KU Leuven

PhD position on cellular self-organization during development

2024-08-01 (Europe/Brussels)
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KU Leuven is an autonomous university. It was founded in 1425. It was born of and has grown within the Catholic tradition.

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Our lab focuses on important fundamental biological questions using experimentally tractable models. We are part of the Bioengineering Faculty at KU Leuven, which has a strong record of combining advanced modeling with experimentation to study living systems for both applied and fundamental research. In Flanders, there is an active and friendly community of C. elegans researchers, with four labs in Leuven. Our lab is located on a beautiful campus just outside historic Leuven.
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We are recruiting a PhD student with a background in experimental biology to work on self-organization in multicellular systems.
In our lab, we use C. elegans embryogenesis as a model to understand how cells can achieve near-invariant positioning as they form a complex multicellular system. In this project, you will use quantitative microscopy to probe the embryo and perturb the system, for example with temporal and spatial resolution using optogenetics. Our research aims to identify new relevant molecular actors involved in positioning, and to explore the role of mechanics, cellular stiffness, adhesion and cell polarization. The research in our group is multidisciplinary, meaning that experiments and imaging are supported by efforts to expand the molecular biology toolbox, enhance image processing and computational modeling. We also plan to extend our work to include organoid systems for studying early embryogenesis in higher animals in the near future.
The specific content of the PhD project will be developed collaboratively during the first months, with guidance and support from the team. Potential research questions may include optogenetic perturbation of cortical tension during morphogenesis, evaluating mechanosensing in the embryo, or performing an innovative reverse genetic screen for robust cellular positioning. As a member of our team, the successful candidate will have the opportunity to work with state-of-the-art microscopy and computational tools and collaborate with experts in the field.


  •  Talented and enthusiastic molecular and cellular biology researcher. Master degree in bioengineering, biology, biotechnology, or similar. Good grasp of molecular and developmental biology as well as genetics with an interest in interdisciplinary work.
  •  Study results should show high aptitude and research interest 
  •  Good communicative skills and a collaborative attitude
  •  Advanced command of English is required (knowledge of Dutch is not required)


  • A high-profile project with great scientific potential 
  • Excellent scientific environment in top-ranked university, using state-of-the-art technology and methodology. We publish our research in top journals such as Bioinformatics, E-life, Molecular Biology and Evolution, Nature Genetics, PLoS genetics and Cell Systems, among others.
  • Living in the beautiful medieval university town Leuven, a lively city situated in the heart of Europe, 20 km from Brussels 
  • Good remuneration and benefits
  • Funding is guaranteed (4 years), but the successful candidate will be encouraged to apply for fellowships, such as those by the Flemish funding agency (FWO). 
  • Applicants should submit a detailed CV and a cover letter expressing your motivation and interest in the position. 
  • Contact details for two referees who can provide academic references (no letters). 


For further information you can contact Rob Jelier: rob.jelier@kuleuven.be.

KU Leuven strives for an inclusive, respectful and socially safe environment. We embrace diversity among individuals and groups as an asset. Open dialogue and differences in perspective are essential for an ambitious research and educational environment. In our commitment to equal opportunity, we recognize the consequences of historical inequalities. We do not accept any form of discrimination based on, but not limited to, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, age, ethnic or national background, skin colour, religious and philosophical diversity, neurodivergence, employment disability, health, or socioeconomic status. For questions about accessibility or support offered, we are happy to assist you at this email address.

Job details

PhD position on cellular self-organization during development
Oude Markt 13 Leuven, Belgium
Application deadline
2024-08-01 23:59 (Europe/Brussels)
2024-08-01 23:59 (CET)
Job type
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About the employer

KU Leuven is an autonomous university. It was founded in 1425. It was born of and has grown within the Catholic tradition.

Visit the employer page