PHD position in Applied Microbiology & Food Technology

Katholieke Universiteit Leuven


February 7, 2022


PHD position in Applied Microbiology & Food Technology

(ref. BAP-2021-853)

Last modification : Wednesday, January 5, 2022

We offer a 100% PhD position at the lab of Meat Technology & Science of Protein-Rich Foods (MTSP) at the KU Leuven Technology Campus in Ghent, Belgium. The expertise of MTSP includes the processing and analysis of protein-rich foods, including meat and fish products, vegetarian or vegan meat and dairy alternatives and analogues based on vegetable proteins or new protein sources such as insects or microalgae. In doing so, we tackle product- related challenges such as appearance, taste and texture, but also chemical, physical and microbiological stability and product safety. Our research has a strong focus on the (techno)functional properties of raw materials, ingredients (proteins, fats, fibers, hydrocolloids, etc.) and additives and their role in the structure formation of protein-rich foods. In MTSP, we investigate and influence the quality properties of protein-rich foods not only through the use of different ingredients, but also through adaptation of processing steps and controlled fermentation. In addition, the research group focuses on process control and optimization, including the development of suitable hurdle concepts for protein-rich foods.

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The production of vegan meat and dairy analogues presents several challenges, including the development of suitable plant-based texture and flavor profiles. In addition, shelf life is a huge challenge as hurdle concepts cannot be easily transferred from an established meat or cheese product to a vegan product analogue due to e.g. differences in product matrix, water content or pH value. An interesting approach could be the use of (exopolysaccharide/EPS- forming) starter cultures that already have a long tradition in the food industry. The EPS formed in-situ possess similar functional properties to hydrocolloids. However, EPS formation and interactions with the food matrix are highly dependent on the ingredients used and on extrinsic as well as intrinsic parameters.

The selected PhD candidate will hence investigate: How fermentation kinetics and/or EPS production can be improved and controlled through adapted processing steps and conditions to cause desired effects in the different vegan target matrices. // How selected starter cultures (formed EPS) alter the product structure and thus the texture of the analogues (ingredient interactions and structure-function relationships) and how flavor profiles are affected. // How existing hurdle concepts need to be modified to improve the shelf life of vegan analogues in the absence and presence of selected starter cultures.


We are looking for a highly motivated, enthusiastic and creatively thinking PhD student.

  • Master in biochemistry, food technology or applied food microbiology
  • Passionate about lab work
  • Experience in the production, analysis, etc. of protein-rich foods and/or experience in the field of fermentation is an advantage
  • Fluent in English (Dutch is advantageous but not mandatory for the application. However, Dutch language skills need to be acquired during the PhD - courses are offered by KU Leuven)
  • Ability to work both independently and in a team (at MTSP we work in close collaboration with the team and also with other departments at KU Leuven)
  • Presenting and publishing research results is important to you
  • Offer

    We offer:

  • A doctoral scholarship (fully funded) for four years (provided a positive evaluation after 9 months)
  • Multiple benefits (doctoral trainings, health insurance, access to university infrastructure and sports facilities, etc.)
  • Working in & with a great team!
  • The opportunity to participate in research collaborations and international conferences
  • Interested?

    Please apply with:

    CV (including a publication list if applicable / a short description of your working experience and or traineeships / Title, year, university and supervisor of your Bachelor and Master thesis)

    A max. one A4 page statement explaining the motivation for applying for this vacancy at KU Leuven. In this regard we strongly encourage you to visit the research group's website (see link above) and have a look at some of the recent publications.

    Reference letters are not needed at this point of application.

    Decision: As soon as a suitable candidate applies; earliest starting date: March 2022

    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

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