PhD position in plant-insect interactions

Plants produce a multitude of defense compounds to escape from insect herbivores, yet counteradaptations in insects allow them to colonize a host plant without being harmed. For example the defense compounds in mustard and wasabi, so-called isothiocyanates, are valued as condiments in the kitchen, but they are toxic to most plant-feeding insects. These isothiocyanates are formed in damaged plant tissue when the plant enzyme myrosinase comes into contact with glucosinolates (mustard oil glucosides) and hydrolyzes them. However, several insects are adapted to plants containing this “mustard oil bomb”. For example Phyllotreta flea beetles are economically important pests of crucifer crops, such as mustard and canola. We investigate host plant adaptation of Phyllotreta beetles which are able to prevent hydrolysis of glucosinolates in the plant tissue to enable their accumulation in the insect (sequestration).

In this project we are looking for a highly motivated PhD student who is interested in plant-insect interactions. The candidate should have experience in one or more of the following fields: molecular biology, biochemistry, insect physiology, or analytical chemistry. With these methods, the mechanisms used by this pest to inhibit the plant myrosinase and thus to overcome the plant defense will be studied.

The Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology offers a stimulating research environment with state-of-the-art equipment and exceptional training opportunities for PhD students. The doctorate will be awarded by the Friedrich Schiller University in the vibrant university city of Jena.

Please send your application (German or English) including CV and two letters of recommendation to:

Dr. Franziska Beran
Department of Entomology
Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology
Hans-Knöll-Str. 8
D-07745 Jena
E-Mail: fberan [at]

Applications received by August 15th will be examined until a suitable candidate is found.