PhD Student

Last application date
Sep 02, 2022 00:00
DI04 - Department of Translational Physiology, Infectiology and Public Health
Limited duration
You hold a master’s degree in Bioscience Engineering, Biomedical Sciences, Veterinary Medicine or Biotechnology.
Occupancy rate
Vacancy type
Research staff

Job description

The Center for Synthetic Biology (Prof. M. De Mey) and the Laboratory of Immunology (Prof. B. Devriendt) welcome candidates for two PhD positions in the context of the interdisciplinary project ImmunoKeys: Merging immunology with synthetic biology to improve animal health: strain engineering for the production of structurally defined carbohydrates with immunomodulating properties.

The continued spread of anti-microbial resistant bacterial pathogens together with a lag in the development of suitable antibiotic alternatives set the alarm bells ringing in public and animal health. The ImmunoKeys project brings together experts in synthetic biology and animal immunology to engineer microbial cell factories capable of producing structurally well-defined chitooligosaccharides with optimal immunostimulating properties via an integrated Design-Build-Test-Learn (DBTL) cycle. The obtained knowledge will lay the foundation for the development of these glycans as innovative alternatives for antibiotics in animal health.

The intended start date of the positions is 1 October 2022.

Funding is available for both positions. A full-time, fixed-term appointment for initially 1 year, renewable after positive evaluation up to 4 years, will be offered.

About the teams:
The Centre for Synthetic Biology (CSB, is part of the Faculty of Bioscience Engineering at Ghent University, a top 100 university in most rankings. CSB has a long tradition in the application of synthetic biology for industrial biotechnology, particularly directed towards the biocatalytic synthesis of chemicals through either microbial fermentation or the use of isolated enzymes. The area of expertise includes the screening for novel biocatalysts (enzymes and micro-organisms), the optimisation of fermentation strains through metabolic engineering, the engineering of enzymes through rational design and directed evolution, as well as process development, up-scaling, and downstream processing. Prof. De Mey leads a group of 8 PhD students and 4 postdocs and has a strong track-record in translating her basic research into real-life applications, including patents and spin-offs.

The laboratory of Immunology is part of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at Ghent University, a top 100 university in most rankings. The lab is at the leading edge of research in animal mucosal immunology and host-pathogen interactions with a focus on the development of oral vaccination strategies and novel immune stimulating glycans. We have expertise in evaluating pathogen- and vaccine-induced immune responses, design and production of recombinant antibodies for the targeted delivery of biologics to the gut tissues and advanced 3D models of the gut epithelium. Prof. B Devriendt leads a team of 7 PhD students and 1 postdoc.

Job profile

Background and experience

  • A Master’s degree in Bioscience Engineering, Biomedical Sciences, Veterinary Medicine, Biotechnology or equivalent, completed before the start date of the position, with excellent grades.
  • Experience in the field of immunology, animal health and/or synthetic biology for microbial biotechnology will be greatly appreciated.

Scientific knowledge and skills

  • Knowledge of immunology or microbial biotechnology.
  • Hands on experience in asceptic cultivation of animal cell lines or microbes.
  • Hands on experience in immune cell isolation or microbial synthetic biology is a strong added value.
  • Ability to rigorously design experiments and to perform experiments under well-controlled conditions.
  • Ability to work with analytics, such as chromatography, as well as experience with microbial or cell line analyses.
  • Ability to rigorously design and perform experiments in a result-oriented and thorough manner.
  • Ability to perform in-depth and critical data analysis.
  • Ability to communicate through high-quality scientific channels, e.g. WoS publications (A1).

Personal knowledge and skills

  • A strong interest in inter/multi-disciplinary applied science.
  • Excellent interpersonal skills to work effectively with team members from different backgrounds and in different research areas.
  • Excellent skills for time management and the ability to meet objectives within strictly set deadlines.
  • Good oral and written communication skills in English are strictly required (C1 level).
  • Knowledge of Dutch is an asset but not a must
  • Demonstrated ability to work efficiently.
  • Outcome focused, hands-on mentality.
  • Willingness to travel internationally for project meetings and conferences.
  • Willingness to apply for scholarships to obtain additional funding.

How to apply

Applications should be sent via email to Prof. Bert Devriendt ( and Prof. Marjan De Mey ( before the 2nd of September, 23:59h (Central European Time), with “vacancy ImmunoKeys” in the email subject and providing the following documents:

  • Professional resume (CV), named as: “CV_Family name”, including an overview of your educational professional qualification and achievements as well as the names and contact details (address, telephone, e-mail) of two referees.
  • Motivation letter (one page), named as: “MotivationLetter_Family name”
  • A statement on how you meet each of the selection criteria, named as: “SelectionCriteria_Family name”

We advise to submit your application as soon as possible, as a decision may be taken before the deadline. After an initial screening and selection based on CV and motivation letter, interviews will take place.

For additional information about this vacancy, please contact Prof. B. Devriendt or Prof. M. De Mey.