PhD: Linking neurodevelopment and mitochondria in human neurons using iPSC and xenotransplantation

Leuven VIB-KU Leuven Center for Brain & Disease Research

07 Jun 2024


VIB-KU Leuven Center for Brain & Disease Research

Pierre Vanderhaeghen Lab


PhD position: Linking neurodevelopmental disorders and mitochondria in human neurons, using iPSC and xenotransplantation

We are looking for an ambitious PhD student with a broad interest in interdisciplinary research working in the exciting field of Neuroscience.


While most genes associated with neurodevelopmental disorders (NDD) encode proteins involved in transcriptional/epigenetic regulation or synaptic function, increasing evidence suggests that mitochondria dynamics or function may be affected in at least some of these conditions.
Among NDD potentially linked to mitochondria are Rett syndrome (RTT) and MECP2 duplication syndrome, both caused by abnormal dosage of MECP2 protein. We have developed a xenotransplantation model for both disorders, as well as novel ways to investigate the mitochondrial phenotypes in human diseased neurons (Nageshappa et al. Mol Psychiatry. (2016);21(2):178-88; Linaro et al. Neuron (2019) 104(5):972-986; Iwata et al. Science (2023) 379: 1-9 science.abn4705). Here we will explore whether and how mitochondrial abnormalities contribute to the neurological pathology in human neurons in vitro and in vivo. This project will lead to novel insights into NDD mechanisms and potentially to innovative therapeutic venues.


  • The candidate should have a strong academic record and hold a Master's degree in any area of Biology or Biomedical Sciences (Medicine, Biomedical Sciences, Biology, BioEngineering (Cell- and Genebiotechnology), Neuroscience,..).
  • Previous research experience, especially regarding cell culture is a plus, but not essential.
  • English is the main language and proficiency in written and spoken English is crucial. 
  • You are a good writer, and you are not afraid of public speaking (e.g., delivering a conference presentation, ...) 
  • The selected candidate is expected to write a doctoral thesis after 4 years.

We offer

  • We offer employment as a full-time doctoral researcher in a stimulating expert environment, but the student will be asked to apply for FWO funding at least once.
  • The possibility to participate in international conferences and collaborations.
  • Doctoral training at the Leuven International Doctoral School of Biomedical Sciences

How to apply?

Please use the VIB HR Application tool.

Additional required information:

  • detailed CV
  • motivation letter describing your previous research experience
  • names and contact information of at least 2 references

For more information or informal inquiry please contact: 

Prof. Dr. Hilde Van EschDepartment of Human Genetics,  KULeuven, Laboratory for the Genetic of  Cognition, [email protected]

Prof. Dr. Pierre Vanderhaeghen, VIB KULeuven Center for Brain and Disease Research, Stem Cell and Developmental Neurobiology Lab (, [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.