PhD Student

Last application date
Sep 28, 2020 23:39
DI05 - Department of Pathology, Bacteriology and Poultry Diseases
Employment category
Research staff group 1
Limited duration
Master in Biochemistry and Biotechnology/ Bio-engineering/ Biology or equivalent
Occupancy rate
Vacancy Type
Research staff

Job description

The goal of the research project is to identify molecules that can be used to replace Zinc oxide in piglet diets, nowadays used to control Escherichia coli related post-weaning diarrhoea. This will be done after the mechanism of action of zinc in controlling disease is unravelled, so that molecules with analogous action can be tested. Apart from direct antimicrobial effects, evidence points to a mechanism whereby Zn modulates the composition of the gut microbiota through communication of Zn with Paneth cells. These cells are found on the basis of the crypts in the ileum. They are specialized in fine-tuning the composition of the gut microbes, based on sensory signals, such as Zn, and by expressing, maturating and releasing antimicrobial peptides and proteins (AMPs). While data in mice show the relevance of the Zn-Paneth cell interaction, this is not clear in piglets. The current project aims to define whether Zinc can affect Paneth cell responses in piglets, and how this affects the microbiota composition. Once cellular responses with anti-E. coli activity are described, a search for compounds with similar activity can be started. This research project offers a unique combination of wet lab and dry lab work, ranging from animal experimentation, in vitro work with cell cultures, NGS sequencing, implementation of bioinformatics tools, and a variety of other techniques.

Some papers on the topic:


What do we offer?

 Working in a pleasant work environment with a young and dynamic team, in a multi-partner context (ie multiple PhD students at various institutes take part)

 A unique combination of wet lab and dry lab work

 The opportunity to obtain a PhD

 Potential practical/industrial application of your research results will be evaluated

 A PhD scholarship of 1 year, which is extendible with another three years after positive evaluation (4 years are the aim)

Profile of the candidate

 Master degree in Biochemistry and Biotechnology, Bio-engineering, Biology or equivalent

 Excellent communication skills and proficient in English

 Highly motivated and team-oriented

 You have a specific interest in intestinal health and the diet-host-microbiome cross-talk

 You have an interest in fundamental research with cell cultures

 You have the potential to independently figure out how techniques work, also related to isolation of specific cell types from organs

 You are willing to work with lab animals, including piglets

 You have an interest in NGS data analysis using existing bioinformatics tools. Experience in analysis of 16S sequencing or transcriptome data is considered a plus.  Knowledge of R and bioinformatics tools or the ability to rapidly gain this skill by following courses.

How to apply

Send your motivation letter, scientific resume, relevant publications (when applicable) to Prof. Filip Van Immerseel (