Assistant or Associate Professor - Designing biological systems for breeding horticultural crops

Apply now Job no: 518988
Work type: Tenure-Track Faculty
Location: Main Campus (Gainesville, FL)
Categories: Agriculture/Life Science/Vet Medicine, Research/Scientific/Grants

Classification Title:

Ast/Aso Prof

Job Description:

Diversity and Accessibility

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is committed to creating an environment that affirms diversity across a variety of dimensions, including ability, class, ethnicity/race, gender identity and expression. We particularly welcome applicants who can contribute to such an environment through their scholarship, teaching, mentoring, and professional service. We strongly encourage applicants from historically underrepresented groups to apply.


If an accommodation due to a disability is needed to apply for this position, please call 352-392-2477 or the Florida Relay System at 800-955-8771 (TDD) or visit Accessibility at UF .


Duties and Responsibilities

This faculty position will provide visionary leadership in complex biological systems and the biology governing plant performance. This is a 9-month tenure-accruing position that will be 25% teaching (College of Agricultural and Life Sciences) and 75% research (Florida Agricultural Experiment Station) available in the Horticultural Science Department, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, at the University of Florida (UF). Tenure will accrue in the Department of Horticultural Sciences.


The Horticultural Sciences Department (HOS) is poised to accelerate innovation with two recent Associate professor-level hires in synthetic biology (SynBio) and prediction-based plant breeding, both of which will use AI methodology. SynBio can create new-to-nature traits and rapidly improve existing cultivars. This requires a deeper understanding of complex biological systems. Prediction-based plant breeding can create Models, Methods and Strategies (MMS) to integrate genomic, pedigree, phenotypic and environmental information to better predict plant performance for breeding decisions. However, these MMS cannot directly decipher the biology underlying performance. This new AI position, Designing Biological Systems for Breeding Horticultural Crops, will take an integrative systems biology approach to synergistically bridge these two areas. Together, the three positions will collaborate with more than twenty UF/IFAS breeding programs to accelerate the development of elite cultivars with new-to-nature traits that meet critical agricultural needs.


This position will use systems biology approaches to define molecular targets for SynBio and to build strong and effective synergies between outputs of SynBio and plant breeding. This will require combining integrative and reductionist approaches to (1) translate sustainability- and profitability-driven precision breeding objectives into specific molecular targets for SynBio, and (2) convert SynBio’s gene-level products back to the organism level where feasibility for plant breeding can be tested. The successful candidate will utilize AI and computational biological approaches to leverage the power of UF’s NVIDIA supercomputing resources.

The successful candidate will also facilitate the education of a future workforce that is needed to achieve food, feed, and fiber security. The new faculty member will participate actively in undergraduate and graduate student education by supervising undergraduate student research, chairing graduate student committees, serving on graduate student committees, supervising thesis and dissertation research, and publishing research results with their graduate students.

The successful candidate will engage in scholarly activities, 6 credits equivalent per year, related to instruction, including teaching undergraduate and/or graduate courses, advising and mentoring undergraduate and graduate students, participating in curriculum revision and enhancement, seeking funding for the teaching program, publishing teaching-related scholarship, producing learning tools, and engaging in professional development activities related to teaching and advising. Faculty are encouraged to support and participate in the CALS Honors Program, distance education, and international education. One of the courses taught should include an upper level undergraduate or graduate class in integration of multiple sources of information for understanding complex plant systems and/or application of computational biology for horticultural crops. Opportunities include contributions to a forthcoming undergraduate AI Fundamentals and Applications Certificate; Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology ( and Plant Breeding ( graduate programs, and the Horticultural Sciences undergraduate program (


Because of the IFAS land-grant mission, all faculty are expected to be supportive of and engaged in all three mission areas—Research, Teaching and Extension—regardless of the assignment split specified in the position description.

