Graduate Research Assistantship – Plant and Soil Ecology

Hiring Organization: Department of Forestry
Employment type: Full-Time
Application Due Date: December 10, 2023

Michigan State University’s Department of Forestry and Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences (PSM) are pleased to announce a 5-year graduate research assistantship to support a PhD student in conducting research in Plant and Soil Ecology. The student will be co-advised by Dr. Akihiro Koyama (MSU Forestry) and Dr. Christopher Blackwood (MSU PSM). Other collaborators include Dr. Brook Wilke (MSU W.K. Kellogg Biological Station), Dr. Pedro Antunes (Algoma University, Ontario, Canada), Dr. Christopher Fernandez (Syracuse University) and Dr. Catherine Fahey (Smithsonian Environmental Research Center). The successful candidate will help to lead a project investigating how crop rotation affects crop performance and yield through plant-soil feedbacks. This will include field, greenhouse, and laboratory-based research, investigating plant-soil feedbacks, focusing on the interaction between crops (canola, maize, soybean and wheat) and root and soil microorganisms, such as mycorrhizal fungi and pathogens. Field work will take place in W.K. Kellogg Biological Station (Hickory Corners, MI) and greenhouse and lab-based activities will take place on MSU campus (East Lansing, MI). The assistantship is available for formal Spring 2024 enrollment. Funding for tuition, health and stipend is available for five years.

The candidate should have:

  • Undergraduate degree in plant/soil ecology or related field
  • Previously attained and maintained exceptional academic standing
  • A GRE score
  • A TOEFL score of 84 iBT or higher (required for students with non-English credentials only)
  • Experience in report-writing or drafting research articles
  • A self-motivated, well-organized nature, adaptive to collaborative work
  • A valid driver’s license (by the time in summer 2024 when fieldwork starts)

Preference will be given to applicants with:

  • MS degree in plant/soil ecology or related field
  • Some background in soil and plant microbiology
  • Experience in molecular techniques in the laboratory
  • Experience conducting field and/or greenhouse-based studies
  • Experience with  statistical analyses
  • Peer-reviewed publications

Additionally, candidates must meet the minimum requirements outlined by Michigan State University’s Graduate program, found here:

The successful candidate will be supported for two years.  Assistantships include:

  • A bi-weekly stipend, determined by prior experience and education levels (first year stipend will be $31,366)
  • A tuition waiver of up to nine credits per semester fall and spring and five credits during the summer with an out-of-state tuition waiver for students who take more than the covered number of credits each semester
  • Enrollment in the University's graduate health insurance plan

Sources of graduate funding in addition to this assistantship are available through national and MSU programs.  Students will be encouraged and assisted in seeking this funding.

To show interest in the position (before the formal application process), please send a one-page cover letter, CV, and the names and contact information of three referees by email as a single pdf file to Dr. Aki Koyama at by October 20, 2023.  The cover letter should address what is the motivation to apply for this research assistantship and what are the strengths of a candidate for this position. Current MSU students and recent graduates may also apply via Handshake by searching for Posting # 8270884. When formally applying, please indicate an interest in the Plant and Soil Ecology Graduate Assistantship in the required Statement of Interests.  Applications must be completed by December 10, 2023 (November 1, 2023 for international applicants) for Spring 2024 enrollment.

Specific information regarding the Forestry graduate program.

Michigan State University is an equal opportunity employer and all qualified applicants will receive consideration without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability status, protected veteran status or any other characteristic protected by law.  The Department of Forestry is committed to promoting diversity in research.  Members of underrepresented groups in STEM fields are highly encouraged to apply.  We thank all applicants, but only those selected will be contacted.