PhD Position in Investigation of the Role of Mechanosensors in Skeletal Muscle Mass Homeostasis and Maintenance
Catholic University of Leuven

The Exercise Physiology Research Group addresses different fields related to adult skeletal muscle function and adaptation to loading/unloading and regeneration. Research is done from different perspectives: cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in skeletal muscle phenotype regulation; study of mechanobiological principles involved in skeletal muscle adaptations and regeneration; interaction of exercise and nutrition in training adaptation and health promotion; physiological strategies to improving exercise performance. The research team adheres to an integrated research strategy with a focus on experimental studies in adult skeletal muscle physiology using different methodological approaches, e.g. in vitro cell cultures, genetically modified mouse models, experiments on isolated muscles or in vivo loading/unloading experiments in various animal and human models.


Adult skeletal muscles represent the largest metabolic tissue with a tremendous plasticity towards a wide spectrum of stimulations, e.g. exercise as well as diseases. Mechanical impacts control skeletal muscle adaptations to loading and unloading and may be involved in positive skeletal muscle phenotypes under disease conditions. The process mechanotransduction, i.e. translating a mechanical cue into a biological signal to allow defined adaptations, has gained growing attention recently to explain healthy and diseased skeletal muscle phenotypes. Mechanosensitive proteins, called mechanosensors, control the mechanotransduction machinery during adaptations to loading/unloading and diseases. However, the precise understanding of how mechanosensors control these processes are still poorly understood.

The aim of this PhD project is to study the role of a defined mechanosensor in adult skeletal muscle adaptations to loading and in diseased conditions.

The PhD project consists of three parts: Part one will examine the role of the mechanosensor in skeletal muscle adaptations to mechanical loading. Part two will examine the role of the mechanosensor in a pre-clinical mouse model. Part three will examine the mechanosensor in healthy and diseased skeletal muscles. Part one and two involve a mouse model with a skeletal muscle-specific deletion of the defined mechanosensor. Part three analyzes skeletal muscle biopsies from healthy and diseased cohorts.

The group of Frank Suhr focuses on mechanobiological principles in skeletal  muscle tissues and collaborates with nationally and internationally leading labs (e.g. the Skeletal Biology and Engineering Center, KU Leuven, the MutaMouse Center, KU Leuven or the Institut de Génétique et de Biologie Moléculaire et Cellulaire, Strasbourg, France). In collaboration with core facilities of KU Leuven (e.g. SyBioMa or Genomics Core), the selected PhD candidate will use state-of-the-art approaches (e.g. RNA-seq, proteomics, high-resolution microscopy). Further, the selected PhD candidate will apply classical molecular biological/histological/physiological approaches (e.g. western blot, qPCR, ex vivo muscle testing, etc.) to gain detailed insight into the role of the target mechanosensor in adult skeletal muscle management and control.


Responsibilities of the candidate
  • Perform scientific research in preparation of a PhD thesis (see project): organization and realization of experiments, data acquisition and analyses, writing scientific papers under the supervision of Professor Frank Suhr.
  • Assistance/guidance of Bachelor and Master Thesis students within the research topic.
  • Teaching assistance for the faculty members of the Department of Movement Sciences (in English).
  • Administrative and technical support for the activities within the Exercise Physiology Research Group.

Profile of the candidate

  • You have a very strong interest in the study of mechanobiological principles and how they control adult skeletal muscle physiology.
  • You have a Master degree in Movement Sciences/Kinesiology, Biology, Biochemistry, Biomedical Sciences, or Bioscience Engineering or Medicine.
  • You obtained excellent scores during your study program (bachelor and master degree).
  • You have excellent skills in biochemical/molecular/’omics’, and histological techniques.
  • You have experiences with animal models.
  • You have a very strong interest in the study of adult skeletal muscle and exercise physiology.
  • You are creative, eager to take initiative and can work independently.
  • You have excellent communication skills.
  • You are fluent in English.
  • To have the FELASA B certificate enabling the work with mouse models will be of advantage.


We offer the PhD candidate a full-time employment in an intellectually challenging environment. The candidate will initially be employed for two years, with a possibility of a two-year extension in case of a positive evaluation. KU Leuven is a research-intensive, internationally oriented university (e.g. ranked 1st place on Reuters Ranking on most innovative universities in Europe) that carries out both fundamental and applied scientific research. It is highly focused on inter- and multidisciplinary research. It provides its students with an academic education that is based on high-quality scientific research.

Successful completion of the PhD program will result in a doctoral degree in Biomedical Sciences. The candidate will be associated with the doctoral school of Biomedical Sciences. Start: 1st April 2021.


For more information please contact Prof. dr. Frank Suhr, tel.: +32 16 33 06 90, mail:

The interviews with possible candidates willbe organized in the week from 15 until 19 February 2021.

You can apply for this job no later than February 04, 2021 via the
KU Leuven seeks to foster an environment where all talents can flourish, regardless of gender, age, cultural background, nationality or impairments. If you have any questions relating to accessibility or support, please contact us at
  • Employment percentage: Voltijds
  • Location: Leuven
  • Apply before: February 4, 2021
  • Tags: Bewegingswetenschappen

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