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Funded PhD position; in Bone Biology and Repair; at Laboratory of Skeletal Cell Biology and Physiology (SCEBP Lab) in the Skeletal Biology and Engineering Research Center; KU Leuven; in Belgium


Marie Curie Network PhD Student Position In Bone Biology and Repair

(Ref. BAP-2017-562)

Tewerkstelling : Voltijds
Duur : Bepaalde duur
Plaats : Leuven
Solliciteren tot en met : 15/10/2017

We are looking for a motivated PhD student to join the Laboratory of Skeletal Cell Biology and Physiology (SCEBP Lab) in the Skeletal Biology and Engineering Research Center (SBE) at KU Leuven, Belgium, and participate in the “CarBon” project. The CarBon consortium focuses on controlling cartilage to bone transitions for improved treatment of bone defects and osteoarthritis in the Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme of the European Union. In total, 14 Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) function in the international CarBon network. ESR-12 at the SCEBP Lab will focus on cellular and molecular mechanisms regulating cartilage neovascularization, osteoprogenitor recruitment, and ossification during endochondral bone development, homeostasis and repair.


Many people suffer from diseases of the locomotor system, such as bone defects or osteoarthritis, for which current treatments are insufficient. Understanding and controlling the dual character of cartilage is pivotal: insufficient transition impairs bone healing, and undesired transition to bone leads to osteoarthritis. In the CarBon project, state of the art in vitro, in silico and in vivo models will be uniquely combined to elucidate how this transition is orchestrated and how it can be modulated. In a multifactorial approach, a network of 14 young scientists will aim to identify the biological and physical factors that determine the fate of cartilage. Knowledge from the fields of tissue engineering, cartilage and bone developmental biology and pathobiology will be combined with skills from disciplines of cell biology, computational modelling, biotechnology and drug discovery.

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ESR-12 in the Laboratory of Skeletal Cell Biology and Physiology (SCEBP) at KU Leuven will focus on the recruitment of mesenchymal stem and progenitor cells during endochondral ossification and the interplay between these cells and their local microenvironment in bone, especially the skeletal vasculature. These studies will lead to new insights into how healthy bones are built during embryogenesis and maintained in adult life, and how endogenous processes are (re-)activated and may be pivotal during the repair of bone defects. This knowledge is key to the future development of new osteo-anabolic therapies for bone diseases such as osteoporosis and for improvement of tissue-engineered applications to treat non-healing fractures.

Techniques: In this PhD project, the student will explore the role of specific signaling molecules in the context of bone development, homeostasis and repair by using genetically modified mice. The analysis involves a variety of state-of-the-art techniques, including nano-CT, molecular biology (qRT-PCR, Western blot, RNA-Seq), histology and immunohistochemistry, light and fluorescent microscopy, FACS, and in vitro culture systems (cell lines, primary cells, co-culture models, and tissue explants).


We are looking for a bright and highly motivated student researcher to join our team. Candidates for this position should have obtained, or are about to obtain, a Master degree with excellent study results and a final grade of at least ‘distinction’ (cum laude) in Biomedical Sciences, Molecular and Cellular Biology, Molecular Medicine, Developmental Biology, Bio-engineering, Biochemistry, or an equivalent diploma.

Other requirements:

  • You have a good knowledge of cell and molecular biology, physiology and the basic biomedical research methodologies, and you understand the principles of genetic modification in animal models.
  • You have a strong interest in basic research and excellent experimental skills. Experience in molecular biology, cell culture, histology and working with (genetically modified) mice will be seen as a distinctive advantage.
  • You have a strong enthusiasm to learn and develop new techniques, and you work with great precision.
  • You have a critical mind and you can address research questions creatively.
  • After a training period, you are able to work both independently and as a team player on your project.
  • You are flexible and strongly motivated to complete a PhD research thesis within 4 years.
  • Good English communicative skills, both oral and written, are absolutely necessary.


  • We offer a full-time position for 4 years during which you will receive extensive training towards obtaining a KU Leuven PhD degree.
  • You will have access to state-of-the-art technologies and technical support.
  • You will have the opportunity to participate in national and international meetings and to write research papers.
  • Participation in the CarBon network will offer the candidate the opportunity to perform two secondments (research internships) at the premises of other CarBon partners in Europe. This will offer multidisciplinary training, international orientation, and opportunities for close collaboration with other scientists within the network.
  • Doctoral training will include affiliation to the Doctoral School of Biomedical Sciences at KU Leuven. For more info, see
  • MSCA-ITN and KU Leuven offer an especially attractive salary and working conditions. The salary can be complemented with a mobility allowance.

The starting date is flexible and will be determined in consultation with the selected candidate.

The SCEBP Lab is located on a large KU Leuven Health Science Campus where basic, translational and clinical research is happening side by side. The KU Leuven is consistently ranked within the top of Europe’s leading universities and English is the working language for research; for more information visit


To apply for this position send your motivation letter and CV including study results, and optional reference letters, to Prof. dr. Christa Maes, email:
Notes on eligibility: There are strict eligibility requirements for the ESR PhD positions in MSCA-ITN. Please ensure that you qualify before applying, as ineligible candidates cannot be considered.

  • Applicants should not have resided or performed their main activity (work, studies, etc) in the country of the host institution (Belgium for ESR-12) for more than 12 months in the 3-year period immediately prior to the start date of the PhD research.
  • Applicants for the ESR PhD positions should be in the first 4 years (full-time equivalent) of their research careers and not yet have been awarded a doctorate. This 4-year period is measured from the date of obtaining the degree that would formally entitle to embark on a doctorate.

For more information on MSCA-ITN, visit

You can apply for this job no later than October 15, 2017 via the online application tool

Deadline: October 15, 2017.

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