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PhD positions

PhD position at the the Industrial Catalysis and Adsorption Technology research group

At the Industrial Catalysis and Adsorption Technology research group of Ghent University, a position for a PhD student is available.

The aim of this PhD project is the elucidation of the thermodynamics of bio-aromatics. Evolutions towards a circular economy, including the replacement of fossil resources by renewable ones, have become increasingly important in the abatement of climate change. Lignin from lignocellulose constitutes an interesting resource for materials’ applications or for the production of renewable aromatic molecules, i.e., bio-aromatics. However, due to its highly irregular and complex structure containing many different substructures which are connected via several different linkages, lignin depolymerization will always yield a complex multicomponent mixture. Hence, the cost-effective separation of these bio-aromatics will be crucial for further valorization. A major hurdle that needs to be taken before being able to properly design such separation processes, is the development of adequate thermodynamic models, specifically designed for the considered bio-aromatics. Currently, these models have been developed for molecules and mixtures which are derived from petrochemical industry. However, molecules that contain multiple functional groups and/or heteroatoms are, typically, not well described. Therefore, this project aspires to develop a model for the prediction of the thermodynamic properties of bio-aromatics. The project will be kicked off with an extensive experimental study of phase equilibria (vapor-liquid, liquid-liquid and solid-liquid) involving these bio-aromatics. Subsequently, the experimental insights will be quantified, i.e., thermodynamic models which are able to adequately describe the experimentally obtained phase equilibria will be developed. More specifically, the binary interaction parameters that occur in the thermodynamic models will be determined or fine-tuned by means of regression against the experimental data and, if necessary, correction terms to be added to the thermodynamic models will be proposed. Finally, the developed thermodynamic model will be applied for separation train design purposes.

Candidates should hold a Master’s degree in Chemical Engineering Technology or Chemical Engineering or Bioscience Engineering: Chemistry and Bioprocess Technology.

Please contact Jeriffa De Clercq before October 1st if you are interested:

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PhD position Operational Life Cycle Sustainability Assesment Methodology Supporting Decisions Towards a Circular Economy

We welcome candidates for a full time appointment as PhD student at the research group Sustainable Systems Engineering (Prof. J. Dewulf), Faculty of Bioscience Engineering at Ghent University. The PhD student will be appointed within the framework of the EU Horizon 2020 project ORIENTING: Operational Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment Methodology Supporting Decisions Towards a Circular Economy. This project runs with an international consortium, including Tecnalia (Sp), VTT (Fi), Fraunhofer (De), Pre Consultants (Nl), ecoinvent (CH), BASF, and several other institutes.

Summary of the project
Sustainable development and circular economy require balancing between environmental, economic and social benefits and de-coupling the economic growth from resource use. The European New Green Deal highlights the need for reliable, comparable and verifiable sustainability information. Existing sustainability assessment approaches suffer from lack of comprehensiveness, consistency and practical tools for implementation. This results in fragmented and hardly comparable information on product sustainability performance.
The ORIENTING project takes up this challenge and develops a robust and operational methodology for the life cycle sustainability assessment (LCSA) of products and services. The novelty value of the project relates to an approach that considers environmental, social and economic impacts in an integrated way. The ambition is to develop a methodology that can assess goods produced under linear as well as circular business models, allowing practitioners to understand and manage possible trade-offs.
ORIENTING contributes to the development of a future Product Sustainability Footprint at European level, evolving existing PEF and designing new indicators for the evaluation of material criticality and product circularity. New tools will be developed to support and simplify the methodology application in business and policy development. Tools include guidance and training materials, data and software specifications and a hands-on LCSA IT tool. The LCSA methodology and its enabling tools are demonstrated in five industrial case studies. The consortium works in close cooperation with various stakeholders (industry associations and clusters, SMEs, consumer organisations, as well as governmental and standardisation bodies). The project outcomes will enable informed business
decisions and contribute to the development of a levelled playing field – a single market – for products based on robust (i.e. transparent and verifiable) sustainability information.

