Crop Science Centre

Driven by impact, fuelled by excellence

Careers and courses

The Crop Science Centre is a partnership between the University of Cambridge and NIAB. We are currently looking for aspirational, passionate and impact-driven individuals across a range of levels and roles.

Scientists at the Crop Science Centre focus on research with potential for impact in agriculture. This can include work in model systems, as well as in crop plants. We take a global view on impact and invite applications studying crops of relevance to small-holder farmers in low and middle-income countries, as well as crops of relevance to agriculture in high-income countries. We are particularly interested in applications in the areas of: plant nutrient uptake, enhancing photosynthesis and plant interactions with pests and pathogens, but welcome applications in all areas with potential for impact in crop science.

We strive for a diverse and creative environment and wish to broaden representation in the agricultural sciences. We welcome a full diversity of applicants.

We are currently recruiting for the following positions, to apply for them visit the University of Cambridge Job Opportunities page by clicking here:

 

Postdoctoral Research Associate (Fixed Term)

We invite applications for a post-doctoral research associate to join the "E-biogenesis" project at the University of Cambridge Department of Plant Sciences. The successful applicant will work in the brand new and vibrant Crop Science Centre: a flagship initiative designed to accelerate the transition to sustainable agriculture. Funding is available for four years from January 2023, with a flexible start date within the following six months.

The appointee will join the group of Dr Sebastian Eves-van den Akker, a proudly international, diverse, and welcoming lab.

The research will be part of an exciting ERC research project, in the area of food security and Plant Pathology, entitled, "Effector Biogenesis: An unexplored, and yet critically important, part of plant-nematode interactions". The rationale behind this project is that the ability of nematodes to cause disease, like all pathogens, depends on hundreds of "effectors": molecules delivered into the plant during infection. Blocking effectors blocks parasitism, however, blocking individual effectors is insufficient. Rather, we should attack the features that unite most effectors - their biogenesis machinery. Effectors have to pass through a specialised secretory conduit to get into the plant. Surely, this "effector biogenesis conduit" is the Achilles heel of the nematode. Despite its fundamental importance, effector biogenesis has not been studied for 30 years because the system was intractable. With our recent development in functional genetic tools, we are now well placed to dissect this strategically important knowledge gap.

To do this, we are looking to add expertise in microscopy and/or regulated secretion systems to the team. Those with a keen interest in understanding biology, and expertise in confocal and/or electron microscopy or regulated secretion systems from any organism, are strongly encouraged to apply.

The successful applicant will work closely with other members of the E-biogenesis team (specifically a technician and a PhD student), and will be expected to have involvement in the training and supervision of students and other researchers within the group. They will participate in the dissemination of research through publications and oral presentations, both within the department and at conferences.

Applicants must possess, or will soon be completing, a PhD in any appropriate area (e.g. plant-microbe interactions, microscopy, secretory systems etc.), together with excellent skills in scientific analysis and design, independent working and time management, as well as in oral and written presentation. Applicants should be skilled in wet-lab techniques. An understanding of plant-parasitic nematology or pathology is not necessary. Good interpersonal skills and enthusiasm are essential.

Informal enquiries are welcomed and should be directed to Dr Sebastian Eves-van den Akker, se389@cam.ac.uk.

As a signatory of the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment, the University of Cambridge does not use journal level metrics when assessing the quality of research outputs. Applicants should not include journal level metrics, such as the Journal Impact Factor, anywhere in their application materials. Applicants should highlight a select subset of what they consider to be their most important research outputs and provide a brief narrative account of their significance.

To apply please following this link https://www.jobs.cam.ac.uk/job/37915/

If you have not received any response one month after the closing date you should consider your application to be unsuccessful.

Please quote reference PD33974 on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy.

 

ENSA Impact Manager (Fixed Term)

We are seeking to recruit a highly motivated person as ENSA Impact Manager to support the management of intellectual property and facilitate the application of discoveries for recognising impact. This is an exciting opportunity for someone with a relevant scientific degree and an interest in the application of scientific discoveries to join an international programme of research with significant potential for positive impact on global food security. Engineering the Nitrogen Symbiosis for Africa (ENSA) is an international partnership of ten institutions led from the Crop Science Centre, part of the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Cambridge, with the goal of driving equity and sustainability in global food production, by developing alternatives to inorganic fertilisers to underpin crop production. The Crop Science Centre strives to deliver impact for more sustainable and equitable agricultural systems, drawing on the world-class plant science research taking place at the University of Cambridge and the expertise in crop improvement at NIAB, the UK's primary field-testing organisation.

