Plant Pathologist Lab Assistant


Position Title: Plant Pathologist Lab Assistant – Recent Graduate

Department: Plant Agriculture

Contract Type: Full-Time

Contract Length: 6 Months (with capacity for renewal, up to 18 months total for internship)

Description of Lab/Group/Area:

Dr. Katerina S. Jordan’s research lab specializes in plant pathology and nematology with emphasis on turfgrasses and specialty crops in the greenhouse, growth facilities and in the field. The successful recent graduate candidate will work with our Postdoctoral Fellow, technical staff, Dr. Jordan, and our Mitacs Accelerate partner, Suncor AgroScience, on optimizing screening and testing of products, and, their antimicrobial activity of experimental products for disease reduction of two plant pathogens using a model plant species. Optimizing existing screening processes and Standard Operating procedures for future expansion to greenhouse crops such as tomato, as well as the addition of new plant pathogens to test formulations on is also a key aspect of the research. This is a salaried opportunity for a recent graduate from a B.Sc. program (Horticulture, Agriculture, or similar) that has a keen interest in plant pathology to work with a Mitacs Post-Doctoral fellow and Suncor AgroScience, a corporate player in novel disease control products/research. Our lab, operated out of the Bovey Building, Guelph campus, is fully equipped for plant pathology research with biohazard certification, in-lab biosafety cabinet, high quality microscopy/imaging devices and associated lab equipment including macro/microcentrifuges, incubators and thermal cyclers. For more information on qualifications for of recent graduates please see:

Description of Position:

We are currently investigating the antimicrobial activity of experimental photodynamic inactivation products developed by Suncor AgroScience against agricultural pathogens, specifically Psuedomonas syringae and Colletotrichum orbiculare. Photodynamic Inactivation (PDI) utilizes the light in combination with light responsive photosensitizers (PS) and oxygen to produce reactive oxygen species (ROS) to kill microorganisms. Although PDI therapy has been used in the medical field for treatment of tumors and infections for years, few studies apply the photodynamic approach to combat plant pathogens. Suncor has recently developed prototype PDI products using naturally-derived PS to suppress plant bacterial and fungal pathogens in agriculture (Glueck et al., 2019). Photodynamic Inactivation technology is a novel innovation for crop protection since the mode of action of PS on microbial cells is markedly different from that of antibiotic drugs, and is perceived to be lower risk than standard chemical controls. It has a broad spectrum of activity against multiple pathogens with no known risk of drug resistance.  PDI has very rapid response time, a low probability of adverse side effects, and modest costs.

The general objectives of the project include:

  1. Optimizing an effective bioassay for formulation screening for Psuedomonas syringae and Colletotrichum orbiculare, with future potential for developing bioassays for more challenging pathogens (e.g. Xanthomonas, Clavibacter etc)
  2. Selecting a formula that can provide the most efficient control on each of the diseases
  3. Evaluating the dose response and effect of timing and frequency of application of chosen formulations as well as the effect PDI on reducing disease
  4. Investigate and identify the factors that affect chemical penetration into the plant tissues and translocation systemically inside the plant (mode of action)

Expected Candidate Experience:

The successful candidate will have:

  • Be a recent graduate (within two years/24 months of completing an undergraduate degree
  •  A B.Sc. with emphasis on plant pathology with microbiology experience (or B.Sc. in a related discipline, such as agriculture or horticulture with knowledge of plant pathology and microbiological techniques).
  • Experience in the lab preparing media and cultures using sterile technique
  • Awareness of biohazard regulations and maintaining a ‘clean’ lab space
  • General knowledge of sample collection and preservation of samples
  • General knowledge of plant disease and the theory behind disease development and why inoculation is used in research
  • Functional knowledge of spray applications for inoculation and willingness to learn about and assist with completing product applications to plant specimens in trials – experience with inoculating plants is considered an asset
  • Sound statistical background including knowledge of experimental design and importance of data collection methods
  • Experience with SAS (or similar) statistical package, data management, MS office, Teams products and Image-J are all considered assets
  • The ability to bring issues observed with trials or processes to the attention of the Postdoctoral Fellow and/or PI’s attention so as to mitigate any future variables that are impacting trialing (issues with growth room/growth chambers, lab equipment, altering SOPs) and regular cross-talk with technical staff to assist with any issues
  • The ability to work in a fast-paced team environment, attend regular meetings with lab group and industry partner, and, assist in preparation of project data/results via MS Teams/Zoom/In-person

Salary Information: Salary will be commensurate with experience and follow the appropriate University guidelines for this position. Salary can be discussed in the interview process.

Application Requirements


  • Cover Letter
  • CV or Resume
  • Summary of Research Experience
  • Writing Sample (If available)

      Other: Please include contact information for at least two references in your application

      Special Instructions: For the writing sample, please include a recent project, report, publication.

  Contact Info

      Name: Dr. Katerina Jordan; John R. Watson

      Title: Associate Professor; Research Technician


      Phone Number: 519-241-2566; 519-240-0854

Posting Date: Fri, 09/09/2022

Closing Date: Sun, 09/25/2022