Postdoctoral Researcher (Plant Pathologist)

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John Innes Centre

The John Innes Centre is an independent, international centre of excellence in plant science and microbiology, carrying out fundamental and strategic research, to train scientists and making our findings available to society.

Our research makes use of a wide range of disciplines in the biological and chemical sciences including; cell biology, biochemistry, chemistry, genetics and molecular biology.

We pride ourselves on being a welcoming and inclusive working environment for all. We have a diverse and multicultural scientific community and thrive on our European and international links. We are proud to hold a prestigious Athena SWAN Gold award, recognising the impact of our work in promoting gender equality in science. We are also a proud member of the Stonewall Diversity Champion’s programme and, as a Disability Confident employer, guarantee to offer an interview to all disabled applicants who meet the essential criteria for the post.

The John Innes Centre is a registered charity (No. 223852), limited by guarantee (registered in England No. 511709) and is an Equal Opportunities Employer.

Post Details

Job Title
Postdoctoral Researcher (Plant Pathologist)
Post Number
Closing Date
2 Dec 2018
Starting Salary
£31,250 - £38,100
Hours per week
Project Title
Retaining the Ashes: The potential for ash populations to be restored following the dieback epidemic
Expected/Ideal Start Date
01 Nov 2018
Months Duration
Flexible Options
Part Time

Main Purpose of the Job

The purpose of the job is to characterise the resistance of European ash to ash dieback and to a range of invertebrate herbivores, and to analyse the role of secondary metabolites in these responses. The principal aims are to obtain reliable, repeatable data on plant responses to the fungal pathogen and to insects in laboratory and glasshouse experiments and in field trials, and to investigate the roles of specific secondary metabolites in those responses. A further aim will be to characterise variation in the transcriptome of ash leaves in response to infection by the ash dieback fungus and to relate it to variation in metabolite content and to responses to bioantagonists.

The postdoc will work with a substantial degree of independence to conduct this research, and will collaborate closely with other researchers at JIC and other members of the project consortium to plan experiments; help train and supervise junior members of the group; help prepare papers, reports, etc; give presentations at project meetings and at national and international research conferences; and contribution to the effective operation of the research group.

The postholder will be supported by a research assistant, particularly for work on fungal pathology, entomology and field trials.


Crop Genetics

The Department of Crop Genetics undertakes fundamental research on the biology of cereals, brassicas and legumes to understand the genetic and molecular basis of phenotypic variation. A major goal is to develop the technologies and knowledge base to provide a predictive framework that will underpin conventional and novel plant breeding strategies. This will enable high-yielding, stress and disease resistant varieties, with a particular end-use quality, suitable for an efficient but benign agriculture.

Advert Text

Applications are invited for a Postdoctoral Researcher to join the Laboratory of Prof James Brown at the John Innes Centre, Norwich, UK.

The project:

The goal of our research is to predict the outcome of the current epidemic of ash dieback and to advise landowners, foresters and public bodies on actions they can take to promote the recovery of ash in the UK. This project will investigate a possible trade-off between resistance to the dieback fungus and attack by invertebrate herbivores, mediated by the secondary metabolite content of ash trees.

The role:

The appointee will lead research to characterise the responses of a diversity set of European ash accessions to the ash dieback fungus and to invertebrate herbivores, and to test hypotheses about the role of secondary metabolites in these responses. The project will combine research on plant pathology and entomology in the lab and greenhouse and in field trials with experiments on transcriptome and metabolite analysis. The appointee will have a considerable degree of independence in leading the project and will take a leading role in writing up and presenting the research.

The work will require close collaboration with partner organisations, other researchers at JIC and a range of stakeholders. This is an exciting opportunity to participate in a multi-disciplinary, multi-institution project which addresses a topical problem of great public interest.

The ideal candidate:

Applicants should have a PhD in plant pathology, entomology or another relevant subject. Successful experience of transcriptome analysis using RNAseq is highly desirable and proficiency in statistical analysis of experimental data is essential. Knowledge of metabolome analysis is also desirable.

Excellent skills in oral and written communication are essential, as are excellent organisational skills and the ability to work effectively as part of a team. The appointee will be expected to demonstrate a substantial degree of independence, initiative and responsibility in leading the project.

Additional information:

Salary on appointment will be within the range £31,250 to £38,100 per annum depending on qualifications and experience. This post is for a contract of 27 months. We welcome applications from individuals seeking full or part time work.

We are an equal opportunities employer, actively supporting inclusivity and diversity. As a Disability Confident organisation, we guarantee to offer an interview to all disabled applicants who meet the essential criteria for this vacancy. The John Innes Centre is also proud to hold a Gold Award from Athena SWAN and is a member of Stonewall’s Diversity Champions programme.

Key Relationships

Internal: Key relationships are the line manager, the research assistant and Prof O'Connor and her team. Other important relationship are other group members and, as necessary, other researchers, research support staff and students across the Institute.

External: Collaborators, principally at NIAB East Malling Research and the University of Warwick, and also at Norfolk County Council and Forest Research.

Main Activities & Responsibilities

Plan and conduct experiments in plant pathology, entomology, transcriptomics and metabolite analysis to meet the objectives of the project
Prepare results, reports and papers for publication in scientific journals and other relevant media
Disseminate research findings through presentations at project meetings and other internal, national and international meetings
Contribute to the smooth running of the group, including supervision and training of visitors and others in the lab, and contributing to research proposals and grant applications
As agreed with the line manager, any other duties commensurate with the nature of the post, for example, contributing to the work of Institute committees

Education & Qualifications

PhD (full award) or equivalent in plant pathology, entomology or other relevant subject
BSc or equivalent in biology or other relevant subject

Specialist Knowledge & Skills

Proficiency in statistical analysis of biological data
Knowledge and practical experience of plant pathology or entomology
Knowledge and preferably practical experience of transcriptome analysis
Knowledge and experience of metabolite analysis

Relevant Experience

Demonstrated ability to perform research and to develop novel ideas in science
Proven record in scientific writing
Experience of oral research presentations
Ability to plan and conduct research with a substantial degree of independence and responsibility
Experience of supervising, training and mentoring staff, students or visitors

Interpersonal & Communication Skills

Excellent communication skills, both written and oral, including the ability to present complex information with clarity
Good interpersonal skills, with the ability to work as part of a team and to collaborate with external partners
Demonstrated ability to work independently, using initiative and problem solving skills, and striving for continuous improvement
Excellent time management and organisational skills

Additional Requirements

Promotes equality and values diversity
Willingness to embrace the expected values of all staff at the Institute, helping to ensure that it is a great place to work and to promote its international reputation
Ability to maintain confidentiality and security of information
Ability to undertake occasional travel (national and international) related to collaborations or seminars