PhD Student

Last application date
Apr 05, 2024 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

Join our pioneering team in unraveling the pathophysiology of Marfan syndrome, making critical strides towards innovative treatments. We are looking for a highly motivated researcher with a background in immunology and an interest in genetics and cardiovascular disease, who will work under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Julie De Backer and Prof. Patrick Sips (

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 thoracic aortic aneurysm, increasing the risk of potentially lethal dissection and rupture of the aortic vessel wall. However, the exact mechanisms leading to thoracic aortic disease in Marfan syndrome are not completely understood. As a result, no causal cure is available for Marfan syndrome – current treatment is limited to supportive therapy with beta-blockers and/or angiotensin receptor blockers, and aortic root replacement surgery when the aortic diameter exceeds a predefined clinical threshold. Although surgical repair reduces the risk of lethal dissection and rupture, this procedure inherently carries a large risk of complications.

In our group we have been studying different mouse models to gain a better understanding of the pathophysiological processes leading up to the cardiovascular manifestations associated with Marfan syndrome. Our latest results indicate that immune cells play a role in the early development of thoracic aortic damage in the setting of fibrillin-1 dysfunction (please refer to our latest publication on this topic:; the full-text can be shared upon request).

To gain a deeper understanding of the role of immune cells in the initiation of thoracic aortic disease, we plan to study different mouse models with genetically engineered defects in the fibrillin-1 gene. This study will be performed in close collaboration with the group of Prof. Yanagisawa from the University of Tsukuba, Japan. We expect that this work will lead to the discovery of new potential treatments and/or biomarkers for aortic disease in Marfan syndrome. Based on these insights, the candidate’s work could lead to breakthroughs in the treatment of Marfan syndrome and improve patient lives.

The PhD candidate will perform phenotypic and immunological analyses on the fibrillin-1 mouse models, and will test different interventions. Samples from Marfan syndrome patients will also be analyzed to detect evidence of activation of specific immune cell populations. The main techniques used in this project include flow cytometry, (immuno)histochemistry, “omics” analyses, cardiovascular phenotyping in mice, as well as standard molecular biology methods.
Working in our team offers opportunities for personal and professional growth, including attending and presenting at international conferences, collaborating with renowned experts, and publishing in high-impact scientific journals.

We offer:

  • We offer a full-time position as a doctoral fellow, consisting of an initial period of 12 months, which - after a positive evaluation, will be extended to a total maximum of 48 months.
  • Your contract will start on 01/07/2024 at the earliest.
  • The fellowship amount is 100% of the net salary of an AAP member in equal family circumstances. The individual fellowship amount is determined by the Department of Personnel and Organization based on family status and seniority. A grant that meets the conditions and criteria of the regulations for doctoral fellowships is considered free of personal income tax. Click here for more information about our salary scales
  • All Ghent University staff members enjoy a number of benefits, such as a wide range of training and education opportunities, 36 days of holiday leave (on an annual basis for a full-time job) supplemented by annual fixed bridge days, bicycle allowance and eco vouchers. Click here for a complete overview of all the staff benefits (in Dutch).
  • participation in the rapidly evolving research area of precision medicine for genetic disorders.
  • the opportunity to work in a dynamic and strong 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 a support system for PhD students and 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.
  • An excellent background in life sciences and experience with basic research is required.
  • You have at least basic knowledge in immunology and are interested in applying this in a cardiovascular research project.
  • You are eager to learn and adopt a variety of new skills and expertise, particularly in areas applying cutting-edge technologies and advanced research methodologies in studying the contribution of immune cells in aortic aneurysms/dissections
  • You have (or are willing to obtain) a FELASA Category B or C certificate to work with laboratory animals. Previous experience with laboratory animal work is highly desirable.
  • You are ambitious, practically skillful, able to work independently and 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, ideally mid 2024.