PhD on engineering plant circadian clocks for climate adaptation (ref. BAP-2022-624):

The lab of Prof. Devang Mehta conducts research in experimental plant systems biology in the Division of Crop Biotechnics (Department of Biosystems) at KU Leuven (Belgium). We have an open full-time PhD position in Bioscience Engineering to study and engineer the plant circadian clock for enhanced latitudinal adaptation due to climate change. About the University and research environment: KU Leuven offers a competitive and international working environment with access to the latest technologies and expertise. KU Leuven is the highest internationally ranked university in Belgium and ranks amongst the best European universities for research and education.

KU Leuven also ranks as the most innovative university in Europe, building on a very strong tech transfer office. Leuven is also one of Europe’s best university towns located only 30 minutes from Brussels with an international and diverse student community. The Division of Crop Biotechnics performs cutting-edge research on crop and model plant species, integrating knowledge at the cellular, tissue, plant, environment, and agro-systems level.

The Division consists of several research groups developing various molecular tools and having a strong expertise in molecular biology, plant pathology, tropical crops, genomics, plant hormones, plant nutrition and soil. The Laboratory for Experimental Plant Systems Biology is the newest lab in the Division and specializes in developing and applying genomics and proteomics technologies in plant systems for a variety of different problems.


Global warming is threatening agricultural systems across the planet and causing the migration of global crop production to Northern countries. However, as Northern countries experience rising temperatures, they require crops and crop varieties that can tolerate warmer growing conditions. The long-term goal of this research program is to use the more heat-tolerant crops currently grown in southern latitudes and engineer/breed them for growth at higher latitudes.

This involves understanding how plants adapt to the environmental changes associated with latitude such as the dramatic changes in day length over a growing season. The circadian clock is a genetic oscillator that allows plants to maintain a fixed biological rhythm in sync with their natural environments. The plant clock has previously been found by us and others to play an important role in sensing the environmental changes associated with latitude and is thus an important target for this research program.   

The project will involve experiments using specialised growth environments with advanced LED optics as well as genetic tools such as CRISPR-mediated mutagenesis and high-throughput transcriptomics and proteomics. As a result, the successful candidate will have the opportunity to acquire a range of skills suitable for both academic and industrial careers. Further, you will be given the freedom to shape the project as you develop scientifically and use the excellent research environment at KU Leuven to realise your own ideas within the project’s context. 


We seek a candidate with a Master’s degree (European or equivalent) in Biology, Bioinformatics, Biotechnology, Biochemistry, Synthetic Biology, Bioengineering or other relevant degree for the project described above. 

A successful candidate will ideally:

• Have some experience in molecular biology or biochemistry labs (any model system)

• Intermediate programming or data-analysis skills or an interest in developing such skills

• Be creative with a strong interest in fundamental and applied scientific research

• Be able to work well in a multi-disciplinary team

• Have good academic performance at the MSc and BSc levels

• Demonstrate an ability to write and communicate in English

• Be eager to learn new techniques

• Be able to integrate in an international and diverse working environment

Important: candidates interested in this position must also be eligible to apply for FWO PhD fellowships

The anticipated start date is flexible between late 2022 and early 2023. 


We offer you a full-time 4-year PhD position, pending a positive evaluation by the doctoral committee at the end of the first year. Remuneration will be according to the KU Leuven salary scales and includes generous benefits in addition to Belgium’s strong social supports.

You will obtain advanced training in plant biology, genetic engineering, and experimental systems biology that will prepare you for a career in industrial or academic research. You will be closely mentored by Prof. Mehta as well as a close-knit, international, and diverse community of plant scientists within the Division of Crop Biotechnics.

You will be given support to participate in European and international conferences and publish your science in respected scientific journals. In addition, you will be provided with career guidance and encouraged to develop skills for science-adjacent careers in policy or communication including through courses via the Arenberg Doctoral School.


For more information, please contact Prof. dr. Devang Mehta (mail: You can apply for this job no later than October 1st, 2022 via the online application tool. Please do not upload additional documents other than those requested. You can apply for this job no later than October 01, 2022 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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