The successful candidate will report to Professor Giles Oldroyd, Director of the Crop Science Centre and will have a central role in driving impact and outcomes in product development from the research outputs of the ENSA project.

The post holder will work closely with our ENSA project funders and collaborating partners with the support of Cambridge Enterprise and other relevant university offices to develop and implement an intellectual property strategy for ENSA. The post holder will ensure that monitoring, reporting, and approval processes are established to ensure research outputs are efficiently reviewed ahead of publication or other potential disclosures and that patentable discoveries are protected in a timely fashion. The post holder will also oversee appropriate approvals to ensure compliance prior to field trials in the UK. The post holder will be required to work closely with every group in the ENSA project to provide training in the procedures required to meet the required standards of IP protection and provide guidance and training to ENSA researchers by reviewing impact case studies to maximise potential of their work for impact and improve the outcome of their research.

There will be opportunity to engage with partners in target countries, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, and work with stakeholders in the private sector.

The successful candidate must have a background in Biology (educated to Degree level or higher), excellent communication skills and attention to details. The ability to work and interact with different stakeholders at different levels and across different organization is key. Project management experience would be an advantage. Some knowledge in the area of plant Intellectual Property management and the application of scientific discoveries would be advantageous but training and support will be given as appropriate for those candidates without such prior knowledge. An understanding of the academic environment and its culture would be advantageous.

Informal enquiries are welcome and should be directed to Frederique Anand, CSC HR Coordinator, fa423@cam.ac.uk in the first instance.

Fixed-term: The funds for this post are available for 2 years in the first instance, with the potential to extend after this period, following review and dependent on funding.

Follow this link to apply https://www.jobs.cam.ac.uk/job/37901/

If you have not received any response one month after the closing date you should consider your application to be unsuccessful.

Please quote reference PD33962 on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy.

 

Postdoctoral Research Associate (Fixed Term)

Fixed-term: The funds for this post are available for 2 years in the first instance with a possibility for a further extension.

Applications are invited for a highly motivated post-doctoral research associate to work on reproductive heat tolerance in legume crops in Dr Natasha Yelina's laboratory. The successful candidate will be joining a vibrant and friendly group of researchers in the Crop Science Centre at the University of Cambridge.

Meiosis is a specialized cell division in all sexually preproducing eukaryotes. It results in haploid gametes, egg and sperm, and is crucial for faithful inheritance of genetic material from parents to offspring. Heat stress during flowering (reproductive heat stress) causes meiosis defects and, therefore, reduces plant fertility with direct impact of raising world temperatures on biodiversity and agriculture. The project aims to explore cowpea naturally occurring adaptation to reproductive heat stress in order to understand mechanisms behind reproductive heat tolerance and sensitivity in plants.

This project is part of a joint CSC-NIAB legume crop improvement portfolio and will involve a close collaboration between the appointed PDRA and NIAB partners.

The position is available to start as soon as possible. Successful candidates will have a strong background in plant genetics and molecular biology. An interest in meiosis, development of new plant molecular biology tools and techniques as well as experience in GWAS, microscopy and/or bioinformatics are advantageous. A PhD in a relevant area (or having submitted a PhD by the time of appointment) is essential. Experience with DNA and RNA work and plant growth are also required. Information on the laboratory is available at website https://www.plantsci.cam.ac.uk/research/crop-breeding-technologies.

Informal enquiries are welcomed and should be directed to Natasha Yelina, ne240@cam.ac.uk.

Please ensure that you upload a covering letter and CV in the Upload section of the online application. The covering letter should outline how you match the criteria for the post and why you are applying for this role. It is expected that interviews will be conducted early December 2022.

We welcome candidates with a good track record in research and/or impact, who are excited to join a dynamic team of scientists driven to use foundational understanding of plants for the betterment of agriculture.

As a signatory of the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment, the University of Cambridge does not use journal level metrics when assessing the quality of research outputs. Applicants should not include journal level metrics, such as the Journal Impact Factor, anywhere in their application materials. Applicants should highlight a select subset of what they consider to be their most important research outputs and provide a brief narrative account of their significance.

To apply follow this link https://www.jobs.cam.ac.uk/job/37821/

If you have not received any response 1 month after the closing date you should consider your application to be unsuccessful.

Please quote reference PD33889 on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy.

