PhD Student in Molecular Microbiology

Leuven VIB-KU Leuven Center for Microbiology

29 Sep 2017


VIB-KU Leuven Center for Microbiology

Jan Michiels




The Center for Microbiology, located on the Campus Arenberg, is part of the VIB life sciences institute and is embedded within the KU Leuven (University of Leuven). Within this Center, the Michiels lab ( is focusing on unravelling the molecular mechanisms of antibiotic tolerance or persistence in bacteria. Although persisters are not genetically resistant, these cells are refractory to the killing action of antibiotics. Persisters are an important but neglected clinical concern as they underlie antimicrobial therapy failure and recurrence of chronic infections. The lab consists of 15-20 junior lab researchers and is seeking a dynamic and highly motivated PhD student.

You will analyse the molecular pathways that determine how fast Escherichia coli cells enter or leave this tolerant persister state. The work involves genetic, omics (genome sequencing, transcriptomics), bioinformatics and single-cell (microscopy, microfluidics, FACS) analyses of E. coli bacteria in fluctuating antibiotic regimens.


  • Analyse the natural variation and heterogeneity in the speed at which E. coli enters and leaves the persister state
  • Investigate if and how the rate of environmental fluctuations influences the rate of entry into and escape from the persister state
  • Identify the genes and pathways that affect the speed and heterogeneity of entry and exit from the persister state in E. coli, and identify and validate which natural genetic variations (i.e. natural polymorphisms in genes and/or regulatory sequences in different natural E. coli strains) are responsible for the observed differences in speed of entry and exit from the persister state
  • Unravel the underlying physiological and regulatory mechanisms that explain how (mutations in) pathways affect the speed of entry and exit from the persister state


  • The candidate has a Master in bioscience engineering, (bio)chemistry, (molecular) biology or biotechnology with the equivalent of at least distinction (15/20 on the Belgian scale)
  • The candidate is a team player with good communication skills
  • Proficient use of the English language for both oral and written communication
  • Computational background is a plus

We offer

  • A four year PhD grant according to the Belgian system (the position is immediately available)
  • A working climate where trust, (international) collaboration, and commitment are essential
  • A stimulating and supportive international research environment
  • Excellent training conditions within a team of experts
  • Access to state-of-the art tools and infrastructure

How to apply?

Your online application should contain:

  • CV including previous research experience and publication list (if applicable)
  • Cover letter describing your motivation and career goals
  • List of two references (e.g. master thesis promoter and/or supervisor) with emails and phone numbers
  • Transcripts of your bachelor and master studies including all classes followed and the marks obtained