Postdoctoral researcher “Microfluidic single cell sorting of circulating tumor cells”

Leuven VIB-KU Leuven Center for Cancer Biology

10 Jul 2022


VIB-KU Leuven Center for Cancer Biology



About the lab

The laboratory focuses on the mechanisms by which cancer-specific non-mutational (i.e. epigenetic and (post-) transcriptional) events shape tumour evolution. Using innovative cellular (3D tumor (co)-cultures) and genetic tools (including genetically engineered mouse models and patient-derived tumor xenografts) and applying cutting-edge technologies (single-cell and spatial transcriptomics and proteomics) the Marine lab has made several key contributions to our understating of melanoma biology and, in particular, the mechanisms underlying melanoma initiation, growth, metastatic dissemination, the emergence of inter-and intra-tumor heterogeneity, plasticity and resistance to therapy.

Job description

Within the context of precision medicine, molecular characterization of tumors is playing an increasingly larger role in diagnosis, prognosis, and patient stratification. Liquid biopsy, the detection of tumor-derived material in blood, provides key advantages over the current gold standard of direct tissue sampling. Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) play a pivotal role in the metastatic process. Both clinical and experimental evidence has shown that CTCs arise early during disease progression, which makes them interesting targets for the interception of metastatic dissemination. For high-quality analysis of CTC using single-cell RNA sequencing techniques, cellular enrichment using a gentle sorting mechanism is essential.

The group of Dr. Liesbet Lagae at Imec has developed a microfluidic chip for gentle cell isolation of rare cells at high throughput. The sorting mechanism is based on the rapid creation of numerous micro vapor bubbles, creating a rapid jet flow stream that is able to deflect the cells of interest. However, to process individual CTCs for single-cell sequencing, an interface between the microfluidic cell sorter device is lacking.

The aim of this post-doc project is to set up and validate a single cell sorting setup and workflow based on the existing chip prototype and commercial modules.

In short, you will:

  • Work in close collaboration with the group of Professor Liesbet Lagae to upgrade a microfluidics setup for single-cell sorting using commercial modules.
  • Implement and validate a protocol for single-cell sorting using real biological and clinical samples
  • Combine and transfer knowledge between the technology side at Imec and the team at Professor Marine’s lab (VIB)
  • Examine, interpret, and report experimental data to colleagues


  • We welcome profiles with a Ph.D. in Bio-engineering or related
  • You are familiar with microfluidics and microscopy concepts
  • You have a technical problem-solving mindset
  • Knowledge of Matlab or other programming software is considered an asset
  • You are fluent in English and have good communication skills.

We offer

  • Duration: full-time contract of one year with the possibility for extensions. You are stimulated to apply for a postdoctoral fellowship.
  • (Early) access to state-of-the-art technologies.
  • A stimulating (international, multidisciplinary) research environment where quality, professionalism, and team spirit are encouraged both at KU Leuven and at Imec
  • The ability to work on scientifically exceptional and high-impact, state-of-the-art projects.
  • The opportunity to be part of a young and dynamic team and to provide a meaningful contribution to genetic and oncological research.
  • The University of Leuven is one of the most innovative universities in Europe. Leuven is located 20 min. from Brussels, in the center of Europe.

How to apply?

Please complete the online application procedure and include

  • A presentation letter describing your motivation
  • A full CV including contact details, a list of your publication
  • Contacts for further references

The position is available from June 1st, 2022.

For more information, please contact Flavie Luciani ( or Sarah Libbrecht (