PhD Position in Role of Linear Azol(In)E-Containing Peptides in the Lifestyle of Foodborne Human Pathogens
Catholic University of Leuven Department of Biology

The Laboratory for Biomolecular Discovery & Engineering is part of the Department of Biology at KU Leuven and the VIB-KU Leuven Center for Microbiology. Our research spans the exciting interface between chemistry & biology and centers around microbial natural products with potential pharmaceutical applications, such as antibiotics, antifungals, immunosuppressants and anticancer agents. We are particularly interested in discovering new bioactive natural products from human-associated bacteria, elucidating unusual pathways for natural product biosynthesis, unravelling the ecological role and mode of action of natural products, and engineering microbes for therapeutic applications. To accomplish this, we utilise a multidisciplinary research approach, combining microbiology, molecular genetics, genomics, enzymology, bioinformatics, structural biology, analytical chemistry and chemical synthesis.


Linear azol(in)e-containing peptides (LAPs) are a rapidly expanding and largely underexplored class of bacterial ribosomally synthesized and post-translationally modified peptides, many of which exhibit strong antimicrobial activity. Despite their structural similarity, the mode of action and activity spectrum of LAPs show a remarkable diversity of which the structural basis and functional significance is poorly understood. This project aims to investigate theantimicrobial activity, ecological role, structure-activity relationship and evolutionary flexibility of LAPs from Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus and Bacillus cereus, three notorious foodborne pathogens with different lifestyles. It also aims to engineer new derivatives with improved activities. The project will adopt an interdisciplinary research approach, utilizing a combination of enzymology, molecular microbiology, bioinformatics, bacterial genetics and analytical chemistry.


We are looking for an ambitious, highly motivated doctoral candidate with:

  • A university Master’s degree in Bioscience Engineering, Biochemistry, Biotechnology, Biomedical sciences, Microbiology, Chemistry or a related discipline

  • Excellent communication skills in spoken and written English 

  • Hands-on laboratory experience and knowledge of molecular biology, microbiology, genetics, bioinformatics and/or analytical chemistry

  • A strong interest in research at the interface between chemistry and biology

  • The ability to work both as an independent researcher and as part of an interdisciplinary research team

  • A proactive and collaborative attitude, and a commitment to high-quality research

  • Good organizational and problem-solving skills

  • The willingness to take part in teaching and public outreach activities, and to assist in the supervision of a limited number of Bachelor and/or Master thesis students 


We offer two full-time PhD positions, initially for 1 year but extendable to 4 years after positive evaluation. One PhD student will work in the Laboratory for Biomolecular Discovery & Engineering (this vacancy) and the other will be based in the Laboratory of Food Microbiology (vacancy BAP-2020-489). The two students will collaborate closely in this project. Both labs offer a stimulating and collaborative international research environment with state-of-the art facilities and research equipment.Tailored supervision and guidance will be provided, along with a generous conference and travel budget, and the opportunity to participate in a wide range of scientific and transferable skills training programs available through KU Leuven. The starting date is October 1st 2020 or as soon as possible thereafter. The salary will be in accordance with the University salary scales for doctoral researchers and includes various additional benefits in terms of holidays, transport costs and health insurance. 

KU Leuven ranks first on the list of the most innovative universities in Europe. It is an internationally-oriented university that boasts a long tradition of pioneering research and high-quality education. The university has an excellent training program that allows PhD students to further develop their scientific and soft skills (KU Leuven Career Center, a wide range of specific courses, transferable skills training, etc.). The university is located in Leuven, a historic city with a young and vibrant atmosphere and a strong international allure. Located only 25 km from Brussels,the city is well connected to other major cities in Belgium and Europe, and easy to reach by plane, train and car.

More information about working at KU Leuven can be found here:


Please use the online application tool to submit your application. Applications should include a letter of motivation, a full CV including previous research experience, transcripts of Bachelor and Master diploma’s and contact information for two references. 

For more information please contact Prof. dr. Joleen Masschelein, tel.: +32 16 32 94 28, mail:

You can apply for this job no later than August 07, 2020 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: August 7, 2020
  • Tags: Bio-ingenieurswetenschappen

If you apply for this position please say you saw it on Bioloxy


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