Marie Curie ESR Ph. D. Fellowship: Increasing food security through the development of draught resistant maize lines by manipulating strigolactone levels

Centre / Institution:
University of Lleida
Bioinformatics expertise:
Agrigenomics, Biostatistics, Integrative Bioinformatics
Computational Biology; Plant Synthetic Biology

Job description

The idea of the project and where it sits within the state-of-the-art: PROSTRIG addresses food insecurity in a durable and environmentally sustainable way by generating the experimental and BIG DATA tools and resources needed to develop new productive, resilient, and low input crops. Our focus will be the study and use of the emerging class of plant growth regulators, STRIGOLACTONES, to deliver optimized plant architecture and development, for the capture and assimilation of light energy, while promoting the efficient use of nitrogen and phosphate uptake. A timely opportunity exists to exploit the genetic resources presently available and BIG DATA analysis methods to create second generation high yielding varieties with favorable environmental credentials.

The objectives of the project, as well as the progress beyond the state-of-the-art: The overarching goal of PROSTRIG is to demonstrate the potential of merging BIG DATA Analysis with New Plant Breeding Technologies (gene editing) to create new germplasm able to address global economic and societal issues. CRISPR-CAs will be used to create new Maize germplasm that can study through omics and evaluated for productivity under abiotic stresses and low resource inputs and biosafety in animal trials. The specific objective are: a) Generation and screening of mutant alleles; b) Generation and omics characterization of TRANSGENE-FREE edited maize plants; c) Multilevel integration and analysis of omics datasets using mathematical models for the rational prediction of yield; and d) Use the prototype varieties generated for production, economic and technical feasibility studies.

Research outcomes advance the present state of the art in the following areas: Genetic resources; Models and systems level omics datasets; Fundamental knowledge of metabolic pathways and their regulation; and Green chemistries for downstream processing and integrated biorefining cascades. This is a collaboration project with groups from Spain (P. Christou at ICREA/UdL) Germany (Prof. Schillberg's lab at the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME) and the UK (Prof. Fraser's Lab at the Royal Holloway University of London). 

Desired skills and expertise

Eligibility Criteria:

Comply with the MSCA mobility rule: The candidates must not have resided or carried out their main activity in Spain for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to the end of the call (30th November 2019).

Early-stage researchers (ESR) shall at the time of recruitment be in the first 4 years (full-time equivalent research experience*) of their research careers and have not been awarded a doctoral degree.

Hold a degree from another country in the EHEA which grants access to a Master's degree and have achieved a minimum of 300 ECTS credits in university studies of which at least 60 must be at Master's level,


Hold of a qualification obtained in accordance with foreign educational systems without the need for official recognition, having previously confirmed with the university that this qualification accredits a level of training equivalent to the official Spanish university Master's degree and that it would serve as a means of access to a PhD in the country in which it was awarded.

To have lived away from Spain at least 24 out of the last 36 months prior to application.

Expected Work/Desirable skills:

The successful candidate is expected to work mainly on the Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Tasks of PROSTRIG, with some wetlab work being possible/desirable.


Contract duration and other benefits

Full time contract (up to 36 months, co-funded by MSCA COFUND grant) in the university promoting the position (University of Lleida)
Candidates will receive a gross annual salary of approximately 24.000-26.000 €*

Upon signing the contract, the fellows will automatically be registered under the general regime of the Spanish Social Security System, which stipulates the following benefits:
Healthcare: covers hospitalization at home, in a health centre or a hospital
Sickness cash benefits: starts from the 4th day (employer pays days 4-15 (60% of salary), social security system pays days 15-365 (75% of salary), which can be extended up to 180 days)
Maternity/paternity leave: 16 weeks (maternity) or 8 weeks (paternity in 2019), according to current legislation. Possibility of reduction of working hours for 12 months, after the 16 weeks of maternity leave provided by social security. The reduction of working hours can also be compacted, translating into a 4 weeks break, that can be added to the 16 weeks of maternity leave
Unemployment benefits: for a 3 year contact, the fellow will have the right to 12 months of unemployment, and receive an average of 65% of its salary per month
Vacation: 22 working days per year, plus 3 days of personal days off
* The employment contract in each recruiting institution will apply internal rules so final conditions might slightly differ among them.


Required information and contact

Contact Person for information:


Rui Alves (

Please apply at, following the instructions provided in