PhD Student

Last application date
Jan 01, 2024 00:00
WE11 - Department of Biology
Limited duration
You hold a Master’s degree in Sciences: Biology, Bio-informatics, Bioscience Engineering, Oceanography or equivalent diploma. Holders of a PhD degree cannot apply.
Occupancy rate
Vacancy type
Research staff

Job description

The Laboratory of Protistology and Aquatic Ecology (Ghent University) invites applications for a fully-funded PhD studentship for 4 years to study estuarine plankton dynamics.
Estuaries are complex and highly dynamic systems significantly modifying the riverine nutrient and carbon fluxes to the sea through various physical and biogeochemical processes. In particular, the tidal freshwater zone (TFZ) is an often overlooked part of this aquatic continuum from rivers to the sea. Plankton composition and dynamics in the TFZ is influenced not only by abiotic factors such as nutrients and light availability but also strongly by hydrodynamics, affecting both abiotic conditions as well as food web structure.
This PhD project will investigate the functional diversity and activity of microbial plankton in the Scheldt tidal freshwater zone, a unique system which has been studied for decades in a multidisciplinary effort to understand and predict the estuary’s response to environmental change. Analysis of long-term monitoring data of phytoplankton has revealed the role of de-eutrophication, altered hydrodynamics and in particular extreme weather events as main drivers of community change in this system.
In this project the successful candidate will participate to regular field work in the Scheldt estuary to analyse the functional and taxonomic diversity and activity of key members of the microplankton over time and space using imaging flow cytometry, HPLC pigment fingerprinting, metabarcoding and metatranscriptomics. In parallel, the successful candidate will carry out laboratory experiments mimicking the effects of increased turbidity, freshets and salinity incursions in order to obtain a mechanistic understanding of the functional response of prokaryote and eukaryote microplankton to these factors and its consequences for key ecosystem processes including primary production, sediment dynamics and organic matter remineralisation.

Job profile

  • You obtained excellent grades in your bachelor and MSc degree (i.e., you belong to the top 10% of your cohort).
  • You have a keen interest in both fieldwork, wet lab experiments, and the analysis of -omics data.
  • Practical expertise in aquatic microbial ecology and/or NGS data analysis/bio-informatics is strongly recommended.
  • You have excellent programming skills in Python or another scripting language and hands-on experience with 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.
  • You combine being a team player with a strong sense of autonomy and responsibility.
  • You are willing to participate in sampling campaigns and apply for additional funding when eligible.
  • You are willing to participate in the training and supervision of graduate students.

What we offer you

  • A full-time PhD scholarship of 4 years (starting with 1 year which can be extended with another three years after positive evaluation).
  • Your appointment will start by 01/02/2024 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. More information about this can be found on the Ghent University website.
  • You will work in a dynamic, international research group. All Ghent University staff members enjoy a number of benefits, such as 36 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.

How to apply

All applications must be received no later than January 1 2024 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
  • Attention: Late applications are not accepted. As Ghent University maintains an equal op-portunities and diversity policy, everyone is encouraged to apply for this position.

For more information about this vacancy please contact Prof. Wim Vyverman (, +32 (0) 9 264 85 01).