PhD opportunity in optimizing TRP channels for use as stable thermosensors.

Leuven VIB-KU Leuven Center for Brain & Disease Research

11 Jun 2021


VIB-KU Leuven Center for Brain & Disease Research

Thomas Voets Labs



About the lab

The Laboratory of Ion Channel Research (LICR), headed by Thomas Voets, is a vibrant and international research team, embedded in the VIB-KU Leuven Center for Brain and Disease Research (VIB-CBD) and the KU Leuven Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine. 

Research within LICR is focused on transient receptor potential (TRP) ion channels, and we use a large variety of molecular, cellular, and in vivo approaches to study their functional properties, cellular regulation and (patho)physiological roles. Moreover, through intense collaborations with clinical and industrial partners, we aim at translating this knowledge into new TRP channel-based therapies for important medical conditions including chronic pain, diabetes, cardiac disease, and bladder dysfunction.

The lab is engaged in the BioInspireSensing project. This project is a trans-national training network inaugurated to train Ph.D. students in investigating, building, and producing a new generation of bioinspired implantable sensors of pressure, temperature and acidity. New devices will be made of complex hybrid materials, composed of natural molecules and synthetic biopolymers, with the additional properties of being fully biocompatible and bioresorbable, unlike most of existing implantable sensors; anticipating thus, a new generation of sensors that would not require posterior surgical extraction. BioInspireSensing will take advantage of a unique multi-sectoral and multi-field environment to further teach early-stage researchers (ESR) to apply the gained knowledge in analyzing and designing/engineering complex biological nanosensors of medical importance. BioInspireSensing includes a unique combination of research training, industry placements, as well as courses and workshops on scientific and complementary soft skills.

Job description

In the framework of the BioInspireSensing project we are currently looking for a talented and motivated Ph.D. student to join the team and work on the development of TRP channel-based sensors for temperature with optimization of their properties, such as sensitivity, sustained response, selectivity and stability. This will be achieved by site-directed mutagenesis of naturally occurring temperature-sensitive TRP ion channel proteins (e.g. TRPM8, TRPV1), recombinant expression of mutants, and characterization of their properties using electrophysiological and imaging techniques. The aim is to develop channels that are selectively tailored to sense different ranges of temperature in a stable and environment-independent manner. The best channel constructs will be expressed in cells for purification and insertion in lipid bilayers.


  • Comply with the mobility rule. At the time of recruitment, the candidates must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the country of the recruiting beneficiary for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately before the recruitment date. Short stays, such as holidays, are not considered.
  • Comply with the early-stage researcher definition. At the time of recruitment by the hosting institution, the selected candidate is in the first four years (full‐time equivalent research experience) of their research careers and has not been awarded a doctoral degree. This is measured from the date when they obtained the master’s degree or an equivalent degree.
  • Fulfill the requirements to be able to enroll in a doctoral programme at the hosting institution/country.
  • No Ph.D. awarded. Applicants are not eligible if they have already been awarded a PhD
  • The selected candidate must be willing to spend a prolonged time in another institute/country of the network during the Ph.D. thesis period.

We offer

  • An internationally renowned research team (LICR), within a top-quality neuroscience center (VIB-CBD), located in Europe’s most innovative university (KU Leuven)
  • Direct access to state-of-the-art infrastructure and core facilities at VIB-CBD and KU Leuven
  • Excellent personal development opportunities in both scientific and academic career skills

Start date of the position: 1st October 2021

How to apply?

Please apply through the BioInspireSensing application page for one to a maximum of three positions, and provide the required information (in English) in one PDF file alone with the following order:

  • Personal information such as your first and last name, gender, nationality and contact details.
  • A short priority list of the projects to which they are applying in order of preference, if it is the case
  • At least two/three reference contacts of scientists who are familiar with your academic and/or scientific skills to who we can ask for references.
  • A cover letter (maximum 2 pages) describing your motivation for applying for a particular research project and highlighting your research experience and academic achievements and explaining why you are interested in BioInspireSensing and in a particular research project.
  • Curriculum vitae (maximum 5 pages)
  • A scanned copy of certified academic records. These documents must show the grades attained in exam periods and evidence that the required degree will be obtained by the expected time of recruitment if it has not already been awarded.
  • Any additional files considered relevant to the application.
  • If this is the case, a document detailing an English Test from an internationally recognized provider

All required information has to be packed in one PDF file alone in the order shown above and using a file name with the following format: surname_name_ESRXX.pdf where XX is the ESR position number to which are applying, i.g., 01, 02, etc.

For more information: