PhD student project on AI-driven modelling and design of cell type-specific enhancers

Leuven VIB-KU Leuven Center for Brain & Disease Research

26 Nov 2023


VIB-KU Leuven Center for Brain & Disease Research

Stein Aerts Lab, Joris de Wit Lab



30 Nov 2023


The De Wit lab and Aerts lab at the VIB-KU Leuven Center for Brain & Disease Research, Belgium, are seeking a highly motivated Ph.D. student to work on a joint project on AI-driven modelling and design of cell type-specific enhancers. The VIB-KU Leuven Center for Brain & Disease Research is part of the VIB Life Sciences Institute and is embedded within the University of Leuven, which ranks among the world’s top 50 universities. At our Center, 340 researchers study the basic mechanisms of the central nervous system and related diseases.

The project, funded by an FWO Strategic Basic Research (SBO) grant, will focus on designing and testing enhancers to target transgenes to specific cell types in the mouse brain and in cultured human brain biopsies using adeno-associated viral vectors. The project will have both a computational and wet lab component.

The Ph.D. student will be stationed in the De Wit lab but will be embedded in both the De Wit and the Aerts lab as well as the Leuven Bioinformatics and Leuven AI community. The PhD student will be jointly supervised by Joris de Wit and Stein Aerts.


We are seeking a highly motivated, enthusiastic, critical, and creative individual to join our teams.

  • You have a Master's degree in the Life Sciences, Bioinformatics, Computer Science, or a related field.
    The successful candidate must meet the requirements for enrollment at the Doctoral School Biomedical Sciences, which are:
    • a Master's degree (or an equivalent higher education degree) that is relevant for the doctoral research;
    • distinction (= cum laude) based on your study results or professional realizations.
  • You must be proficient in English. The KU Leuven Admissions office might ask you to submit a certificate proving your proficiency in English. More information through the following link.
  • Experience with programming (Python, R )
  • Experience with machine learning is a plus
  • Experience with the analysis of (single-cell) gene expression and chromatin data is a plus
  • Experience with molecular biology, viral vectors, animal surgery, or histology is a plus
  • Team player

We offer

  • A versatile and challenging job in a vibrant, world-class research environment operating at an international level
  • Access to the resources of two host institutions :
    • VIB an excellence-based research institute
    • KU Leuven, one of Europe’s leading research universities
  • Connections with Leuven Bioinformatics and Leuven AI communities
  • State-of-the-art research facilities 
  • A dedicated training program to broaden your expertise and enhance your skill set
  • Competitive salary and benefits
  • Starting date: as soon as possible

How to apply?

Interested candidates should submit their candidacy through the VIB online application tool.

A complete application file (English) should contain the following documents:

  • motivation letter describing your previous research experience
  • your CV
  • master's diploma, and transcripts of academic records
  • contact information of 3 references

For further information and questions, please send an email to Joris De Wit ([email protected]) or Stein Aerts ([email protected])

VIB values diversity - in backgrounds and in experiences. The institute needs people from all backgrounds and ways of life to help build a thriving scientific environment. VIB is therefore looking for candidates who are not only strong in their own aptitudes but care deeply about supporting each other's growth. VIB's collaborators are people with different strengths, experiences and backgrounds, who share a passion for science that generates impact in science and in society. Diversity not only includes race and gender identity, but also nationality, age, disability status, sexual orientation, religion and many other parts of one’s identity. All of VIB’s employees’ points of view are key to its success, and inclusion is everyone's responsibility.