 

Postdoctoral Research Associate in Plant Immunity (Fixed Term)

Fixed-term: The funds for this post are available for 2 years in the first instance.

Applications are invited for a post-doctoral research associate in plant immunity to work with Dr Lida Derevnina at the Crop Science Centre, starting between 1 January and 1 April 2023.

Plants possess complex immune receptor networks to combat infections from diverse pathogens and pests. Our conceptual and mechanistic understanding of immune receptor networks has been primarily based on studies in model organisms. Knowledge of the diversity and function of these networks in and across economically important crop plants is limited. In this project, we wish to define, validate, and characterise the immune receptor network of sweet potato, and determine the role the network plays in mediating immunity to devastating diseases caused by plant parasitic nematodes. The projected work will involve computational analysis combined with functional in planta assays in Nicotiana benthamiana.

Applicants must have a strong background in bioinformatics, genomics and be a proficient in at least one programming languages, eg python and R. A sound knowledge of plant-pathogen interactions, molecular biology techniques and experience working with nematodes are hugely advantageous.

We welcome candidates with a good track record in research and/or impact, who are excited to join a newly established research group that aims to use foundational understanding of plant-pathogen interactions to deliver sustainable solutions for control in agriculture.

Informal enquiries are welcomed and should be directed to Dr Lida Derevnina (ld645@cam.ac.uk)

As a signatory of the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment, the University of Cambridge does not use journal level metrics when assessing the quality of research outputs. Applicants should not include journal level metrics, such as the Journal Impact Factor, anywhere in their application materials. Applicants should highlight a select subset of what they consider to be their most important research outputs and provide a brief narrative account of their significance.

Follow this link to apply https://www.jobs.cam.ac.uk/job/37506/

If you have not received any response one month after the closing date you should consider your application to be unsuccessful.

Please quote reference PD33596 on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy.

 

Laboratory Manager Assistant (Fixed Term)

Applications are invited for a Laboratory Manager Assistant to ensure the smooth running of the laboratories at the Crop Science Centre. This is an exciting opportunity for somebody passionate about laboratory management to join a team of vibrant and friendly group of researchers and technicians and work in a state-of-the-art laboratory.

The Crop Science Centre opened in October 2020 and is part of the Department of Plant Sciences. It benefits from the diverse skills and expertise of the University of Cambridge and NIAB, providing an environment for research excellence in crops, with the drive and expertise for scientific translation to address real-world problems. Over 60 staff and students are located at the Centre, distributed in between three established research groups and three fellows starting new research programs.

The role holder will report to the Research Services Manager. The successful candidate will have a central role in managing the CSC labs, organising all activities for the smooth running of the labs and coordinating with the team of laboratory technicians.

The role holder will be the main point of contact in the lab providing guidance to researchers and students. Main responsibilities include procurement of CSC lab consumables and lab equipment, stock taking, equipment maintenance, implementation of safety regulations, and laboratory induction processes.

At CSC we strongly believe technical support is critical for the success of research and we are committed to support recognition and development of the technical staff. We are seeking to appoint an individual with strong organisational and communication skills, who takes pride on their job and is a team player. The successful candidate must have excellent attention to details and should have practical experience of specialised laboratory activities and equipment as well as specialist knowledge of laboratory processes. Experience in laboratory management and providing Laboratory H&S training would be desirable

The role holder will work as part of a wider team of laboratory technicians and willingness to provide assistance when demands are high and being a strong team player is essential. The role holder will also need good communication and interpersonal skills.

Fixed-term: The funds for this post are available for 3 years in the first instance.

Informal enquiries are welcome and should be directed to Dr Susana Sauret Gueto. Please quote reference PD33747 on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy.

To apply follow this link https://www.jobs.cam.ac.uk/job/37664/

If you have not received any response 1 month after the closing date you should consider your application to be unsuccessful.

ctp-sai

An industry-wide consortium, led by producer organisation G’s Growers and involving the Crop Science Centre, has won a UKRI-BBSRC collaborative training partnership award (CTP) to provide a £3.6 million postgraduate training programme in sustainable agricultural innovation.

The CTP programme for Sustainable Agricultural Innovation (CTP-SAI) will ensure young scientists are ‘business aware’, opening up opportunities for careers across industry. The CTP is currently launching the recruitment drive for the 2023 cohort. FInd out more about the available oppertunities on the CTP website by clicking here.

