Engineering of beetle gut microbiomes for lignocellulose bioconversion

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  • University/Institute Name KU Leuven
  • University/Institute Name Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences
  • Position Funding Type Fully funded (e.g. RA, TA, Scholarship, etc.)
  • Position Duration4 years
  • Attendance Type On Campus
  • Application deadlineExpired

Position Details (PhD)

(ref. BAP-2022-842)

Last modification : Thursday, November 24, 2022

We offer a full-time PhD position in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Bioscience Engineering at KU Leuven. You will work in the Division of Soil and Water Management (DSWM) in the Environmental Microbiology group and closely collaborate with the CREaS division at the Department of Chemical Engineering. Our core activity is engineering and steering of microbiomes towards processes for the bio-based circular economy such as waste water 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 create an inclusive, respectful, and safe environment. KU Leuven ranks among the top 10 universities in Europe (top 50 worldwide) in the major university rankings.
Insects have a tremendous potential for the bioeconomy as they can be reared on agroindustrial residual biomass before they are further processed for food, feed or biochemicals. They harbor an interesting microbiome with potential for developing novel biotechnological applications. Symbiotic gut microbiota of xylophagous insects such as termites and beetles, show lignocellulolytic activity enabling these insects to feed on wood.
Our aim is to engineer lignocellulolytic microbiomes from wood-eating beetles for bioconversion and biorefinement of biomass to value-added biochemicals in biorefinery platforms. The complexity of interactions in microbiomes for biorefinement is both a challenge and opportunity to make a shift from single products to multiple products during bioconversion. In our research, we integrate and apply ecological theory when engineering microbiomes allowing us to assess ecological aspects (e.g. recruitment, functional redundancy, diversity, …) as a part of microbiome functioning. By gathering knowledge on the design and management principles we aim to engineer robust and reliable microbiomes for biorefinery platforms.
In this project you will:
  • Study the gut microbiome of a selection of wood-eating beetles during their life cycle.
  • Select microbiome functions of biotechnological interest
  • Study the beetle gut physiology and its importance for gut microbiome functioning
  • Design microbioreactors mimicking gut physiology to accommodate beetle gut microbiomes aiming at functionality of biotechnological interest.
  • A Master’s degree in Biology, Bioscience Engineering or Engineering Science or similar.
  • A critical and creative mind, and a true problem solver to overcome technical challenges.
  • A driven, hardworking person with a commitment to obtain a PhD.
  • You work at the crossroads of multiple disciplines (from biology to bioinformatics to engineering)
  • Collaborative and easy in networking to get things done.
  • Experience in microbiome analysis such as metagenomics, -proteomics and -transcriptomics.
  • Proficiency in reactor design and operation.
  • A good background in practices in microbiology and/or entomology.
  • 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 3216 09, 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 December 22, 2022 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
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