PhD student on exploring structural dynamics of fluorescent proteins at KU Leuven

Katholieke Universiteit Leuven


September 11, 2022


PhD student on exploring structural dynamics of fluorescent proteins at KU


(ref. BAP-2022-426)

Last modification : Friday, June 24, 2022

The research project “FluoXFEL” at the Department of Chemistry, KU Leuven is now looking for a motivated PhD student. The FluoXFEL project aims to reveal excited state structural dynamics essential for photoswitching of fluorescent proteins by applying serial femtosecond crystallography (SFX) with X-ray free electron laser (XFEL). Time-resolved spectroscopy and QM/MM simulations will also be integrated. In addition, developing advanced microscopy technologies for live cell imaging with fluorescent proteins is also in our scope. The research team is composed of laboratories of biochemistry (Prof. Mizuno), structural biology (Prof. Van Meervelt), quantum chemistry (Prof. Harvey) and spectroscopy (Dr. Fron), Department of Chemistry.

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Fluorescent proteins (FPs) have become a widely adopted choice for protein labelling in living specimen. Some FPs show unique photoswitching properties (psFPs) with which advanced microscopy techniques such as super-resolution microscopy have been developed. Optimizing the photoswitching properties is crucial for further advancement of the microscopy technologies, and knowledge of the molecular nature of the photoswitching reactions is essential for rational design of improved psFPs. However, since photoswitching is an excited-state process proceeding on femto- to pico-second timescales, the corresponding structural dynamics are inaccessible by traditional synchrotron X-ray crystallography. In this project, we will address this unexplored information by employing the next generation X-ray source, X-ray free electron laser (XFEL). XFEL provides extremely short (10 fs), strong, and coherent X-ray pulses, which enables serial femtosecond X-ray crystallography (SFX). We will also employ ultrafast spectroscopy and QM/MM simulation to acquire complementary information and integrate results with SFX, aiming at gaining a full understanding of the molecular basis of the photoswitching processes.

Developing advanced microscopic technologies with fluorescent proteins for biological imaging is also in our scope. We will especially expand “FADED”, a new mode of FRET quantification method based on anisotropy. For details about the FADED approach, please refer our recent publication in Nature Communications: https: // www.


The successful candidate will work on the part of the protein crystallography including XFEL experiments.

  • Candidates should be strongly motivated in studying cutting-edge protein crystallography including SFX with XFEL.
  • Candidates must have a Master's degree in the field of biochemistry, biology, biophysics, chemistry or an equivalent with good study results.
  • Experiences in the field of structural biology is desirable.
  • Offer

    The successful PhD candidate will be hired as a full-time PhD research fellow for 4 years. He/she will follow the Arenberg Doctoral training programme: https: //

    The project will officially start at 1st of October 2022. The successful candidate is expected to join on that date, but joining shortly after that date is possible.


    To apply the position, send a combined PDF file in which following documents are included

  • A curriculum vitae (with publication list if relevant)

  • A summary of the research experiences (max. 2 pages including figures)

  • A list of all master courses with their number of study points and the individual scores

  • Names and contact details of two reference persons

  • For more information please contact Prof. dr. Hideaki Mizuno, mail:

    The application deadline is September 11, 2022, but earlier applications are encouraged. The applications will be considered as soon as they are received, and we will stop accepting applications once a right candidate is found.

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