PhD Position in Unlocking Liquid Biopsy Potential at Single Cell Level with Microwave Biosensing

Catholic University of Leuven Department in Biosystems

The MeBioS division of the Biosystems Department at KU Leuven investigates the interaction between biological systems and physical processes. The focus of the fundamental research in MeBioS is on the supradisciplinary field of bionanotechnology, i.e. the technology of biological systems at the nanometer scale. The MeBioS-Biosensors group within the division was founded in 2005 and is headed by prof. Jeroen Lammertyn. The group currently counts 5 postdocs and 20 PhD students. Its fundamental research activities focus on the development of novel bio-molecular detection concepts and miniaturized analysis systems. The applications span a broad range of sectors including food (e.g. pathogen detection and allergenicity screening) and medical diagnostics (e.g. cancer, diabetes, infectious diseases and neurodegenerative diseases). The MeBioS-Biosensors group closely follows the emerging field of biosensing and is active in the following domains (1) Bio-assay development (e.g. aptamers, biofunctionalized nanomaterials), (2) Optical sensors (e.g. fiber optic SPR sensors) and (3) Microfluidics (e.g. lab-on-a-chip technology).


For the Biosensors group ( in the Division of Mechatronics, Biostatistics and Sensors (MeBioS), we are looking for a PhD student to work in the field of bionanotechnology and more specifically on the development of microwave dielectric sensing-based biosensors for the differentiation of cancer and healthy cells in bulk and at the single cell level.

Cancer is a large group of diseases that, according to the WHO, is the second leading cause of death globally, accounting for an estimated 9.6 million deaths in 2018. Based on practices in countries where the health system is strong, cancer mortality can be significantly reduced if cases are detected and treated early. Over the past years, liquid biopsy (LB, i.e., sampling and analysis of non-solid biological tissue, primarily blood) has been recognized as a promising way for non-invasive early detection of cancer. This rapidly evolving field has intensely focused on identifying different biomarkers as disease-relevant, such as those carried by individual cancer cells (e.g., circulating tumor cells, CTCs) and by cancerous extracellular vesicles (EVs). However, isolation, purification and subsequent detection of CTCs and EVs are often performed using biological methods, strongly relying on the availability of specific (cancer) biomarkers and their matching bioreceptors. This need for biomarker identification significantly hampers the full exploitation of the LB potential.

The aim of this project is to unlock this great LB potential by establishing a label-free (i.e., biomarker-free) microwave dielectric sensing (MDS) technology platform.This project is a joint effort between 2 groups at KU Leuven, Biosensors group (MeBioS Division, Biosystems Department) and TELEMIC Division (Departmentof Electrical Engineering, ESAT). The PhD student hired on this project in the Biosensors group will be responsible for establishing MDS-based label-free differentiation of cancer and healthy cells. To achieve this, student will be working on the microfluidic chip design and microfabrication, next to studying cellular response when probed with the MDS technology (developed by TELEMIC). The latter will be first studied in bulk, followed by single cell studies. For the single cell aspect, student will rely on the microfluidics based microwell-array platform previously established in the group for different types of cells, which will require further adaptations to accommodate cancer cells.  


A PhD candidate should fulfil the following requirements:

  • You have a Master's degree cum laude in Bioscience Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Biosciences or equivalent
  • You must be available for starting from the 1st of October 2020
  • You are proficient in English, both talking and writing
  • You are communicative, creative and able to work independently as well as part of the team
  • You are highly motivated to do research in dynamic environment and as part of the team working on this interdisciplinary project
  • You are familiar with general laboratory practices and have hands-on lab skills in at least some of the relevant fields (e.g. microfabrication, cell culture, microscopy, microfluidics, bioassay development)
  • You are willing to learn new techniques and take on responsibilities
  • You are Proficient in Word, Excel, PowerPoint


You will be offered an unique opportunity to pursue research in a dynamic and international research team of young people and experienced researchers sharing the same passion for research and development. In addition, you will interact on a regular basis with the PhD candidate of the research group from the TELEMIC Division to carry out this challenging and interdisciplinary project. As a PhD candidate you will be enrolled in the Arenberg Doctoral School at the KU Leuven.

The applicants will go through the following selection procedure:

  • Initial screening based on CV and motivation letter
  • Interview(s) with (co)-PIs from both groups

Selections will be made regardless of gender, nationality, religion, ethnicity and cultural background.


For more information please contact Mrs. Dragana Spasic, tel.: +32 16 37 71 18, mail: or Prof. dr. ir. Jeroen Lammertyn, tel.: +32 16 32 14 59, mail:

You can apply for this job no later than August 07, 2020 via the
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  • Employment percentage: Voltijds
  • Location: Leuven
  • Apply before: August 7, 2020
  • Tags: Bio-ingenieurswetenschappen