M.Phil. Biological Science (Crop Science) course

Course overview

Global food security sits at a nexus. Do we continue with unsustainable practices benefiting farmers in high and middle income countries, while small-holders barely produce enough to support themselves? Or can we find a new way for agriculture that delivers food in an equitable and sustainable manner?

Envisioning agriculture in 2050 needs to take into account the global population, the planets’ biodiversity, global climate change and the current inequities in the system. Our Masters of Philosophy in Crop Science degree will explore new ways of thinking about what agriculture should be in 2050 and how we might get to that point.

We will take a broad view of potential solutions, with an emphasis on practical, scientific approaches, from genetic engineering to regenerative agriculture. Together, this will provide our students with an integrated perspective on food security that spans plant biology, global ecology, conservation and economics.

Our aim is to train future leaders in crop science to take creative approaches to global food security. The integrated training the students will acquire will prepare students for multiple career paths, including competitive Ph.D positions and research-based positions in Agritech. The training in wide-ranging transferable skills, will be valuable for students pursuing careers in science policy and governance, social science, science communication, and non-research based positions in Agritech and international charitable bodies.

We intend that our student cohorts will continue into diverse spheres of research, policy, and science communication, with world-leading influence on the future development of global agriculture and crop science.

Course structure

The MPhil will begin with a taught component - featuring four interconnected and interdisciplinary thematic modules. Our teachers will be drawn from the vibrant research community within Cambridge, spanning the Department of Plant Sciences, Crop Science Centre, NIAB, the Sainsbury Laboratory and the Judge Business School, in addition to selected external contributors.

Each module will run for two weeks, with four interactive sessions per week:

  • The future of sustainable agriculture. We will examine the global system of agriculture, drawing on University expertise in ecology, economics and social science to deliver a high-level perspective of current and future modes of agriculture, and highlighting the challenge of sustainably adapting global agriculture to climate change.
  • Crop development, metabolism and physiology. We will develop an integrated understanding of plant function at the molecular, cellular, tissue and whole organism levels. We examine how this knowledge is relevant for crop yield and performance, and how this can be used to address challenges to food security.
  • Plant-biotic interactions. We will explore the spectrum of plant-microbe, plant-animal and plant-plant interactions, the key features that distinguish parasitic and symbiotic relationships, and examine the vital importance of these interactions for plant health and nutrition within agriculture.
  • Crop Improvement. We explore the organization and function of plant genomes and how this is relevant for crop breeding and engineering. We examine how quantitative genetics, genomics and gene editing can be combined to rapidly adapt crops to novel environmental conditions and safeguard food security. We explore how genetics can be combined with agronomy to enhance sustainable productivity.

 

Students will receive supervised training in literature synthesis and data analysis via an ‘Insights’ essay that addresses a hot topic in agriculture or crop science.

Students will perform an 8 month primary research project where they will work embedded in a research team investigating questions at the cutting-edge of crop science. This will prepare students for highly competitive Ph.D programmes and Agritech positions, in addition to diverse other career paths, including science policy and communication.

We will additionally provide Methods based workshops, on topics including statistics and bioinformatics, quantitative genetics, crop transformation, gene editing and grant writing. Students will participate in journal clubs and attend research seminars within the Department of Plant Sciences, Crop Science Centre and NIAB to develop critical thinking skills and learn about current research.

Research skills to be developed: Controlled experimental design and statistical analysis. Bioinformatics and programmatic approaches. Depending on the project, skills in molecular biology, genetics, genomics, tissue culture, transformation, gene-editing, plant-microorganism interactions, biochemistry, metabolomics and computer modelling will be acquired. Projects in a wide range of plant species and approaches will be available for students to select from.

Transferable skills:  Project management, data presentation and seminar design and delivery, time management, conceptual thinking, analytical thinking, skills in scientific writing that enable complex concepts to be communicated in an engaging and illuminating way. Specific training on grant and research proposal writing will be delivered. A deep, integrated understanding of global agriculture will be acquired that can be applied in a range of career paths.

Eligibility

Our course is aimed at those who aspire to make major contributions to global agriculture in future years. Students should have obtained a strong degree in a relevant science subject from academic institutions in the UK or internationally.

We are committed to widening participation and inclusivity and welcome suitably trained applicants from all backgrounds and nationalities. Bursaries are available for support for selected students.

How to apply

Our Masters in Crop Science is run as part of a new MPhil in Biological Science program operated by the School of Biological Sciences. Candidates for admission should submit an application here

The deadline for applications is 5th January 2023. Candidates will be shortlisted and invited for interview by 12th January and offers made by 2nd February.