Deadline for application: 15/8/2020

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PhD position Cultured meat: consumer and sustainability

We welcome candidates for a full time appointment as PhD student at the research group Sustainable Systems Engineering (Prof. J. Dewulf), the Research Group Agro-food Marketing and Consumer Behaviour (Prof. W. Verbeke), and the Laboratory for Animal Nutrition and Animal Product Quality (Prof. S. De Smet), all belonging to the Faculty of Bioscience Engineering at Ghent University. The PhD student will be appointed within the framework of the Strategic Basic Research project of the Flemish Science Foundation: “Cultured stem cells for customized meat design”.

Summary of the project
Cellular agriculture is a promising avenue for sustainably contributing to the growing food demand. In this respect, cultured or in vitro meat receives increasing attention. Yet, there is currently no scientific evidence that animal myofibers equivalent to meat as a nutrient dense, highly structured food, can be made in vitro. This proposal will address several existing hurdles. A major challenge is to obtain a suitable cell type capable of both sufficient proliferation and robust differentiation. Muscle adult progenitor cells have a very good differentiation capacity, yet weak proliferation capacity, whereas mesenchymal and embryonic stem cells display the opposite behavior. First, we will compare and enhance the proliferation and differentiation capacity of these three cell types, resulting in an informed choice of cell type for myofiber generation. Secondly, we will design a ‘smart matrix’, including food-grade components that contribute to texture, flavor and a good nutritional profile. This involves a proper choice of materials which is mutually dependent on the technological approaches to create a 3D structure. Physicochemical stability of, and cellular adhesion and survival on these new matrices will be investigated. The best performing smart matrices will be tested on their potential to support muscle cell differentiation.
These insights will be subsequently used to increase muscle fiber size and to study in vitro muscle development in a 3D architecture. In addition, strategies for stimulating the build-up of contractile proteins will be investigated. Finally, public acceptance, consumer attitudes, perceptions and intentions, as well as impact on sustainability will be assessed. This project will deliver a sound scientific basis and assessment of key technologies for advancing knowledge in this field and allowing informed decision making for downstream valorization strategies.

Deadline for application: 15/8/2020

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PhD position Sustainable Marine Ecosystems Services

We welcome applications for a full-time PhD position within the Research Group Sustainable Systems Engineering (STEN) of the Department of Green Chemistry and Technology, Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, UGent. The PhD student will be appointed in a fellowship position on the project "Sustainable Marine Ecosystem Services (SUMES)".

A short summary of the SUMES project
A major challenge today is the sustainable management and use of the marine environment, especially as human activities increase and diversify. It is becoming valuable for companies to understand and measure the environmental impact associated with their operational activities (construction of wind turbines, aquaculture, innovative coastal protection systems, etc.) that provide ecosystem services to society, so that they can adapt their design, technologies, etc. towards a more sustainable business, giving them a competitive advantage. However, no comprehensive sustainability assessment methodology is currently available to measure and quantify both the positive and negative impacts of human activities at sea.
The Blue Cluster SUMES project therefore aims to develop a comprehensive model to assess the impact of human-induced changes on the marine ecosystem and beyond. The model investigates the structure (e.g. biodiversity) and function (e.g. food chains, biogeochemistry) of the marine ecosystem, its capacity to provide goods and services (e.g. carbon sequestration) and the impact of activities on the aforementioned aspects. The model integrates methods and indicators for ecosystem services, risk assessment and life cycle analysis, which will be aggregated at the level of 'endpoints' or 'protected areas', and therefore serves as a decision support model. The model will be based on case studies in the North Sea in collaboration with Flemish companies.

Deadline application: 31/7/2020

Postdoc positions

2 post-docs at the Sustainable Systems Engineering group

We welcome candidates for a full time appointment as postdoctoral researcher at the research group Sustainable Systems Engineering (STEN), coordinated by Prof. J. Dewulf, Faculty of Bioscience Engineering at Ghent University (Belgium). Two postdoctoral researchers will be appointed within the framework of at least two European- or nationally-funded research projects, related to more than one of the following topics:

  • Environmental sustainability assessment and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA);
  • Sustainable management and use of the marine environment and its ecosystem services;
  • Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment (LCSA) and aggregation techniques;
  • Sustainable natural resource management and (biobased) Circular Economy;
  • Carbon capture & use (CCU) emerging/innovation technologies and systems;
  • Food packaging emerging/innovation technologies and systems;
  • Automotive industry emerging/innovation technologies and systems.

Deadline for applications: 30/8/2020