PhD Position in Bio-Analysis

Ghent University Department of Bio-Analysis


PhD Student

PhD Student

Last application date
Mar 15, 2021 00:00
FW03 - Department of Bio-Analysis
Limited duration
Master in Pharmaceutical Sciences, Biomedical Sciences, Bioscience Engineering or equivalent; also final year Master students can apply
Occupancy rate
Vacancy type
Research staff

Job description

Joint PhD Ghent University – KULeuven ‘Role of mycotoxin contamination on the microbiome-inflammation axis’ Do you want to apply for a multi-disciplinary & innovative project that combines both fundamental and applied science, and contributes to health promotion and disease prevention? In the framework of a recently granted iBOF-project, FLEXiGUT – The Flemish Exposome project, a 4-years joint PhD-position (Ghent University – KULeuven) is available for a highly motivated scientist at the Centre of Excellence in Mycotoxicology & Public Health (Ghent University) under supervision of Prof. dr. Sarah De Saeger, Prof. dr. Marthe De Boevre and Prof. dr. Jeroen Raes (KULeuven). The exposome is the totality of all non-genetic exposures from conception onwards, throughout life.

FLEXiGUT is the first large-scale Flemish exposome study that brings together unique expertise in the field of nutrition and environment-related human biomarkers and biomonitoring, metabolomics, microbiome research and epidemiology to investigate the human exposome. A specific focus will be on associations with chronic inflammation parameters and related diseases using samples from the "Environage Birth" and "Flemish Gut Flora Project" cohorts, which will be analyzed using an integrated -omics approach. The Flemish exposome project is a collaboration between Ghent University (Prof. Sarah De Saeger, Prof. Lynn Vanhaecke), KU Leuven (Prof. Jeroen Raes), Hasselt University (Prof. Tim Nawrot) and University of Antwerp (Prof. Adrian Covaci).

In total, six joint PhD students will work in a complementary way to characterize human life-course dietary and environmental exposure to assess and validate its impact on chronic low-grade inflammation and related pathologies.

The PhD student will be responsible for the qualitative and quantitative characterization of the exposome in biological samples with a specific focus on targeted mycotoxins (dietary food contaminants) analysis, integrated data processing and biostatistics. The focus is on studying the impact of mycotoxins (and the environment) on the microbiome-inflammation axis in colorectal cancer patients and other gastrointestinal disorders. We are searching for a PhD-researcher, who will reside at Ghent University (Belgium), and will join the research teams of both Prof. dr. Sarah De Saeger, Prof. dr. Marthe De Boevre ( and Prof. dr. Jeroen Raes ( in a challenging and inspiring environment.

The Centre of Excellence in Mycotoxicology and Public Health (UGent, Profs De Saeger & De Boevre) is specialized in the development of analytical methodologies for the detection and quantification of small molecules, with a major focus on mycotoxins, which are highly prevalent toxic fungal-derived dietary contaminants.

For more than 25 years, a comprehensive mycotoxin analytical platform has been built which consists of LC-(HR)MS/MS methods for (un)targeted multi-mycotoxin analysis in diverse matrices, as well as rapid immunoassay-based screening methods making use of ELISA, LFIA and capacitive biosensors. The top position of the oEMPH in the field of mycotoxin analysis and research can be related to an approach of co-creation and collaboration. One of the fast-growing research lines at the CEMPH is related to mycotoxins & human health in which human biomonitoring, human toxicokinetics, as well as mycobolome studies in relation to health outcomes are ongoing. The CEMPH pioneered by investigating multi-mycotoxin exposure in human urine in a large-scale population study; by performing the human toxicokinetic profiling of deoxynivalenol (DON), citrinin (CIT) and patulin (PAT) and by associating DON-exposure with an increased colorectal cancer risk.

The FLEXiGUT project perfectly aligns with the strategic ambition of the CEMPH research group to use its expertise in the field of human mycotoxin biomarkers of exposure and analytical approaches in large human cohorts and exposomics studies. The Raes lab (KU Leuven, Prof. Raes) has a long track record in microbiome research and its association to host physiology and disease, through the analysis of metagenomic datasets in large-scale population and patient cohorts (Falony et al. Science 2016; Vieira-Silva et al Nature micro 2019; Vieira-Silva et al Nature 2020).

To this aim we also developed a wide range of bioinformatics tools and approaches for -omics analysis and integration from which the candidate can benefit. Current work will build upon the Flemish Gut Flora project, a large-scale and unique microbiome population study coordinated by the lab.

The candidate will also benefit from newly established collaborations with research groups at Hasselt University and University of Antwerp involving leading expertise and state-of-the-art tools for exposome-research.

Besides the PhD-thesis, a subscription to ‘Doctoral Schools’ is obliged: the PhD-student can obtain an extra diploma-supplement by following specialized courses and conferences among others.

Job profile


  • You have a master’s degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences, Biomedical Sciences, Bioscience Engineering or equivalent;
  • You have outstanding academic study performances;
  • You have a strong interest in human bioanalysis;
  • You have hands-on experience in analyses using liquid chromatography coupled to tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) and high-resolution MS;
  • You have a strong interest in microbiome-research;
  • You have experience or have a strong interest in data-interpretation on the abovementioned techniques;
  • Excellent English writing and communication skills are mandatory;
  • You want to work in a multi-disciplinary, international and intellectually challenging environment;
  • You act with attention to quality, integrity, creativity, and cooperation;
  • You are flexible, responsible and able to work independently as well as in team;
  • You are eager to work in a team of researchers at Ghent University and (inter)national partners;

How to apply

Please submit a cover letter in which you specify why you are interested in the position and why you consider yourself a suitable candidate (400 words max), a full CV, a full transcript of records to date (degrees and grade list) and a list of at least 2 contact persons (with name, e-mail, address, phone number) for letters of reference to (one PDF document):

Prof. dr. Sarah De Saeger, before March 15th, 2021 with email subject [PhD FLEXIGUT – name applicant].

Top-ranked candidates will be invited for interviews.

In your application, please refer to


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