Industrial Microbiology and Food Biotechnology

Vacancies @ IMDO

The Research Group of Industrial Microbiology and Food Biotechnology (IMDO) wishes to recruit SIX PhD stduents for food biotechnology research.

Each student will be involved in internally or externally funded research projects. All projects include microbiological work, using advanced culture-dependent and culture-independent techniques, (meta)genomic and/or (meta)transcriptomic work including bioinformatics, and/or (meta)metabolomic work, using different chromatographic separation techniques and detection systems, including mass spectrometry. The following topics are available:

1) Cereal-based fermented foods (two PhD students)

A European research project will unravel the interactions between the microbiota in cereal-based fermented foods, in particular sourdough and borş, and the human gut microbiome and human health. The research group IMDO will isolate and identify microorganisms from sourdoughs that will be collected through a citizen science project, as well as perform the genotypic characterization of a selection of microorganisms obtained by the whole research consortium by means of advanced genome sequencing, gene prediction, and functional annotation. Genome-wide metabolic models will be set up for a selection of promising microorganisms to better understand and even predict metabolism and physiology. In collaboration with the main project partner, KU Leuven, laboratory-scale fermentations will be performed with a selection of well-characterized microorganisms and specific fractions of wheat and wheat bran, to ultimately obtain healthy, tasty, safe, and sustainable cereal-based fermented foods. These fermentation processes will be monitored as a function of the fermentation time, whereby samples will be examined regarding the microbiota (culture-dependent and culture-independent methods) and meta-metabolomics.

2) Meat fermentation (one PhD student)

Fermented meat products constitute a diverse group of food ecosystems in which both lactic acid bacteria (LAB) and Gram-positive catalase-positive cocci (GCC) form the fermentation microbiota and contribute to product quality and safety. During previous research projects, it has been mapped in detail how the species diversity of these microbiota is largely controlled by the specificities of the starting materials (meat type and quality, saltiness, ingredients) and the imposed process conditions (in particular the fermentation temperature). This follow-up study aims to use microbiological, metabolomic, and (meta)genomic/transcriptomic methodologies to explain in a more mechanistic way how species diversity comes about and to examine in more detail what the underlying bacterial competitiveness factors are that favour (or disfavour) certain species of LAB and GCC.

3) Antique recipes (two PhD students)

This research is part of an (inter)national EOS project, entitled “Agriculture, diet and nutrition in Greco-Roman Egypt: reassessing ancient sustenance, food processing and (mal)nutrition”. The aim is to reconstruct ancient food processing and preparation processes based on historical source material in collaboration with historians, papyrologists, and archaeologists. By measuring the (anti-)nutritional changes during the production process of recreated foods (bread and beer), the project will map the relative changes that take place during historical food preparation. One of the PhD students will focus on the microbiological analyses, while the other PhD student will take on the nutritional biochemistry (in particular with regard to the analysis of food components that influence nutritional value).

4) Lambic beer production (one PhD student)

Lambic beers are traditionally produced in Belgium near the Senne Valley by spontaneous microbial inoculation of wort prepared from barley malt, unmalted wheat, aged dry hops, and water, which initiates a fermentation and maturation process that takes place over many years in wooden barrels. This doctoral research aims to understand the impact of raw materials, such as those used decades ago, and wooden barrel fermentation and maturation on the microbiota and flavour development of lambic beers. This project is in collaboration with a traditional lambic brewery in the Pajottenland region.

 

Profile

The candidate has a university degree of MSc of Bioengineering Sciences (Chemistry and Bioprocess Technology or Cell and Gene Biotechnology) or an equivalent degree, with in-depth knowledge of and interest in (food) microbiology, biochemistry, bioinformatics, fermentation technology, and/or food science and technology. Important additional qualifications are: sense of initiative, group spirit, sense of responsibility, motivation and dynamism, a hardworking attitude, persistence, resistance to stress and good communication, and reporting skills. Good knowledge of the English language (oral and written) is required.

 

We offer

A young, creative, dynamic, pluralistic, diverse and international working environment. Opportunities for national and international collaboration with renowned labs and companies. An interesting field with many possibilities for a future career. Salary as a PhD student.

 

All vacancies can be filled immediately.

 

If interested, please contact and send your curriculum vitae to:

Prof. Dr. ir. Luc DE VUYST

Vrije Universiteit Brussel - IMDO - Pleinlaan 2 - B-1050 Brussels - Belgium

Tel: 02/629 32 45 - Email: luc.de.vuyst@vub.be - Website: http://imdo.vub.ac.be