PhD Position in Plants and Crops
Ghent University Department of Plants and Crops

PhD Student

Last application date
Aug 31, 2020 23:59
LA21 - Department of Plants and Crops
Employment category
Research staff group 1
Limited duration
Master degree in Bioscience Engineering, Engineering, Physics, Biology, or an equivalent relevant degree. Students who will graduate in September 2020 can also apply for this position.
Occupancy rate
Vacancy Type
Research staff

Job description


Cross-talk: Modelling the crop-climate dialogue to optimize resources, production and quality in plant factories and greenhouses (a large 4-year interdisciplinary research project, supported by various stakeholders) The aim of the project is to create the knowledge base for the industrial breakthrough of multi-layer vegetable farming either in plant factories or in greenhouses. Multi-layer farming not only yields a higher crop yield per area, but also enables the farmer to better control the growth process by adjusting various climate parameters. Dynamic plant-climate interactions in a multi-layer environment will be investigated: how can we use the resources light (solar light and/or LED), temperature, relative humidity, CO2 and water to produce high quality vegetables.


  • Literature survey on mechanistic plant modelling.
  • Develop an innovative 3D plant model (functional-structural plant model or FSPM) for lettuce.
  • Model the dynamic plant-climate interactions to steer growth and development towards a higher quality crop.
  • Use of large datasets obtained with plant sensors, manual measurement and imaging for modelling purposes.
  • Data analysis and interpretation.
  • Synthesis of research results in internal project reports and peer-reviewed journals.
  • Present results during national and international conferences, seminars and workshops.
  • Participation in a collaborative, interdisciplinary research team, with highly motivated researchers, and supported by various stakeholders.


The candidate will work at the Laboratory of Plant Ecology (Department of Plants and Crops, Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, Ghent University) under the supervision of Prof. Kathy Steppe and Prof. Jan Pieters. The project is at the core of the lab’s mission:

Datasets are obtained (see other vacancy) at Ghent University (climate room experiments and small-scale greenhouse experiments) and in the semi-commercial vertical farm Agrotopia, located in Roeselare.


Tentative starting date: September 2020.

Profile of the candidate

  • Highly motivated to obtain a PhD and write scientific publications.
  • Strong interest in plant functioning, plant-climate interactions and/or vertical, multi-layer farming.
  • Strong affinity with plants.
  • Knowledge of modelling, or highly motivated to learn this skill.
  • Mathematical and analytical mindset.
  • Organizational skills, and problem-solving, result-oriented attitude.
  • Good MSc study results.
  • Excellent communication skills in English – both orally and written.
  • A team player who can work independently and has good communication skills.

How to apply

  • The application has to be submitted electronically (in a single pdf-file) to - Include a motivation letter and your CV, and if possible, an overview of study results. - Submit your application as soon as possible, as a decision may be taken before 31 August (deadline).
  • For more information about the project, contact Prof. Dr. ir. Kathy Steppe (

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