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Closed for Applications



Early Stage Researcher (ESR14)  

PhD Fellowship in Modeling the Effects of Ripening Conditions on Flavour Development of Semi-Hard Cheese and Plant-Based Cheese Analogues

Project Title

“E-MUSE Complex microbial ecosystems multiscale modelling: mechanistic and data driven approaches integration” MSCA-ITN-2020 European Training Network

Hosting Organization



Gent Chemical & Biochemical Process Technology & Control (BioTec+), Ghent and Aalst Technology Campuses 

Researcher Profiles


Research Field

Engineering Science, Bioscience Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Microbial and Molecular Systems

Application Deadline

You can apply for this job no later than October 15, 2021

Envisaged Job Starting Date



3 years

Contract Type



3 years financial support to pursue a PhD (including Living, Mobility and Family Allowance according to H2020-MSCA-ITN regulations)


ESR14 to be recruited by KU Leuven/BioTeC+ will set-up and execute fermentations with cheeses (plant-based or hybrid) and study the effect of various storage/ripening conditions on flavour development and microbial stability. Based on the data obtained, ESR14 will develop a mathematical model to predict condition-dependent characteristics of plant-based cheeses. Correlations between ripening conditions, cheese properties and the final flavour of the product will be investigated using linear and non-linear methods. Based on the identified relations and the data available, a regression model based on machine learning methods will be trained and validated for the prediction of the properties of cheese analogues.

Expected Results

This project is expected to generate a mathematical in silico model that predicts the impact of ripening conditions of semi hard cheese on flavour formation which will be extended to plant based cheese analogues based on high throughput experimental data (through in vitro cheese models) obtained in the project. The development of plant-based cheese analogues (in vitro cheese models) will set new standards for generating reproducible data sets.

Planned Secondments

In total, 2 months will be spent analysing data ripening conditions and 6 months performing experimental work flavour development at NIZO Food Research BV (NIZO) in Netherlands and 2 months performing flavour analysis at the French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food, and the Environment (INRAE) in France.

Enrolment in Doctoral degree


Required Education Level

We are seeking highly motivated candidates that hold a master in Food Science/Food Technology/Biological Engineering/... 

Skills / Qualifications

  • with demonstrable affinity for microbiology, with a strong background in data science and mathematical modelling,

  • hands-on experience with standard microbiological techniques and chemical analytical techniques,

  • strong background in data processing and interpretation,
    experience with beneficial and pathogenic food bacteria is favored.

  • the candidate should be open to interdisciplinary collaboration and be interested in both fundamental and applied research. 

  • networking and good communications skills (writing and presentation skills)

  • willingness to travel abroad for the purpose of research, training and dissemination.

Specific Requirements

For the eligibility please check: Eligibility Criteria

Required Languages

English: B2, good oral and written communication skills in English are compulsory

Supervisors Team

The lead supervisor Prof. Jan Van Impe, the Division Head and founder of BioTeC (Chemical and Biochemical Process Technology and Control) research group at KU Leuven is also a coordinator of the European Master of Science in Food Science, Technology and Business (BIFTEC), co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union. J. Van Impe (co)supervised 65 PhDs and you can become part of the dynamic KU Leuven/BioTeC+ research group (6 postdocs and about 14 PhD researchers), headed by Prof. Jan F.M. Van Impe. The co-supervisors are Marjon Wells-Bennik - Principal Scientist at NIZO, Wim Engels - Senior project manager/Scientist fermentation and dairy at NIZO and Prof. Cristian Trelea - at AgroParisTech, Food process engineering and microbiology in SayFood research unit in Grignon, France.

Host Institution Description

The vision of BioTeC+ (Chemical & Biochemical Process Technology & Control) is to consolidate and strengthen both its international research position and its societal impact by focusing on a carefully selected number of research areas and application domains in applied chemistry/chemical and biological process engineering. 

At present, these application domains can be characterized by the keywords industrial biotechnology, closing the waste/water cycle, and public health. These constitute the pillars (columns) (bio)chemical reactions & reactors, (biological) waste(-water) treatment systems, and predictive microbiology/microbial risk assessment within BioTeC’s research matrix. This broad range of application domains is supported by our long standing systemic (systems and control) approach towards applied chemistry/chemical and biological process engineering. The research areas system theory and analysis, process model identification (including optimal experimental design), process monitoring, optimization and model based control characterize the transversal rows in the research matrix. These rows constitute the longstanding fundament of BioTeC’s research covering and underpinning all application domains (pillars).

The underlying motivation is that model based solutions to chemical and biological process design, optimization and control are superior in performance and robustness as compared to plain heuristic approaches. In the case of microbial conversions for example, process optimization is aimed at by creating optimal environmental conditions for the cell. Therefore, this line of research is fully complementary to process optimization by genetically modifying the cell itself. To realize this mission, interdisciplinary research is required: both concepts and techniques from mathematical modeling and systems and control as well as detailed (micro-)biological/(bio-)chemical knowledge are essential building blocks for high performance process identification, intensification and control algorithms.

KU Leuven/BioTeC+ runs a state-of-the-art L2 accredited laboratory for experimental predictive microbiology research, as well as high-end computing facilities. Our 6 postdocs and 14 PhD researchers are involved in numerous international research projects and networks, including 5 ongoing EU projects. As a most international and inclusive team, we look forward to welcome you on our campus in the vibrant city of Gent, Belgium!

A substantial part of the work will be performed in the laboratories of NIZO in Ede, The Netherlands. NIZO ( is a leading company in contract research for better food and health. NIZO has one of the most advanced R&D centers in the world and brings the latest food technologies to life in their food grade processing center. Main focus is on the development and applications of innovations for the global food industry and related markets. Customers value their gains in product quality, sustainability, cost effectiveness and speed to market. NIZO is continuously looking for new ways of improving food products, and at the same time quality of life. Substantial knowledge and expertise in bacteria, proteins and processing is the starting point of numerous contribution to innovation.


To Apply


  1. Click Apply

  2. You will be redirected to KU Leuven website where you need to follow the application process of the University.

Only candidates who follow the above instructions will be further considered for the recruitment process.

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