Research assistant- Division Forest, Nature and Landscape.

Study on the effects of management and environment on the biomass and oil production of the biofuel tree Jatropha.

Project description

In the frame of an IWT Research & Development project, the Division Forest, Nature and Landscape works together with an industrial partner, QUINVITA N.V., to develop a knowledge platform for Jatropha curcas L., a biofuel tree that grows in the tropical- and subtropical belt. The Jatropha knowledge platform aims at developing feasible and sustainable Jatropha biofuel projects. Therefore the interaction of three interacting factors – genetics, environment and management and their effect on the growth and production of Jatropha is studied. Based on the gained knowledge a water driven crop model will be developed together with land suitability criteria and risk assessment factors. These elements will lead in a last step to a decision support system for both public and private project developers.

Vacancy description

In the frame of this project we are looking for a researcher who will focus on the effects of management and environment on the growth and production of Jatropha. More in specific he/she will study the effects of soil, climate, fertilization, irrigation, pruning and spacing on different response variables connected to plant development and production (time of flowering, biomass allocation, nutrient content, fruiting success etc.) in different fields in Tamil Nadu, India. He/she will assist in developing a crop model by analyzing canopy pictures, yield data and other gathered information. The candidate will work in parallel with a colleague in Thailand and a PhD student.

Specific tasks

Follow up of field experiments; performing expert field measurements; processing and analyzing data; development of valuable simple monitoring indicators; interpretation and reporting of the results; assist in building a water driven crop model.

The selected candidate will work inside the research group of Forest Ecology and Management of the KU Leuven ( but based (for a longer period) in Coimbatore. Due to the nature of this assignment the candidate will work in close contact with our industrial partner, QUINVITA N.V. ( and more in specific the team in Coimbatore.


The ideal candidate holds an MSc in Bio-science engineering (Tropical Natural Resource Management, Land and forest management, Agriculture or an equivalent). A good agronomic knowledge is essential. The candidate has good communication skills, an innovative and creative mind, the capacity to work both independent as in an intercultural team. He/she should be willing to work for longer periods abroad to keep a close eye on the field trials during the growing season. Flexibility, enthusiasm and initiative are more important than experience. Also recent graduated student with interest in scientific research are encouraged to apply. This assignment gives an unique opportunity to perform scientific research in close contact with an industrial partner and experience the local challenges.


For immediate recruitment (15 May), the candidate will be offered a contract till end of April 2014.

For more information please contact: Prof. dr. ir. Bart Muys: – tel. +32 16 329726; ir. Bie Gielen: – tel. +32 16 329753

All candidates are requested to provide the following details by e-mail: Curriculum Vitae with study results and Motivation and details on relevant experience. Latest application date: 7 April 2013. The selected candidates will be invited for a (skype) interview between 8 and 12 April.

Source: Academic Positions