PhD Position to investigate key steps of emotional circuit development

Leuven VIB-KU Leuven Center for Brain & Disease Research

02 Jun 2023


VIB-KU Leuven Center for Brain & Disease Research

Esther Klingler Lab




The VIB-KU Leuven Center for Brain & Disease Research is part of the VIB Life Sciences Institute and is embedded within the University of Leuven, which ranks among the world’s top 50 universities. At our Center, researchers study the cellular mechanisms of health and disease in the central nervous system.

Dr. Esther Klingler is starting up a new lab as of 1st October 2023 within the VIB-KU Leuven Center for Brain & Disease Research. The aim of the research group is to unravel developmental trajectories of emotional circuit neurons; more specifically the team will study the molecular trajectories of amygdala neurons during development. To this end, Esther and her team use advanced technologies, such as single-cell transcriptomics and connectomics.


We are seeking a highly motivated candidate with an interest in neurodevelopment to investigate how different types of amygdala neurons are born, molecularly defined, integrated into functional circuits, and affected by environmental stress during development.

The research project, under the supervision of principal investigator Esther Klingler, will focus on the development of emotional circuits combining experimental and computational approaches. Emotional states vary a lot across life and rely on proper amygdala function. Here, you will investigate the development of amygdala nuclei, which are composed of heterogeneous neuron types, receiving specific input and projecting to diverse brain regions, like the prefrontal cortex, the hippocampus, or the striatum, each implicated in different emotion-related function (e.g. fear, emotional memory, anxiety). For this, you will use a combination of advanced cellular and molecular techniques in developing mice, from viral axon tracing, to single-cell and spatial RNA sequencing. You will also use new computational strategies to analyze your data and integrate them with readily available multi-omics adult datasets.

Recommended literature: Klingler et al., Nature 2021

As a young lab, we are committed to ensuring that every person in the lab receives the training and mentoring she/he needs, is successful, and feels valued. In addition, you will get the opportunity to experience and influence a fresh lab atmosphere and disseminate the results at national and international conferences, publish scientific reports, and prepare and defend a doctoral thesis manuscript.

Your Profile

The successful candidate:

  • holds a Master's degree in biological sciences, biomedical, bioinformatics, or a related discipline. Distinction based on study results or professional realizations is required.
  • keeps up with the current literature on advances in single-cell and spatial sequencing.
  • has experience in omics data analyses and is proficient in R.
  • has some laboratory experience and is ready to learn new cellular and molecular biology techniques. Experience in mouse surgery/perfusion/histology is a plus.
  • enjoys working in a multidisciplinary and multicultural scientific environment
  • is ready to learn how to undertake independent research projects under supervision
  • is comfortable with performing studies on laboratory mice
  • is fluent in both spoken and written English (proven knowledge of English is required, TOEFL test)

Our ideal candidate is eligible to obtain a personal fellowship with the FWO.

We offer

  • The initial appointment is for one year and with the possibility of extension upon positive evaluation. Funding is available for 4 years. However, the successful applicant will be strongly encouraged to apply for an external fellowship.
  • An interdisciplinary environment with access to state-of-the-art technologies.
  • Ph.D. students will get intensive and personalized supervision and will have access to extensive scientific and transferable skills training programs available through VIB and KU Leuven.
  • The position is available from October 1st, 2023.

How to apply?

Interested candidates should submit their candidacy through the VIB online application tool.

A complete application file (English) should contain the following documents:

  • motivation letter describing your previous research experience
  • your CV
  • master's diploma, and transcripts of academics records
  • contact information of 2 references

For further information and questions, please send an email to Esther Klingler (

VIB values diversity - in backgrounds and in experiences. The institute needs people from all backgrounds and ways of life to help build a thriving scientific environment. VIB is therefore looking for candidates who are not only strong in their own aptitudes but care deeply about supporting each other's growth. VIB's collaborators are people with different strengths, experiences and backgrounds, who share a passion for science that generates impact in science and in society. Diversity not only includes race and gender identity, but also nationality, age, disability status, sexual orientation, religion and many other parts of one’s identity. All of VIB’s employees’ points of view are key to its success, and inclusion is everyone's responsibility.