PhD on the role of programmed cell death during tomato fruit ripening KU Leuven Leuven, Belgium. The Postharvest Research Group from the MeBioS division of KU Leuven consists of an international team of young, dynamic and enthusiastic researchers that investigate the physiology of perishable fruits and vegetables after harvest.

We offer a stimulating work environment for those who are interested in scientific research on the verge of fundamental and applied research, with a high relevance to making a more sustainable world. KU Leuven is a world-class university and ranked 42 on the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, ranking 7 on Reuters Most Innovative Universities Worldwide and being the No. 1 within Europe.


The fruit’s internal oxygen level is important in sustaining the metabolism of the fruit. If too low the fruit will suffocate. The internal oxygen levels are largely influenced by the fruit’s tissue structure. We have evidence that fruit are able to adapt their microstructure to their metabolic needs by, in a controlled way, inducing additional pores through programmed cell death (PCD), thus to allow enough oxygen to enter the fruit.

Your project will focus on tomato fruit  which is an important model system to study climacteric fruit development. Given their relatively impermeable fruit skin, tomato fruit is expected to naturally develop internal gas gradients leading to local hypoxic regions. You will be studying the molecular mechanisms behind pore formation during tomato fruit ripening to unravel the contribution of PCD to this process. You will be studying physiological, structural, molecular, and nuclear markers of plant PCD in relation to pore formation. Special attention will go to the role of ethylene known to be involved in the regulation of both PCD and climacteric fruit ripening.


The lab is looking for a highly motivated PhD candidate with a strong background in food science, plant science, or bioscience engineering and interest in fruit quality. You are eager to become part of a an international interdisciplinary team to perform cutting-edge research. You have a critical mind and you are willing to learn new techniques. As part of your PhD research you will have to follow the doctoral training organized through the Leuven Arenberg Doctoral School. You are expected to spread your work by writing scientific publications for leading international journals in the area of your research and contribute to the dissemination of your work to the industry.


• A  full-time 4 year PhD position in an established but dynamic research team;
• Opportunities to participate at national and international meetings;
• The opportunity to work in a multidisciplinary environment on an exciting high impact project;
• A dynamic highly international working environment in which quality, professionalism and team spirit are highly valued.


For more information please contact Prof. dr. ir. Bart Nicolai, tel.: +32 16 32 23 75, mail: or Dr. Maarten Hertog, tel.: +32 16 32 23 76, mail:

You can apply for this job no later than August 01, 2022 via the online application tool

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