PhD Position in Microbial Ecology for the Bio-based Circular Economy
Catholic University of Leuven Division of Soil and Water Management

The Division of Soil and Water Management (DSWM) ( investigates how soil and water can be preserved as our natural resources. Research topics within the Division of Soil and Water Management cover physical, chemical and (micro)biological processes in the environment: measuring and modelling transport processes of water and solutes (nutrients - contaminants) in soils, expert systems for efficient crop water use, long-term trends in tropical soil fertility and soil chemistry, risk-analysis studies and speciation of metals and phosphorous species in soil and water, land surface modelling, remote sensing and data assimilation. The division currently houses a group of 75 fulltime personnel of which 9 professors, 10 postdoctoral, 50 PhD students and supporting staff. The Bio- & Chemical Systems Technology, Reactor Engineering and Safety (CREAS) Division ( focuses on reactor and process engineering of (bio)chemical processes, with a specific focus on modelling, optimization and control, industrial biotechnology, human health and biological wastewater valorisation. This section currently houses a group of 25 fulltime personnel of which 6 professors, 3 postdoctoral and 15 PhD students and supporting staff.


The valorisation of organic waste streams allows the recovery of energy, valuable organics or nutrients within the concept of resource recovery. Integrated recovery, i.e., simultaneous recovery of multiple resources, especially of challenging, e.g., saline, waste streams, warrants both fundamental knowledge and application-driven research to allow their valorisation at the full-scale. Hence, the key objective of this research project is to engage integrated resource recovery of thus far “unexplored” or “untreatable” waste streams, with a key focus on the potential of anaerobic digestion microbiome. First, the valorisation of saline waste streams will be considered through anaerobic granular systems. Next, the simultaneous recovery of different resources, through a combination of methanogenic archaea and sulphate reducing bacteria will be considered. Both approaches will rely on the integration of microbial fingerprinting, for which novel visualization methods will be optimized, in process engineering to move towards direct microbial community engineering.


  • You hold (or will have obtained by the 1st of September 2021) a MSc degree in Bioscience Engineering or another relevant field;
  • You are interested in scientific research in microbial ecology in engineered processes;
  • You are proficient in written and spoken English;
  • You have (starter) skills in basic experimental work involving microbial processes and statistical data analysis, and are keen on developing these skills further. Basic knowledge of R is an asset;
  • You have good scientific writing and communication skills;
  • You are willing to travel abroad for meetings, workshops or conferences;
  • You are persistent and problem-solving oriented;
  • You are able to work independently, as well as in a team;
  • You have didactical interests;
  • You are interested and motivated to work in an international team.


  • A competitive full-time PhD scholarship for 2 years– renewable for another 2 years in a strategic, multi-disciplinary research environment;
  • Additional benefits in terms of health insurance, reduced public transport prices, free bicycle use, access to university sports facilities,child care opportunities, etc.;
  • The possibility to follow high-quality academic,thematic and skills training courses at KU Leuven;
  • A dynamic and multi-cultural work environment;
  • Participation in collaborative international research projects;
  • Participation in scientific debate and policy dialogue at conferences, seminars, workshops and panel debates.


For more information please contact Prof. dr. Jo De Vrieze, tel.: +32 490 669 765, mail:

You can apply for this job no later than May 31, 2021 via the
KU Leuven seeks to foster an environment where all talents can flourish, regardless of gender, age, cultural background, nationality or impairments. If you have any questions relating to accessibility or support, please contact us at
  • Employment percentage: Voltijds
  • Location: Leuven
  • Apply before: May 31, 2021
  • Tags: Aard- en Omgevingswetenschappen

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