PhD position in Antiviral Immunity

Ghent VIB-UGent Center for Inflammation Research

16 Feb 2024


VIB-UGent Center for Inflammation Research




A PhD position is available in the Nucleic Acid Immunity lab of Jonathan Maelfait at the VIB-UGent Center for Inflammation Research ( Nucleic acids are potent triggers of immune responses. The presence of virus-derived RNA or DNA molecules activates nucleic acid sensors inside the host cell, which stimulates protective antiviral immune responses. The recognition of viral nucleic acids by the immune system is important in the context of virus infection but is also highly relevant for vaccination. For example, nucleic sensing of nucleic acids present in SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccines are thought to evoke a protective immune response.

The goal of your PhD project will be to identify the nucleic acid sensors that activate dendritic cells to induce protective immunity by mRNA vaccination. During your PhD you will obtain strong skills in nucleic acid immunity, molecular cell biology, dendritic cells and in vivo mouse models of mRNA vaccination. Your work will be part of a collaborative effort with the labs of Sophie Janssens (Faculty of Health Sciences and Medicine) and Stefaan De Smedt  (Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences) aimed at understanding the function of dendritic cells in mRNA vaccines.


  • You have recently obtained or will soon be obtaining a Master's degree in a core field of molecular life sciences (biochemistry, biomedical sciences, biotechnology, bio-engineering, pharmacy …), with very good study results.
  • Candidates are expected to apply for external PhD fellowships and need to be eligible for at least those fellowships obtainable from the Fund for Scientific Research-Flanders (FWO), except if they come with their own fellowships
  • English is used in all VIB laboratories for scientific communication. Therefore, candidates must have an excellent command of English.

How to apply?

Please send us your CV, transcripts of study, a 500 word (max.) personal statement and contact info of two references. Please compile these documents in one PDF document and submit your online application before 1 March 2024.


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.