PhD Position in Modelling Microbial Evolution - Systems Engineering

School/Institution:KU Leuven, Belgium, Leuven

Discipline: Systems Engineering

Employment Type:Full-time


Contact Person:If you wish to apply for this position, please specify that you saw it on


(ref. BAP-2021-717)

We offer an interdisciplinary PhD position at the University of Leuven (Belgium). The research will concern mathematical and/or computational modelling of microbial evolution in changing and uncertain environments, and will be mainly supervised by Prof Piet van den Berg and co-supervised by Prof Jan Michiels. This set-up ensures close supervision on the modelling part (Prof van den Berg) but also the direct involvement of a world class experimental evolution lab (Prof Michiels), both to direct attention to the most relevant research questions and to test model predictions.

Research questions include (but are not limited to):

  • How do environmental change and uncertainty affect the evolutionary response to antibiotic stress in bacteria (i.e. evolution of resistance vs persistence)?
  • Do different genetic backgrounds make some evolutionary responses to environmental change and uncertainty more likely than others?

The position is relatively flexible – the course of the project can to a reasonable extent be adapted to the interests and background of the candidate.

Positioning within KU LEuven

The PhD student will be positioned in the department of Microbial and Molecular Systems (M2S) at the Centre of Microbial and Plant Genetics (CMPG). In addition, there will be strong links to the Biology department, specifically the Division Ecology, Evolution and Biodiversity Conservation (EEBC). Research at CMPG focuses on fundamental aspects of (micro)biology and their biotechnological applications, with active researchers in the fields of microbial evolution and ecology, beneficial and pathogenic microbe-host interactions, antimicrobials, probiotics, biofilms, fermentation and biofuels, plant protection and embryogenesis.

Research at EEBC focuses on various aspects of ecology and evolution, including socio-ecology and social evolution, aquatic ecology and conservation, evolutionary genomics, and plant population biology and conservation. The student in the advertised position will mostly be studying questions of microbial evolution, topics that are most directly related to research at CMPG, but much overlap in research interests exists in the EEBC (for example, questions revolving around adaptation to uncertain environments). Since the main supervisor (Prof. van den Berg) is part of both these departments, the student will be embedded in a group with researchers that work on both sides.

About Leuven

The University of Leuven is a top institution, ranked as the 5th university in the European Union (Times Higher Education ranking) and the 1st in Europe (7th in the world) in Reuters’ ranking of the most innovative universities. Leuven is a relatively small town boasting a vibrant student scene (almost 58,000 students of which around 10,000 international), has an attractive city centre and many events year-round. Leuven is located 20 minutes by train from Brussels and only 15 minutes from Brussels international airport, which has many international connections. In addition, Brussels is exceptionally well connected to other European hubs by train, with direct connections to Paris (1 hour 20 minutes), Amsterdam (1 hour 50 minutes), London (2 hours), and Frankfurt (3 hours).


  • MSc in Biology or a related field
  • Experience with theoretical modelling and/or systems biology
  • Capacity for creative and critical thinking and strong motivation to work on evolutionary questions


Full time position, Standard Belgian PhD salary.

Three years of funding are currently secured for this position - the student will be asked to apply for FWO PhD funding (so has to be eligible). Eligibility criteria for application can be found here


For more information please contact Prof. dr. Piet van den Berg:

You can apply for this job no later than November 08, 2021 via the online application tool.

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


Title: PhD Position in Modelling Microbial Evolution

Employer: KU Leuven

Job location: Oude Markt 13, 3000 Leuven

Job types: PhD

Contact Person: If you wish to apply for this position, please specify that you saw it on

Last viewed: