PhD Student

Last application date
Jan 31, 2022 00:00
GE31 - Department of Biomolecular Medicine
Limited duration
Master of Science in Bioscience Engineering, Master of Science in Biomedical Sciences, Master of Science in Biochemistry and Biotechnology, Master of Medicine, Master of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences
Occupancy rate
Vacancy type
Research staff

Job description

A position is available in the research team supervised by Prof. Dr. Julie De Backer and Dr. Patrick Sips (, for a highly motivated, driven researcher with a strong interest in genetics and cardiovascular disease, and basic knowledge in the use of preclinical models.
Marfan syndrome is a heritable connective tissue disease caused by (likely) pathogenic variants in the gene coding for fibrillin-1 (FBN1). Patients with Marfan syndrome typically develop aortic aneurysm, increasing the risk of potentially lethal dissection and rupture of the aortic vessel wall. It is important that patients with Marfan syndrome receive an early and accurate diagnosis, in order to ensure appropriate follow-up to prevent potentially fatal complications of the disease. The diagnosis of Marfan syndrome is primarily based on clinical criteria, although in some instances, molecular confirmation with the identification of a (likely) pathogenic variant may be required. Correct classification of FBN1 variants is essential in this process and is based on strict criteria, among which the functional effect of the variant on protein function and hence on the phenotype is important. Based on current data it is not always possible to correctly classify variants in the FBN1 gene as either benign or pathogenic, preventing a number of patients from obtaining an accurate diagnosis and prognosis. Another important issue is that no causal cure exists for Marfan syndrome. Currently, treatment is limited to supportive therapy with beta-blockers or angiotensin receptor blockers, and invasive aortic root replacement surgery when the aortic diameter exceeds a predefined clinical threshold.
To address these issues, we have recently developed a zebrafish model of Marfan syndrome in our laboratory. We are now planning to exploit this as a relevant functional model to test the in vivo effects of genetic variants, as well as to discover and validate new treatment options. The PhD candidate will be engaged in this ongoing preclinical research project, and will further refine and optimize the novel zebrafish models using genome editing technology to be able to perform genetic and pharmacologic screening programs. The techniques used in this project include CRISPR/Cas-based genome editing, advanced brightfield and fluorescence microscopy, in vivo high-throughput screening, zebrafish echocardiography, (immuno)histochemistry, “omics” analyses, and standard molecular biology methods.
We offer:

  • a fully funded PhD fellowship (candidates will be encouraged to apply for FWO and BOF PhD grants).
  • participation in the rapidly evolving research area of precision medicine for genetic disorders.
  • the opportunity to work in a dynamic and interdisciplinary academic top-tier research environment with a strong link to the clinic and a broad range of expertise.
  • access to state-of-the-art research facilities.
  • the opportunity to benefit from the well-established PhD training program of the doctoral schools at UGent.

Job profile

  • You obtained a Master of Science in Bioscience Engineering, Master of Science in Biomedical Sciences, Master of Science in Biochemistry and Biotechnology, Master of Medicine, Master of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences, or equivalent degree.
  • You have a strong interest in genetics and/or cardiovascular research with a drive to learn and adopt a variety of new techniques.
  • An excellent background in life sciences and experience with basic research is required.
  • You have (or are willing to obtain) a FELASA Category C certificate to work with laboratory animals. Previous experience with laboratory animal work is desirable.
  • You are ambitious, practically skillful, able to work in a team setting, and have strong analytical problem-solving skills (creative, critical, and open-minded).
  • You have excellent oral and written communication skills, and are proficient in English.

How to apply

Applications including a CV and motivation letter should be sent electronically to Top-ranked candidates will be invited for an interview (either on-site or online). Starting date will be determined in agreement with the candidate, preferably as soon as possible.