PhD Researcher - Modelling tip burn in lettuce

  • WO
  • Tijdelijk
Wageningen University & Research


Do you want to develop novel models that simulate plant organ growth, and that will be used to optimise cultivation strategies for vegetable production in fully controlled environments? Then we may be looking for you!

The chair group Horticulture and Product Physiology at Wageningen University is looking for a PhD researcher to join their team with the goal of developing a model to predict tip burn occurrence in leaves. Tip burn in lettuce (i.e., brown necrotic edges of the leaves) is a physiological disorder related to local calcium shortages. Local calcium supply is directly related to growth and transpiration rates in the plant.

In this project, your focus will be on developing a simulation model capable of predicting crop growth and the spatial distribution of transpiration and calcium concentration within the leaves. This task presents a unique scientific challenge. You'll also explore various scenarios to better understand how different environmental factors, such as local air flow, leaf temperature, humidity, and light, influence calcium transport and, consequently, tip burn. In this PhD position, you will collaborate with researchers who conduct experiments and quantify the physiological aspects of tip burn. Ultimately, the model you develop will be a valuable tool for designing cultivation strategies in vertical farming that not only prevent tip burn but also maximize productivity.


We are looking for result-driven team player. We ask for:
  • an MSc degree in Biosystems Engineering, Plant Sciences, Applied Mathematics, or a related discipline;
  • experience with simulation modelling or computational methods;
  • being capable to operate in an international and highly multi-disciplinary environment;
  • a proven ability to think conceptually;
  • excellent communication skills as well as good proficiency in English (both oral and written).

For this position your command of the English language is expected to be at C1 level. Sometimes it is necessary to submit an internationally recognised Certificate of Proficiency in the English Language. More information can be found here.


Wageningen University & Research
The mission of Wageningen University & Research is “To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life”. Under the banner Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen University and the specialised research institutes of the Wageningen Research Foundation have joined forces in contributing to finding solutions to important questions in the domain of healthy food and living environment. With its roughly 30 branches, 7,600 employees (6,700 fte) and 13,100 students and over 150,000 participants to WUR’s Life Long Learning, Wageningen University & Research is one of the leading organisations in its domain. The unique Wageningen approach lies in its integrated approach to issues and the collaboration between different disciplines.

Read the 5 reasons why your future colleagues enjoy working at WUR and watch this video to get an idea of our green campus!

You will work here:

The chair group Horticulture & Product Physiology

The research is embedded in the chair group Horticulture and Product Physiology (HPP). You will be supervised by prof.dr.ir. Leo Marcelis, chair HPP, and co-supervised by Cristina Zepeda, Assistant Professor HPP and Katarina Smolenova, Reseacher HPP.

The HPP group conducts high impact research and educates students providing the scientific basis required to answer questions that are of utmost importance for sustainable crop production and product quality in horticulture.
The research focus is on how physiological processes in crops, plants and plant organs interact with the abiotic environment and how this affects crop production and product quality. Questions arising from horticultural practice are translated into fundamental research topics, aiming to explain mechanisms. The research and education contribute to sustainably feeding the World with healthy high-quality products.

The chair group is an international team consisting of 20 staff members, about 45 PhD candidates and postdocs and a number of guest researchers. Each year about 50 MSc students conduct their thesis study (a 6-month research) at our group. We organize and participate in a variety of courses for BSc and MSc students to transfer knowledge on horticulture (pre- and postharvest), environmental physiology and product quality.

We will recruit for the vacancy ourselves, so no employment agencies please. However, sharing in your network is appreciated.


Wageningen University & Research offers excellent terms of employment. A few highlights from our Collective Labour Agreement include:
  • Partially paid parental leave;
  • working hours that can be discussed and arranged so that they allow for the best possible work-life balance;
  • the option to accrue additional compensation / holiday hours by working more, up to 40 hours per week;
  • there is a strong focus on vitality and you can make use of the sports facilities available on campus for a small fee;
  • a fixed December bonus of 8.3%;
  • excellent pension scheme.

In addition to these first-rate employee benefits, you will receive a fully funded PhD position and you will be offered a course program tailored to your needs and the research team.

The gross salary for the first year is € 2.770 - per month rising to € 3.539,- in the fourth year in according to the Collective Labour Agreements for Dutch Universities (CAO-NU) (scale P). This is based on a full-time working week of 38 hours. We offer a temporary contract for 18 months which will be extended for the duration of the project if you perform well.

Wageningen University & Research encourages internal advancement opportunities and mobility with an internal recruitment policy. There are plenty of options for personal initiative in a learning environment, and we provide excellent training opportunities. We are offering a unique position in an international environment with a pleasant and open working atmosphere.

You are going to work at the greenest and most innovative campus in Holland, and at a university that has been chosen as the “ Best University ” in the Netherlands for the 18th consecutive time.

Coming from abroad
Wageningen University & Research is the university and research centre for life sciences. The themes we deal with are relevant to everyone around the world and Wageningen, therefore, has a large international community and a lot to offer to international employees.
Our team of advisors on Dutch immigration procedures will help you with the visa application procedures for yourself and, if applicable, for your family.

Feeling welcome also has everything to do with being well informed. Wageningen University & Research's International Community page contains practical information about what we can do to support international employees and students coming to Wageningen. Furthermore, we can assist you with any additional advice and information about helping your partner to find a job, housing, schooling. For instance under the "30% rule", certain categories of international staff can receive tax exemption on approximately 30% of their gross salary.

Meer informatie

For more information about this position, please contact Katarina Smolenova (Reseacher, katarina.smolenova@wur.nl), Cristina Zepeda (assistant professor, cristina.zepeda@wur.nl) or Leo Marcelis (Chair Horticulture and Product Physiology, leo.marcelis@wur.nl

For more information about the procedure, please contact Noorien Abbas, Corporate Recruiter, by email: vacaturemeldingen.psg@wur.nl

Do you want to apply?
You can apply directly using the apply button on the vacancy page on our website which will allow us to process your personal information with your approval.
This vacancy will be listed up to and including 8 January 2024. Job interviews are planned for 23 January 2024.

Equal opportunities
Wageningen University & Research (WUR) employs a large number of people with very different backgrounds and qualities, who inspire and motivate each other. We want every talent to feel at home in our organisation and be offered the same career opportunities. We therefore especially welcome applications from people who are underrepresented at WUR. A good example of how WUR deals with inclusiveness can be read on the page working at WUR with a functional impairment.