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PhD on the impact of energy-efficient and nature-inspired lighting strategies on greenhouse crop biology (ref. BAP-2024-315)

At the Department of Biosystems of the University of Leuven (Belgium), the lab of Prof. Bram Van de Poel (http://bramvandepoel.wixsite.com/vandepoel-lab) conducts research on molecular plant hormone physiology and the lab of Prof. Devang Mehta (https://mehta-lab.com/) performs research on plant circadian biology. We have a shared open full-time PhD position to unravel the physiological and molecular regulation of pulsed- and twilight on plants.

Unit website: https://bramvandepoel.wixsite....


Advancements in LED technology have revolutionized horticulture, including vegetable production in greenhouses. At the same time, recent energy crises have demonstrated the vulnerability of greenhouse production to energy price volatility and highlighted the need for energy-efficient light production. Two novel lighting strategies investigated by our labs, pulsed light and twilight, could potentially increase crop productivity and quality, while reducing the carbon footprint and energy costs of commercial greenhouse producers. Lab tests have shown that pulsed- and twilight treatments can improve yield, which we now need to validate for greenhouse crops in practice.
Understanding the biological mechanisms behind how dynamic light influences crop physiology remains a challenge. Pulsed light will lead to moments of high and low light intensity, mimicking sun flecks, a phenomenon plants in nature are continuously exposed to, and dynamically impacting plant photosynthesis. Furthermore, everyday plants experience twilight during day-night transitions, a phenomenon that is rarely simulated in greenhouses and vertical farms. We recently have shown the impact of twilight length on plant development via the circadian clock in a model plant, Arabidopsis. In this PhD project, you will study the molecular and physiological responses of both pulsed- and twilight on several horticultural crops. This will be done by means of greenhouse and lab experiments including physiological measurements, biochemical assays, and -omics technologies.
This PhD project will train you to become a scientist who is ready for future challenges. This means that you will be conducting cutting-edge research under the close supervision of Prof Van de Poel and Prof Mehta, collaborate with your colleagues (within and outside the lab) and participate in the daily activities of the lab. You are encouraged to guide master thesis students, participate at national and international conferences and disseminate your research results in scientific publications. You also participate in a larger applied research project on pulsed- and twilight, in collaboration with different experimental research stations in Flanders.


Our team is looking for a PhD candidate with a strong interest in plant physiology and photobiology. You are a team-player with a critical mind, work accurately and are willing to learn new techniques. Relevant training or expertise in plant physiology or photobiology is a plus but is not necessary. You are required to have a European master’s degree (or equivalent) in Bioscience Engineering, Biology, Biotechnology, Biochemistry or similar. You are eligible to apply for a personal PhD grant (e.g. FWO fellowship: http://www.fwo.be/en/fellowshi... or http://www.fwo.be/en/fellowships-funding/phd-fellowships/phd-fellowship-fundamental-research/).


We offer you a full-time PhD position for 4 years, pending a positive evaluation by your PhD committee after year 1. Remuneration will be according to the KU Leuven salary scales (https://www.kuleuven.be/personeel/jobsite/en/phd/phd-information#working-conditions) and includes generous benefits in addition to Belgium’s strong social supports.Our young and dynamic team will support you to successfully obtain a PhD degree via an in-depth scientific training at a top-ranked university. You will be closely mentored by Prof. Van de Poel and Prof. Mehta as well as a close-knit, international, and diverse community of plant scientists within the Division of Crop Biotechnics. You will have an advanced training in molecular biology and plant physiology. You will participate in a larger applied project, in close collaboration with experimental research stations for greenhouse vegetable production. You have access to state-of-the-art growth facility such as brand-new growth chambers and a new fossil-free greenhouse. You will have opportunities to participate at national and international meetings and establish your own network, as well as to publish your results in respected academic journals. In addition, you will be provided with career guidance and encouraged to develop skills for science-adjacent careers in policy or communication, including through courses via the Arenberg Doctoral School (https://set.kuleuven.be/phd)In... more information, please contact Prof. dr. ir. Bram Van de Poel (mail: bram.vandepoel@kuleuven.be) or Prof. dr. Devang Mehta (email: devang.mehta@kuleuven.be). You can apply for this job no later than July 5th, 2024 via the online application tool (Bij publicatie komt hier automatisch de link naar de online sollicitatiepagina.)


For more information please contact Prof. dr. Bram Van de Poel, tel.: +32 16 32 55 27, mail: bram.vandepoel@kuleuven.be or Prof. dr. Devang Mehta, tel.: +32 16 37 21 46, mail: devang.mehta@kuleuven.be. You can apply for this job no later than July 05, 2024 via the online application tool

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Apply before: 06/07/2024

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