PhD Fully Funded Position in Molecular Plant Breeding at University of Copenhagen in Denmark

PhD Fully Funded Position in Molecular Plant Breeding at University of Copenhagen in DenmarkDepartment of Plant and Environmental Plant Sciences invites applicants for a PhD fellowship in Molecular Plant Breeding. The project is part of the research project “Back to the Future: Bioengineering an ancient-resilient plant for a food-safe future”, which is financed by an Emerging Investigator grant from the Novo Nordisk Foundation. Start date is 1 July 2024 or as soon as possible thereafter. The project: We need to produce nutritious and accessible food for our growing population without exhausting our planet and its people. The vision of the Plant Bioengineering group is to bridge molecular, agricultural and food sciences to create the crops of the future!

Most of our food comes from only a dozen of plants, making our food system highly vulnerable to plant pests, diseases and climate change. In nature, there are thousands of plants with potential to be part of a future diverse and resilient agriculture, but many of them contain unpleasant compounds. In the Back to the Future project led by Pablo D. Cárdenas and funded by the Novo Nordisk Foundation, we work to develop the wild plant Chenopodium album as a new crop. Its seeds have high protein content and were eaten in Denmark during prehistorical times, but contain bitter and anti-nutritional chemical compounds called saponins. We have established a unique collection of C. album from all over Denmark and characterized their protein and saponin contents.

In the Back to the Future project, the PhD candidate will combine molecular (e.g. genomics, transcriptomics, metabolomics), agricultural (e.g. speed breeding, field trials) and food sciences (e.g. nutritional characterization) to understand the molecular basis of saponin biosynthesis, its bitterness and plant domestication traits to develop C. album into a valuable plant for future food security. Altogether, the PhD candidate will contribute to demonstrate the potential of domesticating local wild resilient plant species to diversify our food sources and support the green transition in our agrifood system.

Who are we looking for? We are looking for an enthusiastic and ambitious candidate driven by 1) understanding fundamental biological processeses in plant biology such as specialized metabolism and domestication and 2) our long term mission to contribute to create a more diverse and resilient agrifood system. Applicants can have a background from e.g. plant sciences, molecular biology, agriculture, biotechnology, bioinformatics, biochemistry.

Our group and research- and what do we offer? This is an excellent opportunity to join a young group of lab- and field-enabled plant scientists doing mission-driven fundamental research and develop yourself as a creative and critical researcher. The project is led by Assistant Professor Pablo D. Cárdenas (PI), who is a part of the Molecular Evolution of Plant Specialized Metabolism research group. The research group focuses on understanding how and why plants biosynthesize specialized metabolites and their potential applications. The group is a part of the Section for Plant Biochemistry, Department of Plant and Environmental Plant Sciences, Faculty of SCIENCE, University of Copenhagen. We are located in Frederiskberg, Copenhagen.

Principal supervisor isProfessor,Søren Bak, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, E-mail: Direct Phone: +45 3533 3346 We offer creative and stimulating working conditions in dynamic and international research environment. Our research infrastructure includes state-of-the-art facilities for molecular biology, metabolomics, plant tissue culture, and a field station.

The PhD programme: three year full-time study within the framework of the regular PhD programme (5+3 scheme), if you already have an education equivalent to a relevant Danish master’s degree. Qualifications needed for the regular programme; To be eligible for the regular PhD programme, you must have completed a degree programme, equivalent to a Danish master’s degree (180 ECTS/3 FTE BSc + 120 ECTS/2 FTE MSc) related to the subject area of the project, e.g. plant molecular biology, plant sciences.

Terms of employment in the regular programme ; Employment as PhD fellow is full time and for maximum 3 years. Employment is conditional upon your successful enrolment as a PhD student at the PhD School at the Faculty of SCIENCE, University of Copenhagen. This requires submission and acceptance of an application for the specific project formulated by the applicant. Terms of appointment and payment accord to the agreement between the Danish Ministry of Taxation and The Danish Confederation of Professional Associations on Academics in the State. The position is covered by the Protocol on Job Structure.

Responsibilities and tasks in the PhD programme

  • Complete and pass the MSc education in accordance with the curriculum of the MSc programme  (ONLY when you are attending the integrated MSc and PhD programme)
  • Carry through an independent research project under supervision
  • Complete PhD courses corresponding to approx. 30 ECTS / ½ FTE
  • Participate in active research environments, including a stay at another research institution, preferably abroad
  • Teaching and knowledge dissemination activities
  • Write scientific papers aimed at high-impact journals
  • Write and defend a PhD thesis on the basis of your project

We are looking for the following qualifications:

  • Curious mindset with a strong interest in fundamental plant biology and its translation into applications
  • Professional qualifications relevant to the PhD project
  • Relevant work experience
  • Relevant publications
  • Other relevant professional activities
  • Good English written and oral language skills


Application and Assessment Procedure:  Your application including all attachments must be in English and submitted electronically by clicking APPLY NOW below. Please include

  1. Motivated letter of application (max. one page), including your motivation for applying for the specific PhD project
  2. Curriculum vitae including information about your education, experience, language skills and other skills relevant for the position
  3. Original diplomas for Bachelor of Science or Master of Science and transcript of records in the original language, including an authorized English translation if issued in another language than English or Danish. If not completed, a certified/signed copy of a recent transcript of records or a written statement from the institution or supervisor is accepted.
  4. Publication list (if possible)
  5. Reference letters (if available)

The deadline for applications is 7 May 2024, 23:59 GMT +2. We reserve the right not to consider material received after the deadline, and not to consider applications that do not live up to the abovementioned requirements. The further process  After deadline, a number of applicants will be selected for academic assessment by an unbiased expert assessor. You are notified, whether you will be passed for assessment. The assessor will assess the qualifications and experience of the shortlisted applicants with respect to the above mentioned research area, techniques, skills and other requirements. The assessor will conclude whether each applicant is qualified and, if so, for which of the two models. The assessed applicants will have the opportunity to comment on their assessment.

Questions; For specific information about the PhD fellowship, please contact the principal supervisor. Part of the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU), and among Europe’s top-ranking universities, the University of Copenhagen promotes research and teaching of the highest international standard. Rich in tradition and modern in outlook, the University gives students and staff the opportunity to cultivate their talent in an ambitious and informal environment. An effective organisation – with good working conditions and a collaborative work culture – creates the ideal framework for a successful academic career. Contact; Pablo D. Cárdenas E-mail:


Application deadline: 07-05-2024

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