PhD students

There around 100 PhD students in the different labs at our department. All students are enrolled in the Biomedical doctoral school of KU Leuven and are able to take part in training and network opportunities provided by both VIB & KU Leuven. Each year, our center also organizes a PhD symposium together with NERF, to give the PhD community in our departments a chance to present their work and network.

To find out more about current opportunities to do your PhD within our center, check the Careers page.

The Optimist

A journal to help you survive the ups and downs of PhD life?
That's the Optimist: written by PhD students, for PhD students!

Find the latest editions here!



There are lots of training opportunties with VIB & KU Leuven. For an overview of the workshops and courses on offer, check out our CBD training portal. Alternatively, you can explore all courses and workshops on offer at the VIB training and the Biomedical doctoral school websites.

CBD & NERF PhD symposium
First half of October 2018, Leuven

Two days of science and networking for all PhD students at our department and at NERF. Scroll down for more information about this year's edition.

Leuven international doctoral school of biomedical sciences

The Leuven International Doctoral School Biomedical Sciences is a lively community counting over 1200 PhD students, more than 250 supervisors and a dedicated administrative staff. The doctoral school provides an integrated framework for PhD training and offers career perspectives for doctoral graduates in different sectors.

NERF-CBD PhD week & symposium

Each year in September or October, the VIB-KU Leuven Center for Brain & Disease Research and NERF join forces to organize a PhD week and PhD symposium. First-year students are introduced to each other and to the wide range of research projects at both departments. The last day of the week, all other PhD students join in for a symposium, with both oral and poster presentations and plenty of opportunities to network. Workshops on career development and an international top speaker complete the program, which is carefully crafted by a rotating team of group leaders and senior PhD students.

Make sure you don't miss the 2018 edition! Last year's organising committee consisted of Abril Escamilla Ayala (Annaert lab), Antina de Boer (Van Den Bosch lab), Joachim Morrens (Haesler lab, NERF) and Yu-Chun Wang (Verstreken lab).  



It always seems impossible until it’s done. Once you have reached that milestone of obtaining your PhD, how do you look back and what new adventures await? We asked some of our recent graduates. 

Hermien Acx

PhD student at the De Strooper lab

Graduated in Jan 2017

Laura Paparelli

PhD student at the Annaert and Munck labs

Graduated in Jan 2017

Steven Boeynaems

PhD student at the Van Den Bosch lab

Graduated in May 2017

Joe McInnes

PhD student at the Verstreken lab

Graduated in Sept 2017

Where do you work now and what do you do exactly?

I am a product specialist at Biognost. We distribute products, mainly in the field of autoimmunity and infectious serology. My job is to give presentations and workshops, to train people how to work with our products, and to maintain a good relationship with our customers.

I am currently working for a pharma company in Switzerland. I entered the intellectual property field, my aim is to become a European patent attorney. This requires a training period (which is what I am doing now) and to pass exams for the qualification.

I started a postdoc at Stanford University in the lab of Aaron Gitler.

I have started a post-doc at Baylor College of Medicine, researching neurodegenerative diseases using large screening platforms and mouse models of disease.

How do you look back on your PhD experience?

With a smile! Knowing what I know now, I would definitely do it again. The people I met and the skills I developed were important for shaping me into who I am now. 

I think the PhD was a very interesting experience, definitely helpful for the next professional steps.

I am very satisfied. I think I got the most out of it.

My PhD was challenging but very rewarding. It was a time of a lot of personal and professional growth.

What do you like most about your new job?

I meet a lot of people, with all kinds of different jobs. I like making and giving presentations, teaching people and this is also an important part of my job. My colleagues are also very nice.

What I like of this job is the possibility to exploit my scientific background and build up new knowledge in the patent law field. Plus, working for a pharma company is very exciting.

The absolute freedom I get to pursue whatever I think is interesting, and the extremely collaborative environment.

The fact that it builds upon the skills from my PhD to further develop my long-term research goals.

Why did you choose that job, company or lab?

I was looking for a job that combines science and social interaction. Having the sales aspect in my job was actually not planned, but I like to try new things.

Because of the exciting research environment.

They are leaders in their field and experts in research areas and techniques that compliment my research interests.

Any advice for other PhD students?

This is a difficult question, as the experience of doing a PhD is different for everyone. What I think is important is to always think one step ahead and not lose sight of the bigger picture. 

My advice to other PhD students is to exploit the many opportunities at VIB and KU Leuven to strengthen not just your scientific but also your soft skills. Those will be useful later on,  whatever you decide to do.

I would say, don’t stress out too much, it will work out.

Stay motivated and focused. In the end, things always work if you do.