PhD position in molecular and structural biology

Brussels VIB-VUB Center for Structural Biology

17 Jun 2020


VIB-VUB Center for Structural Biology

Remy Loris Lab



The Brussels based VIB-VUB center for structural biology (CSB) is part of the VIB life sciences institute (VIB) and is embedded within the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB). The Loris lab combines structural biology and molecular biophysics to study questions about protein function and regulation, including mechanisms that depend on intrinsic disorder and dynamics-mediated allostery.

We are looking for a motivated Phd student to work on a joint project involving the structural biology group of Prof. Remy Loris of the VIB-VUB Center for structural biology and the plant cell cycle group of Prof. Lieven De Veylder at the VIB-UGent Center for plant systems biology (PSB). 

The project deals with the structure-function relationship of SOG1, a protein involved in the DNA damage response of plants, and with its involvement in the response of plants to aluminum stress and phosphate deficiency. SOG1 is a central regulator in DNA damage response and controls hundreds of genes. The underlying mechanisms are largely unknown, but likely involve phosphorylation of the IDP domain of SOG1 as well as the involvement of a number of as yet unidentified interaction partners. We recently identified a compound (nominated C43 and a potential Casein Kinase 2 (CK2) inhibitor) that confers Al resistance in Arabidopsis thaliana. Moreover, our preliminary data indicate that CK2 grants Al toxicity resistance through phosphorylation of the SOG1 transcription factor, being an essential regulator arresting cell cycle progression in response to DNA damage. Strikingly, C43 also grants growth under low Pi conditions, suggesting that Pi-deficiency and Al-toxicity converge via the CK2-SOG1 pathway. 

Within this project, we aim to test this hypothesis through a detailed structural- functional analysis in combination with physiological experiments. In particular, the interactions between C43, CK2 and SOG1 will be studies at the biochemical, biophysical and structural level. Additionally, the obtained structural data will be correlated with growth experiments under conditions of Al toxicity and Pi depletion. 

The work will be carried out in the Loris lab in close collaboration with the De Veylder lab and involves molecular biology, classic techniques in protein chemistry (including expression and purification of protein and site-specific mutagenesis), structural biology and molecular biophysics combined with limited in vivo experiments. In addition to the work directly related to the PhD, the successful candidate will also be expected to contribute to the department's emanation of science in society and to the training of master students. The position is immediately available.



  • Master in bio-engineering science, (bio)chemistry, (molecular) biology, biotechnology or physics with the equivalent of at least distinction (15/20 on the Belgian scale). Most important is that the master (and bachelor) is sufficiently broad and not highly specialized.
  • During your bachelor or master, you encountered classes dealing with molecular biology, protein chemistry, basic thermodynamics and spectroscopy. Your bachelor included at least one class on mathematics.
  • You are communicative, can take initiative and you function well in a team
  • Proficient use of the English language for both oral and written communication

Desirable but not required

  •   A master thesis in either structural biology, molecular biophysics (applying ITC, spectroscopic techniques, ... to proteins), plant molecular biology or protein chemistry
  • You are currently in the last year of your master studies or you have graduated in 2019
  • Knowledge of the Dutch language will provide you with an advantage
  • In case of equal candidates, preference will be given to candidates that do not need to go through an extensive visa application procedure

We offer

  • A four year PhD grant according to the Belgian system
  • A working climate where trust, (international) collaboration, and commitment are essential
  • Access to state-of-the art tools and infrastructure
  • A stimulating and supportive international research environment

How to apply?

Applications are expected on-line via jobsoid.

Interested candidates provide

  • a letter of motivation. Please also provide the contact details (at least name, e-mail address and function) for two referees.
  • a full CV
  •  transcripts of your bachelor and master studies. This should include a list of all classes followed and the marks that were obtained together with an explanation of the scoring system used by your university. In your letter also provide a link to the university web site describing the master studies you followed.
  •  a summary of your master thesis 

The successful candidate will be selected by the PI. A first selection will be made based on the provided documents and potentially suitable candidates will be interviewed. The position will remain open until a suitable candidate has been found.