PhD Student - Plant-Microbe Interactions

1 day left

Leuven, Louvain (BE)
Jun 22, 2020
End of advertisement period
Aug 05, 2020
Contract Type
Fixed Term
Full Time


(ref. BAP-2020-460)

The Laboratory for Process Microbial Ecology and Bioinspirational Management (PME&BIM) of the Department Microbial and Molecular Systems (M2S) is internationally recognized for its research in the domain of plant-microbe interactions as well as plant-microbe-insect interactions. Within the research team an important focus is on biological control, i.e. the management of pests and plant diseases by the use of beneficial (micro)organisms.


“Hairy root disease” (HRD) (also known as “crazy roots”) is a plant disease in tomato, cucumber, and eggplant, which is caused by rhizogenic agrobacteria. HRD is characterized by extensive root proliferation, which ultimately leads to severe economic losses. HRD is a rapidly spreading and highly persistent disease, which is not easily managed with conventional biocides. The main aim of this project is to further optimize the use of bacterial biocontrol organisms (BCOs). Implementation of these BCOs should ultimately contribute to a sustainable and integrated pest management strategy. In previous research, we patented several bacterial strains showing antagonistic activity against rhizogenic agrobacteria. Preliminary experiments indicate that these biocontrol organisms (BCO’s) show a huge potential to prevent or at least reduce infection with rhizogenic agrobacteria. However, little is known about the mode of action and the optimal conditions for application in practice. 

For that reason we are looking for a a dynamic and highly motivated PhD-student who will perform innovative scientific research in the field of biological control. A first major aim of this project is to gain deeper insight into the mode of action of the BCOs. The identification of the antagonistic compound would be an important first step. Secondly, we want to investigate the optimal conditions for the use of the BCOs in practice. In that regard, we want to assess the optimal application method and determine in which conditions the BCOs can exert their antagonistic activity. Altogether, this project allows to take a major step towards commercialization of the BCOs.  

The research activities will lead to a number of scientific papers and a PhD in Engineering Technology. Advantageously, there will be plenty of opportunities to interact with agricultural experiment stations, growers and the most important stakeholders through regular meetings and site visits. The research will be performed under supervision of Prof. Hans Rediers. The successful candidate will be part of an international research team, and will get the chance to collaborate with expert researchers in the field of microbiology  and biological control from our own and other universities and research institutes, as well as with companies. 


Interested candidates must have a master’s degree in engineering technology, bioengineering, biology or equivalent, with excellent study results.

Qualified candidates:

  • have a strong interest and knowledge in the field of microbiology, plant protection, biological control and molecular biology;
  • are communicative and willing to present research results at (inter)national conferences, via social media and through teaching activities;
  • are willing to supervise student/thesis projects;
  • are willing to help with the teaching activities of the research team;
  • are well-organized, flexible, pro-active, critical-thinking and not afraid to take initiative;
  • can work independently, but also have good teamwork skills;
  • think in solutions, not in problems;
  • proficiency in English is expected for all applicants.
  • experience in conducting experimental research is a plus.


The successful candidate will be hired as a PhD fellow. We offer a one year contract from October 1 2020 until September 30 2021 (which can be prolonged by another 3 years).Your main working place is the Laboratory for Process Microbial Ecology and Bioinspirational Management in Heverlee (Leuven).


For more information please contact Prof. dr. ir. Hans Rediers, tel.: +32 16 37 62 74, mail: hans.rediers@kuleuven.be.

If available, in addition to your cv and letter of application, you may add:

a) An overview of study results

b) A pdf version of your master thesis

c) Names of one or two references who may be contacted

You can apply for this job no later than August 05, 2020 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 diversiteit.HR@kuleuven.be.

Similar jobs

Similar jobs