About Stellenbosch University and The Department of Forest & Wood Science

Stellenbosch University (SU), which celebrated its centenary in 2018, is widely acknowledged as one of Africa’s premier tertiary education and research institutions (visit www.sun.ac.za for more information).  Located in the historic tourist town of Stellenbosch, staff and students at the University enjoy a relaxed and pleasant lifestyle, close to mountains and sea.  The Department of Forest & Wood Science (DFWS) in the Faculty of AgriSciences at SU, the only one of its kind in South Africa, has had a long history with the University.  Attracting students from around the world, and with strong international linkages and collaborations, the DFWS prides itself on research excellence with a diverse, friendly culture.

The research project

The incumbent will integrate research and lead the development of a system of interconnected models of plant-level physiology and xylogenesis in Eucalyptus spp within the “EucXylo” Research Chair (http://blogs.sun.ac.za/eucxylo/).  This is a new programme funded by the Hans Merensky Foundation (HMF) at the Department of Forest & Wood Science conducting research into processes of wood formation (xylogenesis) in the important genus Eucalyptus.  The Chair will be built on strong collaborations between academic departments in the University’s faculties of AgrisSiences, Science and Engineering.  

As the research is only just beginning, a unique opportunity exists for the incumbent to have a significant role in shaping the direction of the new programme.  A major part of the post-doctoral fellowship (PDF) will be to take the lead on developing a software-based simulation framework, incorporating multiple interacting algorithms at appropriate scales.  The incumbent will assist with the supervision of MSc and PhD students in diverse studies of plant-level physiology, wood formation and analytical technique development.  The incumbent will integrate student research findings, as well as results from other, independent research, into the evolving xylogenesis simulation framework.  The position will likely involve some international travel.

Requirements and qualifications

  • A PhD degree in an appropriate field, including (but not limited to) xylogenesis or plant physiology with appropriate lab/field experience;
  • Ability to program in Python or R (or potentially other, similar environments) and to formulate predictive algorithms from scientific findings;
  • Good written and verbal communication skills in English are essential, with at least two strong papers already published in the scientific literature;
  • Ability to function in a multicultural and multilingual environment, to work independently and to take initiative;
  • Doctoral degree completed maximum five years before the commencement date.


  • Experience and skills in efficient data management, preferably using relational databases such as MySQL, or using other solutions;
  • An existing and developing professional network;
  • Experience in the development of online applications.

Contract duration and commencement

The research stipend is granted for a two-year period (assessable at the end of the first year, depending on progress).  The stipend is R330,000 per annum.  Please note that post-doctoral fellows are not appointed as employees in South Africa and their fellowships are awarded tax free, but they are not eligible for standard employee benefits.  For more information about post-doctoral fellowships at Stellenbosch visit http://www.sun.ac.za/english/research-innovation/Research-Development/postdocs.  This position is based at Stellenbosch campus. 

Commencement: 1 January 2020

Application procedure

Application closing date: 13 September 2019

Please send by email to Dr. David Drew (drew@sun.ac.za) the following documents before the closing date:

  • A brief cover letter providing motivation for your application;
  • A brief (max 2 page) essay in which you describe your ideas about trends and opportunities in research in xylogenesis and wood formation modelling in general, and in Eucalyptus in particular;
  • Current, comprehensive CV with full publication list;
  • Copies of doctoral degree certificate and other relevant degree certificates and grades obtained;
  • Contact details of two referees AND please request these referees to forward confidential reports by the closing date to the same address.

Please, if possible, also make an electronic copy of your doctoral thesis available, either by email as part of the application, or to be downloaded from a specified location.

Any questions about the position can be addressed to Dr. Drew at the same email address.

Applicants who have not received a response within 14 days of the closing date, please accept that your application has not been successful.  Short-listed applicants will be contacted to arrange an interview.  These candidates may be requested to provide additional information/submissions, and to undergo certain biometric/other tests.