The global demand for plant-derived food, feed, and biomaterials is rising despite the decline in arable acreage. Furthermore, crop productivity is hampered by climate change, of which drought is the most devastating. Therefore, there is an obvious and urgent need to improve crop productivity and climate resilience. The goal of our research team is to address this challenge by deciphering the instructor networks that govern plant organ size as it is an important yield component that is also severely impacted by drought.

As a result of using both Arabidopsis and maize as model plants, we successfully translated basic knowledge on growth to developing higher-yielding, field-grown crop varieties. Understanding growth regulatory networks will have a major impact on agriculture, by further enabling our ability to direct plant breeding and by enhancing our success rate in designing higher-yielding crops.

Recent advances in single-cell and spatial transcriptomics gave better insights into the spatial-temporal regulation of the transcriptional responses of key growth regulators. Together with the observation that yield and drought tolerance as multigenic traits require network engineering to achieve relevant agronomic improvements, this high-resolution understanding of transcriptional regulation will lead us to new strategies to engineer the growth regulatory network.

The selected candidate will identify and validate cell-type-specific regulatory elements and simultaneously modulate key network modules in the network. The potential use of the network engineering towards climate-resilient crops will be evaluated by phenotyping under well-watered and water-deficit conditions, as well as in field trials.



  • Master’s degree in Plant Biotechnology, Plant Physiology, Biology, Molecular Biology, Physiology, or a related discipline.
  • You are fluent in English (spoken and written).

Desirable but not required

  • Prior experience with genome editing and/or crops genetics is a plus.

Key personal characteristics

  • Highly motivated and passionate about driving and performing research and associated laboratory tasks
  • You have excellent interpersonal communication skills and strong time-management skills.
  • You must be very meticulous, proactive, independent, and self-motivated.
  • You are a team player and can take responsibility.
  • You are enthusiastic to be part of a dynamic research lab.

 We offer

  • A 4-year Ph.D. position.
  • A multidisciplinary highly stimulating and supporting international research environment.
  • Access to state-of-the-art tools and infrastructure.
  • Mentoring, supervision, and training to be the next-generation scientist, including transferable skills training programs available through VIB and UGent.

How to apply? 

Motivated candidates are asked to apply online.

The application should consist of

  • Your CV in pdf format (including publication list)
  • Your motivation letter expressing your interest and suitability for the position (pdf format)
  • A transcript of your Master degree
  • A reference letter from your Master thesis supervisor and/or other references.

The first review of applications will start immediately. A shortlist of applicants will be selected and invited for interviews. 

The position remains open until a suitable candidate is found. The position can be started immediately.

Apply now

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