PhD Position in NMR Toolbox for Unraveling and Resolving Bio-derived Oligomers

Catholic University of Leuven Department of Microbial and Molecular Systems


The research group of prof. Johan Martens (COK-kat) within the Department of Microbial and Molecular Systems of the KU Leuven, is looking for a strongly motivated researcher at PhD level to take part in NMRCoRe, the NMR center of KU Leuven Chem&Tech (SET campus, Heverlee). Mixture analysis via Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy evolves to a new standard for elucidation of bio-derived compounds. NMR is a powerful analytical method that manipulates magnetization of nuclei placed in a static magnetic field based on their resonance frequency. However, the analysis of biological mixtures, for example arabinoxylan dietary fiber extracts exhibits high complexity due to severe overlap of individual species. The same issue presents itself in aromatic lignin oligomers purified from hemicellulose biomass used as a renewable feedstock. In both cases, spectral ambiguity, mainly caused by low variance in chemical shift in 1H, makes correct assignment and mixture characterization notoriously difficult. This project aims at downsizing the complexity of traditional 1D and 2D NMR elucidation of biological oligomeric mixtures. The development of an analytic NMR Toolbox for Unraveling and Resolving Bioderived Oligomers (NMRTURBO) is crucial for understanding chemical structure/property relationships and to routinely identify each component. For lignin, this will provide better insight in oligomeric lignin conversion and other chemical phenomena in bio-refineries. The characterization of arabinoxylan on the other hand will be a next step in the understanding of prebiotic and health beneficial effects associated with the dietary fibers. In particular, incorporation of molecular diffusivity and relaxation properties as elucidative parameters in NMR TURBO are aimed to be effective. Also pure shift techniques, which eliminate homonuclear proton couplings are considered to be part of the toolbox for enhancement of resolution and interpretation of crowded proton regions. NMR pulse sequence design, processing and interpretation of multidimensional NMR output will reflect the chemical nature and structural composition of the bio-oligomer mixtures. Using the developed toolbox, identification of each component would become routine for assignment of chemical functions, molecular size distribution and dynamics of bio-mixtures in general.


You will be part of research NMR team of the NMRCoRe facility at KU Leuven Chem&Tech.

  • You will be responsible for: Implementation and optimization of 1D, 2D and nD liquid state NMR experiments (DOSY, TOSY, HSQC, COSY, TOCSY, PSYCHE, 3D PSYCHE-DOSY, 3D PSYCHE-TOCSY etc.) in collaboration with NMR postdocs, research support staff and research experts
  • Development of NMRTURBO: the new multidiagnostic liquid state NMR toolbox for characterization of biological oligomeric mixtures
  • Development of data analysis/processing software, integrated with Topspin 4, to enable 2 and 3D NMR data interpretation
  • Writing of reports and papers, including data analysis, spectral fitting and generation of figures
  • Verification of probe and spectrometer functionality
  • Training of master students

For some aspects of the project you will work individually, in other cases you will operate as part of a small team.


You hold a Master degree in bio-engineering, chemistry, physics or can demonstrate relevant experience

  • You are familiar with the theory and preferably practical aspect of NMR with a natural affinity for data analysis and scientific programming
  • You can demonstrate experience in scientific programming (Python, Matlab, etc.) and data analysis
  • You are a team player
  • You fluent in English, both orally and written
  • Taking initiative comes natural to you
  • You can demonstrate thorough knowledge of Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint
  • Thorough knowledge of Sharepoint workflows is a plus
  • You have experience working with MatLab


We are offering a PhD position in an intellectually challenging environment of young and dynamic researchers.


Questions concerning the research aspects of this profile can be addressed to Dr. Eric Breynaert ( or Prof. Johan Martens (

You can apply for this job no later than August 05, 2020 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: August 5, 2020
  • Tags: Microbiële en Moleculaire systemen

In your application, please refer to


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