Department of Systematic and
Evolutionary Botany

PhD position in plant adaptation
60 %

A PhD position is available in Florian Schiestl's group at the Department of Systematic and Evolutionary Botany, University of Zürich, for a period of four years. The position is to study the evolutionary consequences of interactions between plants and insects. Most studies on plant evolution use either an ecological approach to study mechanisms leading to future evolutionary change, or study patterns of past evolution using phylogenetic approaches. In this project, we will conduct experimental evolution using fast cycling Brassica plants to investigate real-time adaptation in plants. This approach has been proven highly successful in past experiments, and enables to study in detail the process of ongoing evolution. As selective, variable biotic environment, different communities of pollinators and herbivores will be used. During 5 generations, groups of plants will be under selection by these insects, and their adaptive evolution will be studied. Afterwards, selection treatments will be swapped to study the potential of plants to reverse their evolutionary trajectory, as required during adaptation in dynamic environments. Plant traits under adaptive evolution will be studied using selection analysis, phenotyping, as well as molecular and bioinformatics tools. The work will be primarily based in the greenhouse and lab.

Your responsibilities

The successful candidate has to comply with the requirements for obtaining a PhD in one of the associated PhD schools at the UZH. This, among others, includes carrying out independent research on the topic, writing up scientific publications, presenting her/his work on scientific conferences, taking courses offered by the UZH doctoral schools and contributing to teaching.

Your profile

Ideal candidates will have a Master (or comparable) degree in any field of biology and a thorough interest in evolutionary biology. Prior experience with plants and/or insects is an advantage. Proficiency in English both orally and written is a must.

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 work in an exciting research environment focusing on patterns and process of plant evolution. Our department is located in the botanical gardens and houses modern molecular and ecological labs, including greenhouses and climate chambers for plant cultivation. The University of Zürich has a very broad coverage of organismal and molecular biology, and several research groups work on evolutionary topics ( The city also offers excellent quality of life through cultural programs and infrastructure, as well as an attractive surrounding.

Place of work

Zollikerstrasse 107, 8008 Zurich

Start of employment

Employment start date to be mutually agreed.
Please submit your application material including CV, a copy of degrees, a letter of motivation, copies of relevant publications (manuscripts) and names and contact information of two academic referees by January 15, 2020.

Further information