Postdoctoral Research Associate

Oct 09, 2017
Position Type
Institution Type
Four-Year Institution

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Employee Type: Faculty

Position Number: 126396

Work Location: Mt. Vernon

Summary of Duties:
A Postdoctoral Research Associate position is available in the Department of Plant Pathology at Washington State University (WSU) to work on marker assisted selection for resistance to Fusarium wilt of spinach. Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) is an important vegetable crop worldwide, with an estimated annual value of $11.8 billion. The only region of the USA that is suitable climatically for production of spinach seed crops is western Washington and western Oregon. However, the acid soils of this region are highly conducive to Fusarium wilt of spinach, caused by the soilborne fungus Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. spinaciae, necessitating rotations of 10 to 15 years between spinach seed crops to avoid major losses to this disease. Fusarium wilt has also become increasingly important in regions of leafy spinach crop production. Resistance to Fusarium wilt has been quantified in some spinach germplasm. There are no known major genes for resistance and most cultivars are highly susceptible. With limited effective options for management of spinach Fusarium wilt, there is a need for highly resistant cultivars, particularly for organic production which now comprises >40% of fresh market spinach in the USA.

The primary responsibility of this postdoctoral position is to help lead the phenotypic evaluation of diverse spinach germplasm for resistance to Fusarium wilt, in greenhouse and field environments; followed by association mapping and molecular marker-assisted selection of spinach germplasm for resistance to Fusarium wilt. The purpose is to integrate marker-assisted selection methods into classical, phenotypic breeding of spinach. The project is part of a larger resistance screening project with collaborators in three other states, funded by the USDA Specialty Crop Research Initiative project 2017-51181-26830, to develop spinach cultivars with resistance to downy mildew, white rust, and Fusarium wilt. The effort is expected to provide spinach breeders with robust molecular tools to select for resistance to these important diseases and, consequently, to expedite development of resistant spinach cultivars.

This is a temporary, full-time position. The initial appointment is for 1 year, and is renewable for up to 2 years depending on satisfactory performance and availability of funding. The incumbent will work as part of the Vegetable Seed Pathology program under the supervision of Dr. Lindsey du Toit at the WSU Mount Vernon Research & Extension Center (NWREC) near Mount Vernon, WA (; with collaborators Drs. Jim Correll and Ainong Shi at the University of Arkansas; and with other spinach stakeholders (private and public breeders, growers, seed company representatives, extension educators, and other spinach specialists).

Required Qualifications:
- PhD in plant pathology, plant breeding, or closely related field pertinent to the project.

- Demonstrated experience in plant pathology, including inoculation of plants with pathogens, effective plant disease phenotyping, plant pathogen isolation and identification methods, etc.

- Ability to complete research in field, greenhouse, and lab conditions.

- Experience with applied plant pathology in field and greenhouse environments.

- Ability to design statistically valid research trials, and to analyze and interpret data effectively using relevant statistical methods and software.

- Experience utilizing molecular techniques for plant pathogen identification and quantification, including regular PCR assays, real-time PCR assays, and DNA sequencing/sequence analyses.

- Ability to complete research independently and to work well as part of a team.

- Excellent written and oral English communication skills.

- Evidence of high quality scientific publications and presentations.

- Attention to detail, excellent record keeping, and ability to manage multiple concurrent projects.

- Possession of a valid driver’s license for at least 2 years, and ability to obtain a Washington State driver’s license within 1 month of starting this position.

- Ability to obtain a Washington State Pesticide Applicator’s/Consultant’s License within 2 months of starting this position.

- Ability to drive a pickup truck, and willingness to drive to spinach production sites in western Washington and western Oregon; willingness to travel to cooperating states for the project.

- Capacity to lift up to 30 lb repetitively.

- Willingness to learn and implement new techniques for advancement of the project.

Posting Open Date: 10/04/2017

Posting Close Date:

Open Until Filled: Yes

To apply, visit

Washington State University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Educator and Employer.


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