PhD Student - Plant-Microbe-Insect Interactions: Biological Control of Pest Insects

Leuven, Louvain (BE)
10 Jun 2020
End of advertisement period
31 Jul 2020
Contract Type
Full Time


(ref. BAP-2020-430)

The Laboratory for Process Microbial Ecology and Bioinspirational Management of Campus Group T (PME&BIM; Centre of Microbial and Plant Genetics; Department Microbial and Molecular Systems) 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.


In previous work, we found that microorganisms including yeasts and bacteria play an important role in the interaction between plants and insects, and between different insects. Microorganisms produce a wide diversity of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that may directly affect insect behavior. Some compounds are attractive to insects, others may be repellent. In addition, they can change the composition of plant and insect VOCs, and thereby affect insect behavior indirectly. A profound knowledge of the role of microorganisms in the interaction between plants and insects and between pest insects and natural enemies will lead to novel insights to improve biological pest control.

We are looking for a dynamic and highly-motivated PhD student who will perform innovative scientific research in the field of biological control and chemical ecology. More specifically, we aim to improve biological control of pest insects by parasitoids (i.e. parasitic wasps that lay their eggs in other insects, their 'hosts') by an in-depth study of the role of microorganisms associated with their hosts, eggs or feces in the behavior of the natural enemies. Emphasis will be on both direct effects of the micro-organisms on the parasitoids and indirect effects via the plant.

The research activities will lead to a number of scientific papers and a PhD in Engineering Technology, and have a clearly practical applicable finality. The research will be performed under supervision of Prof. Bart Lievens and Prof. Hans Jacquemyn. Both have plenty of experience with high-quality PhD research. 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, chemical ecology and biological pest control from our own and other universities and research institutes, as well as with bachelor and master students and companies.


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

Qualified candidates:

  • have a strong interest and knowledge in the field of microbiology, plant protection, biological control and chemical ecology;
  • 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, 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 which can be prolonged by another 4 years if the candidate is successful in acquiring an FWO-SB grant. Extension through other research means is also possible. 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. Bart Lievens, tel.: +32 16 32 75 43, mail: bart.lievens@kuleuven.be.

You can apply for this job no later than July 31, 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.