Background Information:

The Horticultural Sciences Department ( at the University of Florida is currently ranked 9th in the world and 2nd in the U.S. The mission of the Horticultural Sciences Department is to conduct research, extension, and teaching to meet the needs and goals of a diverse statewide fruit and vegetable industry that ranges from tropical to temperate environments. These activities support state, national and international horticultural industries and protect natural resources by contributing to the breeding of high-value crops with improved yield and quality; addressing emerging weed, insect, pathogen, and growth regulation challenges; increasing crop diversity; increasing the capacities of organic cropping systems; and enhancing energy conservation and water, fertilizer and other input use efficiencies. Fundamental research and graduate training in plant genetics, genomics, molecular biology, metabolism, and physiology are integral parts of the Department’s activities, and are key strengths on campus, while principles-driven fundamental and applied research and extension programs are the hallmark of statewide efforts on- and off-campus. The department has 35 faculty members located on campus in Gainesville and 26 faculty located at the Research Centers (RECs) throughout the state. These faculty members support robust teaching programs with more than 70 undergraduate and nearly 100 graduate students enrolled.  The department offers Interdisciplinary graduate training through Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology, Genetics & Genomics, and the Interdisciplinary Ecology degree programs and is also participating in the launch of an interdepartmental Plant Breeding graduate program to serve the largest number of public plant breeding programs in the nation.

UF AI Initiative. Find yourself at the University of Florida where the most powerful supercomputer in U.S. higher education lives. The University of Florida is building an AI program with both breadth and depth: The depth to produce top Ph.D.’s in AI technology and the breadth to infuse AI into UF’s entire curriculum so that all students, graduate and undergraduate, regardless of their major, develop basic awareness and competence in how AI is transforming their future careers. This will arm every University of Florida student to help Florida build a tech-driven, high-wage economy in fields as diverse as medicine, agriculture, defense, manufacturing, software development, education, business, and more. The impact will be far reaching – the University of Florida student equipped with this knowledge will work independently with AI and data science to create new markets, new technologies, and an increasingly inclusive, ethical and just future.


The University of Florida has committed to hiring 100 AI-focused faculty across the entire university. These faculty are being sought as members of interdisciplinary teams that span multiple colleges, where UF will leverage its existing expertise as well as new faculty to tackle some of society’s most pressing challenges.


Expected Salary:

Commensurate with Education and Experience

Minimum Requirements:

A doctorate (or foreign equivalent) in plant sciences with specialization in bioinformatics, genomics, modeling or a closely related discipline is required. Candidates should have demonstrated skills in verbal and written communication and the ability to collaborate effectively with other researchers. Candidates must be supportive of the mission of the Land-Grant system of research, teaching and extension. Candidates must also have a commitment to IFAS core values of excellence, diversity, global involvement, and accountability. Candidates must be able to work on transdisciplinary team projects and with diverse audiences and clientele.

Preferred Qualifications:

Experience in mentoring research students and evidence of effective classroom teaching are preferred. Demonstrated experience in securing extramural grant funding, leading large multidisciplinary projects and translating basic discoveries to application in agriculture are also preferred.  

Special Instructions to Applicants:

For full consideration, candidates should apply by December 31, 2021.  The position will remain open until a viable applicant pool is determined.


Nominations are welcome.  Nominations need to include the complete name and address of the nominee. This information should be sent to:


Please refer to Requisition # 518988

Dr. Vance Whitaker

Chair, Search and Screen Committee

University of Florida

14625 CR 672

Wimauma, FL 33598


Telephone:                              813.419.6608

Electronic Mail:            


Application Information

  • Individuals wishing to apply should go online to and submit:
    • Cover letter that states applicant’s interest in the position and qualifications relative to the credentials listed above
    • Curriculum vitae
    • Contact information (including email addresses) for five individuals willing to write letters of recommendation
    • Diversity statement indicating how your previous experiences have prepared you to contribute to an inclusive institutional culture


Final candidate will be required to provide official transcript to the hiring department upon hire.  A transcript will not be considered “official” if a designation of “Issued to Student” is visible.  Degrees earned from an education institution outside of the United States are required to be evaluated by a professional credentialing service provider approved by National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES), which can be found at

The University of Florida is an equal opportunity institution dedicated to building a broadly diverse and inclusive faculty and staff.

The University of Florida is An Equal Employment Opportunity Institution. If an accommodation due to a disability is needed to apply for this position, please call 352/392-2477 or the Florida Relay System at 800/955-8771 (TDD). Hiring is contingent upon eligibility to work in the US. Searches are conducted in accordance with Florida's Sunshine Law.

Health Assessment Required: No


Advertised: Eastern Standard Time
Applications close:

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