PhD Student

Last application date
Aug 15, 2023 00:00
LA21 - Department of Plants and Crops
Limited duration
You hold a Master’s degree in Bioscience Engineering (cell and gene biotechnology, or agriculture) or Sciences (biotechnology, biochemistry or biology)
Occupancy rate
Vacancy type
Research staff

Job description

PhD candidate - Studying early priming signaling in phosphate responses

Are you a motivated Bioengineer or do you hold a master’s degree in Biology, Biochemistry or Biotechnology and interested in fundamentally understanding
how plants respond to their environment, then the following position could be something for you!

Plants sense the presence of nutrients in the environment through their roots. Phosphate is one of the essential nutrients for plant development, but its application in agriculture depends on strict regulation (European Green Deal and the derived national/local legislation). Moreover, the resource
rock phosphate is limited and the options to return to a circular phosphate usage in agriculture have to be investigated. Especially for an essential nutrient such as phosphate deficits and excess result in architectural adaptations of the plants to meet the needs, usage, and growth with the environmental supplies. Whereas the root adaptation phenotypes are known, the early priming responses resulting in this architectural adaptation are not well studied. In the PiLESS research group we will build the technology to visualize root responses to external phosphate conditions in real-time. Integrating microfluidics technology with a vertical microscope will be an exciting challenge. However, this imaging platform will allow us to determine the exact timing of the earliest occurring molecular signaling events on phosphate depletion or excess. These molecular events will then be studied by modern technologies involving transcriptomics and (phospho)proteomics in order to expose novel elements of the signaling pathway(s). Results of this project will lead to the development of a phosphate sensor, knowledge about fast nutrient-dependent signaling/priming events and potential validation in tomato. The integrative research approach will build an excellent skillset for a further scientific career as a postdoc or in industry.

The position includes funding for a 4-year PhD, starting according to agreement in autumn 2023. The scholarship will initially be granted for 1 year and can be extended to the full 4 years after a favorable evaluation.

As a PhD student your tasks will be to:

  • Design and setup experiments in the lab followed by the subsequent data analysis.
  • Develop a microfluidic chip to allow for fast nutrient exchanges in the root environment, integrated with high resolution imaging.
  • Study early non-transcriptional signaling responses involved in nutrient shortage.
  • Follow literature on relevant topics.
  • Write reports, scientific publications and share your findings with colleagues at lab meetings and international conferences.
  • Guide undergraduate and internship students

Job profile

To be eligible as a doctoral fellow, a master’s degree, obtained the latest at the time the decision on the position is made, is required

  • A Master’s degree in Bioscience Engineering, Biology, Biochemistry or Biotechnology (or similar level).
  • If you obtained your degree abroad, please provide an English equivalent document.
  • Good English oral and writing skills are required.
  • Knowledge of plant genetics, molecular biology and statistics.
  • Social skills and the ability to function well, both independently and in a team.

How to apply

Apply by email to, before August 15th, 2023. Provide the following items in a single compiled pdf-document:

  • A motivation letter describing your qualifications and motivation for the application and including your current contact information (email, phone number).
  • Your CV and an overview of your study results (list of completed academic courses and grades).
  • A copy of your diploma or transcript of the required degree.
  • If you have a foreign diploma, please provide a certificate in English.

Ghent University maintains an equal opportunities and diversity policy. Everyone is encouraged to apply for this position. Candidates found fit based on CV screening will be invited for an interview. The position will remain open until a suitable candidate is found.

For more information on this position, contact dr. Inge Verstraeten (