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Website Ghent University

Job description
The Sustainable Systems Engineering (STEN) group of Ghent University welcomes a candidate for a full time PhD position on the sustainability of extracted seaweed proteins and microbial proteins from seaweed residues, and other valuable components, for the food and feed industry. The PhD student will be involved in the Flemish funded (FWO) SUPROSEA project (SUstaianble PROteins from SEAweeds), involving academia, industry and governmental organisations.

Because of the generally high standard of living in Europe, protein shortage is imminent. Today, protein-rich crops such as soy are imported to meet the high demand, leading to unsustainable practices. Europe, including Flanders, is committed to growing protein seeds, legumes, etc. but is far from self-sufficient in protein. SUPROSEA is framed within the Flemish Protein Strategy which sets the 40%-60% animal versus plant protein target and takes into account the limited availability of agricultural land in Flanders. Therefore, SUPROSEA focusses on aquatic protein rich biomass, i.e. different species of seaweed (green, brown and red) as they are economically and ecologically interesting organisms for the extraction of proteins, and other high-value compounds such a pigments for the food and feed industry. The culture conditions of local seaweed will be optimized to improve the quality and quantity of the components to be extracted. Different mild extraction techniques will be tested, and the residual seaweed biomass will be fermented to produce microbial proteins. Moreover, efficient ways to valorize the remaining biomass in a cascade biorefinery approach will be investigated (zero-waste approach). The main objective of the project is to identify the most promising biorefinery in terms of sustainability.

The main sub-objectives of the PhD thesis include:

  • support in the development of seaweed biorefineries and collecting the necessary data
    performing scale-up modelling, and prospective life cycle assessment, as the technology will be tested on low TRL
  • methodological advancements in the field of life cycle assessment, to better account for biodiversity and ecosystem services impacts
  • generating environmental impact assessment results for selected seaweed biorefinery scenarios
    developing an integrated and holistic sustainability method (including economic aspects as well)

In this PhD position, you will work in close collaboration with colleagues at Ghent University and with the other SUPROSEA partners ILVO, Antwerp University, Bio Base Europe Pilot plant. Furthermore, there is a diverse international advisory board (e.g., Cargill, DEME, Orffa, Solina, Belgian Feed Association, Bond Beter leefmilieu, Flemish Government, etc.) to interact with. Part of the work can be done via teleworking.

The scientific findings should lead to publications in international peer reviewed journals and should be presented at international conferences.

The start date is planned at October 1st 2024. The PhD duration is four years.

Job Profile

Candidates are expected to have a background in engineering (bioscience, materials, chemistry …) and/or an affinity for (prospective) sustainability analysis. We are looking for candidates with a critical and analytical attitude and a sense of initiative.

Other profile requirements:

  • You hold a master’s degree in environmental engineering, bioscience engineering, chemical engineering, materials engineering, environmental technology or equivalent.
  • The degree requirements must be met at the start of the appointment;
  • You have an interest in scientific research;
  • You can operate both independently and in a multidisciplinary team;
  • You have organisational/managerial skills and are highly motivated;
  • You have good writing and presentation skills;
  • You master the English language, written and orally, in an academic context;
  • Having experience with quantitative research is essential;

Additional plus points:

  • You have experience with LCA software such as SimaPro, openLCA, GaBi, etc.;
  • You have experience with ecosystem services and/or biodiversity modelling;
  • You have experience with prospective sustainability assessments;
  • You have experience with sustainability assessments of marine biomass;
  • You have experience with aggregation of different sustainability topics;
  • You have experience with the development and comparison of different value chain scenarios;

How to apply

Apply by sending ultimately June 17th an email to [email protected] as follows:

  • Mention in subject line: “SuproSea – Application name surname”.
  • Attach into 1 single pdf file:
    • Item 1: Cover letter
    • Item 2: CV
    • Item 3: contact details of 1 or 2 reference persons.
    • Item 4:  ‘Diploma’ items, e.g. an overview of your study results, transcript of the required degree (if already in your possession). If you have a foreign diploma in a language other than our national languages (Dutch, French or German) or English, please add a translation in one of the mentioned languages.

Note that the maximum file size is 10 MB.

Selection procedure:

1. Preselection based on the provided documents.

2. Selection based on interviews.

As Ghent University maintains an equal opportunities and diversity policy, everyone is encouraged to apply for this position.

For more information about the content of this position, please contact [email protected].

To apply for this job please visit

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