PhD Position in Biomedical Engineering

Catholic University of Leuven


(ref. BAP-2023-687)
We offer a full-time PhD position at KU Leuven. You will work in the Division of Soil and Water Management at the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and the CREaS division at the Department of Chemical Engineering. Our core activity is engineering and steering microbiomes towards processes for the bio-based circular economy such as wastewater treatment, waste valorization, and nutrient recovery. At KU Leuven, we offer a competitive and international working environment with access to the latest technologies and expertise. At our university, department(s), and group, we commit to creating an inclusive, respectful, and safe environment. KU Leuven ranks among the top 10 universities in Europe (top 50 worldwide) in the major university rankings. and


Symbiotic gut microbiota of xylophagous insects such as termites and beetles show lignocellulolytic activity enabling these insects to feed on wood. As such wood-eating beetles harbor an interesting microbiome with the potential for developing novel biotechnological applications for the bioeconomy. We want to unlock this potential by obtaining microbial isolates with interesting enzymatic traits that can be used to convert lignocellulosic feedstock to value-added biochemicals.

Our overall aim is to engineer lignocellulolytic microbiomes from wood-eating beetles for the bioconversion and biorefinement of biomass to value-added biochemicals in biorefinery platforms. Lignocellulolytic microbial isolates will be combined in a bottom-up microbiome engineering approach to create microbial consortia able to convert feedstock to high-value biochemicals. Lignocellulolytic traits of unculturable microbes will be included in these consortia through heterologous expression in culturable strains. The complexity of interactions in these microbiomes for biorefinement is both a challenge and opportunity to be able to produce multiple products from complex feedstocks.

In this project you will:

  • Study the gut microbiome of a selection of wood-eating beetles during their life cycle.
  • Identify microbiome functions of biotechnological interest
  • Isolate microbial strains carrying the enzymes with interesting traits for the conversion of lignocellulosic feedstock to value-added chemicals
  • Perform heterologous expression of enzymes able to convert lignocellulosic feedstock to value-added chemicals
  • Design bioreactors for accommodating microbial consortia derived from the beetle gut microbiomes and aiming at functionality of biotechnological interest.


  • Master’s degree in microbiology, bioscience/bioprocess engineering or engineering science or similar.
  • A critical and creative mind, and atrue problem solver to overcome technical challenges.
  • A driven, hardworking person with acommitment to obtain a PhD.
  • You work at the crossroads ofmultiple disciplines (from biology to bioinformatics to engineering)
  • Collaborative and real networker to get things done.
  • Experience in microbiology and culturingpractices
  • Knowledge of microbiomeanalysis such as metagenomics, -proteomics and -transcriptomics.
  • Proficiency in reactor design andoperation.
  • Proficiency in written and spoken English.


  • We offer a full-time PhD position for 1 year. After a positive evaluation, the contract can be extended to three additional years (4 years in total).
  • Excellent young, dynamic, and international work environment.
  • A challenging job and multidisciplinary research.
  • Access to state-of-the-art research infrastructure.
  • High-level scientific training at a top-ranked university.
  • Training in academic, thematic, and soft skills.
  • A competitive salary and many more benefits.


For more information please contact Prof. dr. Benjamin Horemans, tel.:+32 16 327711, mail: .

Please submit (1) a detailed Curriculum Vitae including obtained grades and a transcript of courses, (2) a concise motivation letter, and (3) a list with at least two references (name, function, email) through the online application portal.


You can apply for this job no later than November 27, 2023 via the
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
  • Employment percentage: Voltijds
  • Location: Leuven
  • Apply before: November 27, 2023
  • Tags: Bio-ingenieurswetenschappen
  • Download: file

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