Post-doc biophysical modelling of left/right symmetry breaking in mirror-image flowers

Research / Academic
Are you a versatile modeller who likes to address deep fundamental questions in biology and think about them from multiple perspectives? Are you keen to strengthen your models through interaction with expert biologists and enjoy communicating theoretical concepts in a non-technical way? Then this could be the inspiring position you are looking for!

Left/right symmetry breaking is a very fundamental issue in the early development of multicellular organisms. In most cases, the early events of left/right specification are not experimentally accessible, because any failure will be lethal - imagine, for example, having two hearts, or none. In mirror-image flowers, however, the process is exceptionally accessible.

In this project, you will combine multiple computational and theoretical models of plant cytoskeleton, cell wall and tissues, to address two fundamental questions:
  1. How can apparently non-chiral changes in the dynamics of the plant cytoskeleton result in consistent twisting of plant organs?
  2. How is left/right symmetry breaking established in the relevant flowers?
Throughout, you will closely interact with experimentalists from various labs within the PI's network and use their data to parametrize and challenge your models.

This position is part of an international HFSP funded project on the fundamentals of left/right symmetry breaking, using the genetically controlled left/right bending of style and pollinating anther in mirror-image flowers as a model system. This unique system allows us to address the fundamental question of left/right symmetry breaking in a very holistic way, from molecular/biophysical mechanism to ecological and evolutionary impact in a single context. This makes the project very attractive for candidates with a broad interest in biology.

More information on the consortium can be found


  • You are an enthusiastic and highly motivated scientist with a PhD degree in theoretical / computational biology, biophysics, or physics or related discipline;
  • You have proven strong quantitative skills, including modelling and computer programming (ideally including C++ and Git). Experience with multiple model formalisms is a plus;
  • You can work both independently and in a team;
  • You think discussing complicated theoretical concepts with experimentalist is fun;
  • You have a broad interest in biology: although this project focuses on cell biology/tissue mechanics, affinity with plant biology, ecology and evolution is important for the larger project;
  • You have excellent communication skills in English, both speaking (incl. presenting) and writing;
You are encouraged to demonstrate your experience with concrete examples of your work in and outside academia.

Salary Benefits:

Wageningen University & Research offers excellent terms of employment. A few highlights from our Collective Labour Agreement include:
  • sabbatical leave, study leave, and paid parental leave;
  • working hours that can be discussed and arranged so that they allow for the best possible work-life balance;
  • the option to accrue additional flexible hours by working more, up to 40 hours per week;
  • there is a strong focus on vitality and you can make use of the sports facilities available on campus for a small fee;
  • a fixed December bonus of 8.3%;
  • excellent pension scheme.
In addition to these first-rate employee benefits, you will of course receive a good salary.

We offer an exciting and challenging position for 3 years. You will be based at Biometris and be part of an international network. Depending on your experience, we offer a competitive salary from a minimum of € 2.790,- to a maximum of € 4.402,- for a full working week of 38 hours in accordance with the Collective Labor Agreement Dutch Universities (scale 10). We offer you a temporary term contract for 36 months with a probation period of 12 months. Ideally, you will start on 1 October 2021, but this is negotiable.
Work Hours:

38 hours per week