PhD student in Bacteriophage research for biocontrol of Pseudomonas in cherry

Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
September 22, 2023
Offerd Salary:Negotiation
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Contract Type:Other
Working Time:Negotigation
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PhD student in Bacteriophage research for biocontrol of Pseudomonas in


(ref. BAP-2023-582)

Last modification : Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Flanders Research Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (ILVO) is a multidisciplinary research institute of the Flemish government, with a focus on supporting sustainable agriculture, horticulture, fisheries and food research. Drawing on the 5 important ILVO values - Positivity, Proactivity, Professionalism, Working Together and Being an Example, we are steadily growing ILVO as a socially relevant center of expertise. We work together within a culture of open, honest discussion and mutual trust. And ... now you might be able to play a role in this wonderful story! We employ more than 730 people, about half of which are researchers. About 70% of the personnel is employed by ILVO on the basis of project and contract research, the remaining personnel works for the Flemish Government. As one of the oldest universities in Europe, KU Leuven has a long tradition of pioneering scientific research and high-quality teaching. For this position, you will join the Laboratory of Gene Technology, which is part of the Biosystems Department of the Faculty of Bioscience Engineering. Our laboratory focuses its research towards molecular phage biology and the development of new antimicrobial agents.

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The doctoral fellowship aligns with the ongoing Ctrl-Pseudo project, which focuses on the control of Pseudomonas infections in pear and cherry caused by P. syringae pv. syringae and/or P. syringae pv. morsprunorum. Bacterial canker or Pseudomonas disease has long been known in fruit production and can lead to substantial economic losses. Until now, crop protection has mainly relied on the use of copper-based pesticides. However, with growing concerns about bacterial resistance and the harmful effects of such pesticides on human health and the environment, alternative and more sustainable crop protection strategies are urgently needed. The angle that will be explored within the PhD project is biocontrol of Pseudomonas in cherry by means of bacteriophages. These are naturally abundant viruses that can kill certain bacteria in a highly specific and targeted manner. In this project, you will collaborate with a multidisciplinary team of ILVO and KU Leuven colleagues. The KU Leuven Laboratory for Gene Technology has close to 25 years of research experience in the field of molecular phage biology and biotechnological developments for novel antimicrobial agents, while ILVO's bacteriology lab specialises in the detection, identification and characterisation of plant pathogenic bacteria.

Together with this team, the aim is to develop a PhD proposal on the topic and submit it through the appropriate channels (FWO). Meanwhile, preparatory research will be initiated.

As a PhD student, you will work closely with a team of colleagues at ILVO and KU Leuven, as well as with partners in the field.

✓ You will be responsible for the organisation of sampling campaigns at cherry orchards and for the isolation of both bacteria and phages. Characterisation of the isolated organisms will involve a combination of traditional microbiological methods and advanced molecular techniques.

✓ Based on the own bacterial and phage collections, you will help develop phage products suitable for biocontrol applications in the field.

✓ You will also contribute to the exploration of efficient ways for spreading the formulated phages across the orchard (e.g. through use of insect vectors).

✓ You will present your research results at (inter)national conferences.

✓ You supervise master/bachelor students during their thesis.

Lab work will take place at KU Leuven and ILVO; greenhouse trials and small- scale field trials will be conducted at ILVO and PCFruit.

During the first months of your appointment, you will do preparatory research while writing a PhD proposal on the topic with the help of your supervisors. The proposal will be submitted and defended through the appropriate channels (FWO).

  • You have a master degree in one of the following study areas: biology, bioengineering, life sciences, biotechnology or equivalent. If you have a foreign diploma, we ask you to obtain equivalence recognition. You can apply for this at NARIC Vlaanderen.
  • You are willing to prepare and submit a dossier for additional research funding (FWO), for which you must meet the following generic conditions:
  • o At the start of the mandate, you must hold a degree that is at least equivalent to a Master's degree that follows a Bachelor's degree and was issued by the competent institutions of one of the countries of the EEA or Switzerland. You can have your degree certificate, issued outside the EEA and Switzerland, declared equivalent to a Flemish master's degree by NARIC. This also applies to diplomas awarded in the UK.

    o You have obtained your master's degree or equivalent not earlier than 3 years before the closing date of the call.

    o You have 18 months scientific seniority at most on the application submission deadline.

    o You can postulate maximum two times for an FWO PhD fellowship.

    o You have not previously received this mandate, not even in part.

  • You have a good written and spoken knowledge of English.
  • Personal competences

  • You enjoy working multidisciplinary, goal-oriented, and as part of a team, but you are also capable of working independently

  • You are hands-on, proactive and can take initiative

  • You are able to write high-quality scientific texts and reports

  • You work accurately, have a critical mindset and are well-organised

  • You are someone who can be flexible and adaptable

  • You are a fluent communicator

  • Plus points

  • You have an affinity for the agricultural/horticultural sector
  • You have knowledge of microbiology, crop protection
  • You have experience with statical analyses in R and bioinformatics tools ✓ You are in possession of a driver's license B
  • You have a good spoken knowledge of Dutch
  • Offer

    We offer you a 4-year PhD scholarship, 2 years funded by ILVO's own capital and 2 years by KU Leuven, where you will also be enrolled at the Arenberg Doctoral School.

    The PhD scholarship is initially granted for 1 year and can be extended to 4 years subject to favourable evaluation. The scholarship is free of personal income tax, but does contribute to your social security (e.g. pension).

    The net scholarship amount at ILVO is 2,528.01 net (2,908.1 gross) for the first 2 years. For the last 2 years, you will receive a PhD scholarship at KU Leuven (more info:https: // www. information#working- conditions)

    You get a varied, challenging and socially relevant job in a dynamic environment with numerous development opportunities. You work hard but can also enjoy attractive working conditions thanks to flexible working hours, the possibility of hybrid work (if the work schedule allows it) and an attractive holiday arrangement.


    For more information please contact:

    Prof. dr. ir. Rob Lavigne, tel.: +32 16 37 95 24, mail: [email protected] or Mr. Jeroen Wagemans, tel.: +32 16 37 46 22, mail: [email protected].

    You can ONLY apply online via “Jobs - ILVO Vlaanderen” https: // voor-de-bestrijding-van-pseudomonas-in-kers and this at the latest until 10/9/2023 . If you cannot apply online, you can request the application form via [email protected]. Candidates that submit their application via this KU Leuven site will not be considered.

    The following documents are uploaded as 1 pdf file:

    o Motivation letter

    o CV

    o Copy of diploma

    o Summary of your study results

    Candidates found fit (based on CV screening) will be invited for a selection interview on 3/10/2023 (date subject to change). Please include a telephone number and e-mail address where you can be reached during the day.

    ILVO and KU Leuven want to reflect the society they serve as best as possible. You are selected on the basis of your qualities and skills, regardless of your gender, origin, age or disability. If you have a disability, please let us know in advance. ILVO and KU Leuven provide reasonable adjustments for people with disabilities during the selection procedure. Do you need certain adjustments to be able to take part in a selection? If so, get in touch with the contact person mentioned in the vacancy as early as possible in the procedure.

    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 [email protected].

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