PhD Position in the Department of Biochemistry

The Department of Biochemistry (Project Group Detoxification and Mode of Action of Plant Compounds in Herbivores) is looking for a PhD student to study

Plant Defence Detoxification Strategies of Herbivores in a Multitrophic Context

Insect herbivores have developed various adaptations to avoid being poisoned by plant defensive chemicals. However, we know very little about these adaptations in phloem-feeding insects compared to leaf-chewing insects. We plan to study the detoxification of a group of plant defense compounds by aphids, and how this affects other organisms in the community, such as aphid enemies, microbes and other herbivores.

The project will focus on glucosinolates, the sulfur-containing defenses of cabbage, broccoli, radish and related species. In preliminary work, we found that aphids may prevent the toxic activation of glucosinolates in their guts by conjugation with additional sugars, and the corresponding genes were identified. We now want to investigate these reactions in more detail, and utilize transcriptome analyses and RNA interference to show the importance of different detoxification strategies for insect performance under different conditions. The work will also enhance our knowledge of how plant defense chemicals can be mobilized through different trophic levels, and mediate effects on many organisms in complex communities.

The successful candidate should have a strong background in molecular biological techniques, and an interest in learning more about insect biochemistry, physiology and ecology. Previous work with piercing-sucking insects like aphids is a plus.

We offer a highly motivated, welcoming international research group where the candidate will be exposed to and learn diverse kinds of technical expertise.


Please send you application to

Dr. Daniel Giddings Vassão
Department of Biochemistry, MPI for Chemical Ecology
E-Mail: vassao@ice.mpg.de