PhD Student in Locust Phase Polyphenism
University of Leuven Animal Physiology and Neurobiology


(ref. BAP-2019-437)

Your future research position is situated in the context of a novel project of the Molecular Developmental Physiology and Signal Transduction lab at the Biology Department of KU Leuven (in collaboration with the Bioinformatics and Systems Biology lab at the University of Ghent and VIB, Belgium). This KU Leuven Research Group studies the molecular mechanisms of post-embryonic developmental processes in insects. Details about its current research topics can be viewed via the website:



All organisms can adjust their form and function to suit changes in their environment. Devastating locust swarms result from an extreme type of phenotypic plasticity, which is designated as 'locust phase polyphenism'. Depending on the locusts' population density, their genome can manifest as one of two very different phenotypic outcomes: a lone-living “solitarious" phase or a swarming “gregarious" phase. Gregarious behaviour can already arise within a few hours of crowding and this is further consolidated to keep locust
swarms together. Recent work strongly implicates epigenetic changes in neural DNA methylation in this consolidation. In this context, you will perform research to unravel the role of DNA methylation in both the consolidation and the loss of gregarious
behaviour in desert locusts. This multidisciplinary study will contribute to understanding how social experiences accumulate over a lifetime to affect behaviour and may result in design of novel strategies to fight locust swarms. 



You have a MSc degree in biochemistry/biotechnology, biological sciences, bioscience engineering, or equivalent.

You have a good knowledge of animal biology, in particular entomology (both insect ecology and neurobiology/physiology).

You have a good knowledge of molecular biology and epigenetics.

You are eager to learn, and have a lively interest in scientific research.

You can work very well in a team, as well as independently.

You have a positive and loyal work attitude: you are flexible and dynamic according to the requirements of the project; meticulous, involved and take your responsibilities very much to heart.

You have good communication skills, both orally and in writing (particularly in English).

You have an eye for detail, a sense of initiative and can proactively think/act.

You are efficient and stress resistant, and able to respect deadlines laid down.

You will follow the lab rules, as well as the rules of scientific integrity.

A strong interest and excellent skills in statistics and bioinformatics are a plus! 



Full-time (100%) fixed-term (1y) PhD fellowship, which will be prolonged on a yearly basis in case of positive evaluations [the maximal total (cumulative) duration of the PhD fellowship is 4 years].  



For more information please contact Prof. dr. Jozef Vanden Broeck, tel.: +32 16 32 39 78, mail:


You can apply for this job no later than August 15, 2019 via the online application tool

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

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