VIB-UGent Center for Inflammation Research (IRC)

Phd position @ the Van de Peer Lab

VIB-UGent Center for Inflammation Research

Ghent, Belgium


A 4 year, ERC funded, PhD studentship is available in the Van de Peer Lab in Bioinformatics and evolutionary genomic at the VIB-UGent center for plant systems biology. The PhD student will conduct academic research (full-time) in the field of evolution and evolutionary genomics. Starting from January 2020.


Whole genome duplication (WGD) or polyploidisation provides an organism with an extra copy of the genome. As this copy is entirely redundant it has the potential to evolve new functionality. Consequently polyploidy is considered to be a major factor contributing to (plant) evolution.

Nevertheless polyploidisation is a rather stressful event as the extra copy of the genome hampers cell division and causes considerable transcriptional and epigenetic upheaval. Several lines of evidence suggest that polyploid success is somehow linked to environments that are considered to be stressful to their lower ploidy ancestors.

Different non-mutually exclusive hypotheses have been proposed to explain this link e.g. stressful conditions promote polyploid formation, polyploidisation causes an immediate fitness advantage allowing polyploids to grow where their ancestors cannot survive, polyploids have an increased evolvability and consequently adapt faster to a changing environment…

Using a combination of long and short term evolution experiments on the greater duckweed /Spirodela polyrhiza /and whole genome sequencing we aim to test some of these hypotheses and to gain insights into the stabilisation of a polyploid genome.

The project has three components:

Creating neoautopolyploid duckweed lineages with different genetic backgrounds
Testing the immediate effects of WGD on the survival, fitness and the phenotype (and its plasticity) of duckweed in different environments, and testing whether different environments favour different ploidy levels
Evolutionary genomics of polyploid /Spirodela polyrhiza/, we will follow genomic stabilisation, transcriptional dynamics and proteomic changes after WGD.


  • The applicant should have a master’s degree in biology, bio-technology, bio-engeneering (or equivalent) or will have obtained this degree by the start of appointment: January2020.
  • A strong interest in evolutionary biology is required and experience in both empirical research and bioinformatics are preferred.
  • The student needs to be dedicated to carrying out long-term multidisciplinary research which involves regular maintenance of duckweed cultures, some molecularwork, as well as evolutionary genomic analyses.
  • Basic knowledge of programming/scripting and statistics is required.
  • Fluent English and good communication skills, oral and in writing, are essential.

How to apply?

Motivated candidates are asked to appline online. Application deadline is October 1st.

Your application should include a detailed CV, a cover letter (max. 1 page , including an overview of your study results and your motivation to apply) and contact information of two referees. All documents should be merged into a single PDF.

Please apply via recruiter’s website.