KU Leuven

PhD - Design and Synthesis of Multilayer Mixed-Action Nanoparticles

KU Leuven

Leuven, Belgium


(ref. BAP-2019-775)

The PhD is hosted by the Hofkens lab at KU Leuven, which develops fluorescence microscopy tools and assays to address relevant questions in biology and material sciences. The group of Prof. Hofkens has long been active in the field of photochemistry and spectroscopy to international acclaim. The group started to develop methodologies for studying ordered structures and their properties, including photophysical and/or photochemical processes, with a sub micron to molecular spatial resolution, fifteen years ago. Prof. Hofkens and his team have been active in the field of single molecule spectroscopy for 10 years and the group is internationally recognized for their seminal contributions to the development of optical (single molecule) microscopy.


The use of nanotechnology in cancer therapy has attracted growing attention over the past decade. Many drug nanocarriers offering considerable advantages over conventional chemotherapy have been developed. Some nanomedicines are already in use in the clinics (eg.Abraxane and Doxil).

Although chemotherapy is fatal for almost all cells in a tumor, a small percentage of cells can appear resistant. It has been shown that overexpression of drug efflux pumps is one of the mechanisms behind multi-drug resistance (MDR). Down-regulation of the expression of efflux pumps has been shown to increase the susceptibility of MDR cells to treatment.

A promising approach to attack drug-resistant cells is by delivery of drugs and simultaneously reducing the expression of efflux pumps. The latter can be achieved by e.g. delivering mRNA for Cas9 translation alongside a separate guide RNA to achieve site-specific gene editing. This requires nanoparticles with multiple timescales of release that are tightly regulated because the drug should not be released before the pumps are downregulated. This could be achieved by multilayered nanoparticles in which release from core and shell can be controlled by intermediate polymer layers. The aim of this project is to design such multilayered nanoparticles with controlled release on multiple timescales guided by fluorescence microscopy.


We are seeking highly motivated candidates that hold a master’s degree in chemistry, biochemistry or nanotechnology related subjects.Experience with optical microscopes, nanoparticle functionalization or cell culture is a plus. The candidate should be open to interdisciplinary science and collaborations. KU Leuven offers in this respect an ideal environment with a large number of science groups working on different (applied) subjects. 


  • You will be part of a EuropeanInnovative Training Network (ITN), with several academic and industrial partners.

  • Possibility to work in a multidisciplinary environment in close collaboration with the groups of prof. Rocha and prof. Uji-i. 

  • A remuneration package competitive with industry standards in Belgium, a country with a high quality of life and excellent health care system.

  • Ample occasions to develop yourself in a scientific and/or an industrial direction. Besides opportunities offered by the research group, further doctoral training for PhD candidates is provided in the framework of the KU Leuven Arenberg Doctoral School (https://set.kuleuven.be/phd).

  • A stay in a vibrant environment in the hearth of Europe. The university is one of Europe’s oldest academic institutions and is situated in a medium-sized vibrant student town with a large international community.


To apply for this position, please follow the application tool and enclose (1) full CV – mandatory, (2) motivation letter – mandatory, (3) full list of credits and grades of both BSc and MSc degrees (as well as their transcription to English if possible) – mandatory (when you haven’t finished your degree yet, just provide us with the partial list of already available credits and grades), (4) proof of English proficiency (TOEFL, IELTS, …) – if available, and (5) two reference letters – if available

Informal enquiries and applications can be submitted to Prof. Johan Hofkens (johan.hofkens@kuleuven.be).

You can apply for this job no later than February 15, 2020 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 diversiteit.HR@kuleuven.be.

Please apply via recruiter’s website.