) predictive breeding methodologies that can use advancements in genomic prediction and high-throughput phenotyping to accelerate improvement in grain yield in wheat.

In addition to working on independent research, the graduate students will contribute to wheat cultivar development by taking leadership of some applied breeding or phenotyping activities and by participating in selection decisions in the University of Illinois soft red winter wheat breeding program.

Students can expect to spend 50% of their time on their independent research, 20% of their time contributing to wheat breeding program activities or assisting other graduate students, 20% of their time taking classes (as required for graduation), and 10% of their time on professional development activities such as attending meetings and conferences. Possible start dates are Spring, Summer, or Fall 2025.

RequirementsStudents must have a strong interest in conducting scientific research- including tasks such as reading scientific publications, designing experiments, collecting data, analyzing data, and writing manuscripts for publication. In addition to scientific research, students must have a strong interest in applied plant breeding and working as a team.

Preferred qualifications: Preference will be given to applicants with work or internship experience in a field research program or applied breeding program. Prior experience with data analysis and/or statistical programming would be a plus. For applicants seeking a PhD, successful completion of a Masters is highly preferred.

Stipend: Graduate students will be hired on a 50% Research Assistantship and the cost of tuition will be covered. Health insurance, and a stipend will be provided. The stipend for Masters students is currently $2,453.33 per month. The stipend for PhD students is currently $2,649.60 per month.


Working environment: All group members must strive to create a respectful, pleasant, and productive environment where each person can learn and do their best work. Ensure that your words and behaviors are guided by the core values: 

  • Respect- Show respect for people and property through your words and actions.
  • Honesty- Speak and act truthfully.
  • Optimism- Adopt a ‘can-do’ attitude. 
  • Creativity– Develop new and better ways of doing things. 
  • Growth- Continually improve yourself.

Health and safety: All group members should take measures to maintain a safe work environment. Understand and respect the safety precautions associated with equipment, chemicals, and other hazards in the workplace.

Publications: We believe that all our research is of high quality and worth sharing with the plant breeding community via publication in peer-reviewed journals. All graduate students and post-docs are expected to write 1 first-author publication per year on average. These publications may include a combination of review articles, germplasm release articles, and research articles.  Contact Dr. Arbelaez or Dr. Rutkoski +1 (217) 300 6970 for more information about expectations of group memebers

How to apply: Click here to apply

About: Small Grains Improvement at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC)! We are a team of two research groups, led by Dr. Jessica Rutkoski and Dr. Juan Arbelaez, in the Department of Crop Science at UIUC. We aim to accelerate the genetic improvement of small grains to help sustain people and the environment both regionally and internationally.

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