Doctoral fellow

Last application date
Feb 15, 2023 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 multiple mycotoxin exposure 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 the 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, Dr. Roger Pero-Gascon 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 (Pero-Gascon et al., Environ Int 2022). FLEXiGUT 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). The PhD candidate will work in a complementary way with other four joint PhD students 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 exposure to multiple mycotoxins (dietary food contaminants) in biological samples from the "ENVIRONAGE Birth" and "Flemish Gut Flora Project" cohorts from Flanders, integrated data processing and biostatistics. The focus is on studying the impact of mycotoxins (and the environment) on the gut microbiome-inflammation axis. The specific associations and biomarkers detected in the two Flemish cohorts will be further validated in international cohorts of patients with colorectal cancer and other gastrointestinal disorders.

We are searching for a PhD candidate, 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. There will be a one-year probation and, after a positive evaluation, the contract will be extended for another three years (4 years in total).

The Centre of Excellence in Mycotoxicology and Public Health (CEMPH, 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. The top position of the CEMPH 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 (Heyndrickx et al., Environ Int 2015, De Ruyck et al., Environ Int 2020); by performing the human toxicokinetic profiling of deoxynivalenol (DON), citrinin (CIT) and patulin (PAT) (Vidal et al., Scientific Reports 2018) and by associating DON-exposure with an increased colorectal cancer risk (Huybrechts et al., in preparation). 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.

The candidate will also benefit from 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);
  • You have a strong interest in microbiome-research;
  • You have experience or have a strong interest in data-interpretation on the abovementioned techniques and in integrated data analysis using R software packages;
  • 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): Dr. Roger Pero-Gascon ( before February 15th, 2023 with email subject [PhD FLEXIGUT – name applicant]. Top-ranked candidates will be invited for interviews.