Job offer : PhD position 'Metabolic and genomic diversity of pennate diatoms'

Job description

The Laboratory of Protistology and Aquatic Ecology (Ghent University) and the VIB-UGENT Centre for Plant Systems Biology are looking for a highly motivated PhD student to study the metabolic and genomic diversity of benthic pennate diatoms. This evolutionary young group of diatoms is extremely successful, representing a substantial part of microalgal species diversity and playing key ecological roles in coastal and freshwater environments. In addition, they hold great promise in biotechnological applications. The overall aim of this project is to gain a better understanding of the evolutionary adaptations of pennate diatoms to the benthic environment. During a first phase of the project, representative diatom species will be raised in common garden experiments to study their gene expression under different environmental conditions (abiotic as well as biotic). In parallel, their genomes will be sequenced to enable comparative analyses of their metabolic capabilities. In a second phase, molecular tools will be applied to functionally characterize selected key regulatory genes using well-established in-house model diatom species. The candidate will apply gene editing techniques, high-throughput sequencing, physiological experiments, high throughput imaging and bioinformatics approaches.

About Ghent University

Ghent University, with its 38000 students and 8000 personnel, is one of the largest universities in Flanders (Belgium). Ghent University invests both in fundamental, high risk science as in applied research. The university is known for its scientific expertise in life sciences and medicine, materials and agricultural science, veterinary medicine, psychology and history, and many more. Our top research is built on a solid base: as a result of a bottom-up research policy young researchers are given every opportunity to grow. Thanks to the excellent performance of its entire research community, for the last ten years Ghent University has been part of the Shanghai Ranking's top 100.


  • Physiological and gene expression experiments, and live-imaging of cell populations using fluorescent probes.
  • RNA-Seq transcriptome data analysis, gene annotation and comparative transcriptomics.
  • Gene expression studies, testing and validating using CRISPR-CAS9 technology.
  • Write scientific publications and contribute to project reporting and proposal writing.
  • Supervise bachelor and MSc students during projects and practical courses related to your own research.

Profile of the candidate

  • You hold a Master’s degree in Sciences: Biology, Biochemistry & Biotechnology, Bioscience Engineering, or a discipline that is declared admissible by the selection committee, or an equivalent degree. You can also apply in case you will obtain this degree before the start of the appointment.
  • You have excellent grades in your bachelor and MSc degree (i.e., you belong to the top 10% of your cohort)
  • You have a strong interest in molecular biology, genomics/genetics, physiology and experimental biology using cell cultures, bioinformatics, marine and/or freshwater biology.
  • You preferably have practical experience in one or more of the above topics.
  • A good knowledge of Python and R.
  • You have good communication and writing skills and have an excellent knowledge of written and spoken English.
  • You are self-critical, you work with rigor and attention for detail, and you work accurately in the wet lab.
  • You combine being an active team player with a strong sense of autonomy and responsibility.
  • You are willing to apply for additional funding when eligible.

How to apply

All applications must be received no later than 15/01/2021 at 23:59 (CET) at with the following documents attached as one file:

  • application letter
  • curriculum vitae
  • a transcript of the required degree
  • names and contact details of at least two reference persons

You will get a confirmation e-mail as soon as we have received your application.

What we can offer you

We offer you a PhD scholarship of 1 year, during which you will apply (when eligible, and in collaboration with your promoters) for additional scholarship funding and which can be extended with another three years after positive evaluation. Your appointment will start by 01/03/2021 at the earliest.

You will receive a PhD scholarship according to the general conditions at Ghent University. The tax-free scholarship includes full social security coverage.

You will work in a dynamic, multidisciplinary and international research environment. All Ghent University staff members enjoy a number of benefits, such as 38 days of paid leave, a wide range of training and education opportunities, bicycle commuting reimbursement, etc. A complete overview of all our fringe benefits can be found on our website.

Attention: Late applications are not accepted. As Ghent University maintains an equal opportunities and diversity policy, everyone is encouraged to apply for this position.

More information

For more information about this vacancy please contact Prof. Wim Vyverman (, +32 (0) 9 264 85 01), Prof. Lieven De Veylder (, +32 (0) 9 331 39 61) or Prof. Klaas Vandepoele (, +32 (0) 9 331 38 22).

Date of publication: 
Tuesday, December 8, 2020