Postdoctoral Researcher @ Maastricht University - campus Venlo

Updated: about 2 months ago
Deadline: 03 Nov 2020

Postdoctoral Researcher @ Maastricht University - campus Venlo
Postdoctoral Researcher @ Maastricht University - campus Venlo
Published Deadline Location
24 Sep 3 Nov Venlo

Maastricht University Campus Venlo is looking for a postdoctoral researcher for the project entitled "Studying structure-function relationship of dietary fibres and prebiotics"
Job description

The scenery

The mission of the Maastricht University - campus Venlo is to bring academic education and research about healthy food to the Greenport Venlo area. In the inner-city of Venlo the University College Venlo Bachelor and two Master programs in Health Food Innovation Management and Global Supply Chain Management & Change are situated. The life sciences research is located in Villa Flora at the former Floriade venue.

The life sciences research at the Greenport Venlo campus focuses on food, nutrition and health. The first life sciences research program that started was the Centre for Health Eating & Food Innovation (HEFI).
HEFI investigates the effects of healthy foods, builds up knowledge about the health effects of food and the development of new nutritional products. HEFI is publicly oriented and focuses at the three relevant dimensions to further the use of healthy nutritional products; 1. Food, 2. People, and 3. Sustainability. Part of this research is focussed on using in vitro models of the gastrointestinal tract to study the fate of ingested food.

The project

The project is entitled “Studying structure-function relationship of dietary fibres and prebiotics”.  In summary it entails the following:

The human gut microbiota is a diverse, dynamic and complex environment, harboring trillions of microorganisms, including Bacteria, Archaea, Eukarya and Viruses. Typically, these anaerobic communities inhabit the colon in a symbiotic fashion and obtain energy through fermentative reactions of dietary or host components that reach the colon. The gut microbiota plays an important role in various kinds of diseases and disorders, such as obesity and diabetes, some types of cancer, gut inflammation, allergies and even brain-related diseases. The host diet appears to be the most important environmental factor that affects gut microbiota composition, and, consequently human health, due to the gut microbiota’s role on local and systemic biological processes such as the maintenance and development of the immune system, metabolism, nutrient utilization and resistance against infections. Particularly dietary fibers (DF) shape the gut microbiota. They are nutrients that provide energy to the bacterial communities, and also yields several microbial metabolites as end products, such as short chain fatty acids (SCFA; primarily acetate, propionate and butyrate), which are known to have health benefits.

DF are referred to as an extremely heterogeneous group of substances, which may differ in type, monosaccharide content, anomeric configuration of monosaccharides (α or β), D or L configuration, chemical bond between monosaccharides, the length of the polymeric chain, the presence, distribution and composition of branched chains, as well as the presence of esterified acetyl, methyl or sulfate and other groups. There is recognition of the wide diversity of chemical structures of the polysaccharides that comprise DF. Despite the large and growing volume of published research relating their effects on various physiological and metabolic conditions, little attention has been given to fully define and report in detail the DF sources and their chemical features in those published studies. In other words, structure-function relationship is largely missing.

Therefore, the current project aims to investigate the mechanistic connections between the gut microbiota composition with its capability to use dietary fibers as substrates, in order to define a structure-function relationship, which would allow for a rational choice of DF in health and disease in the future. To achieve the objectives and determine structure-function relationships, it will be necessary to identify and properly characterize the chemical structure of DF from food sources.

To this end, use will be made of a sophisticated, dynamic, computer-controlled in vitro model of the colon (nick-named TIM-2 for TNO’s in vitro large intestinal model), with which the promotor at Maastricht University has more than 20 years of experience. This sophisticated in vitro model closely mimics the physiological conditions in the human (or animal) large intestine. It has been validated and is predictive for what happens in human individuals with repsect to modulation of the microbiota composition and its activity. 

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Maastricht University (UM)


To complete our team, we are looking for a PostDoc having experience in carbohydrate characterization, with respect to monosaccharide constituent composition, size distribution, etc., and preferably experience with microbiological skills at laboratory scale in a pioneering setting or with a strong basis in nutritional expertise and research.

The PostDoc will furthermore support Bachelor, Master and PhD students in their lab work, and support educational tasks in the framework of the Campus Venlo educational programs. Didactic or educational experience is a plus.

The ideal candidate should distinguish him/herself with:

-        Experience in a scientific laboratory setting, with a PhD in Carbohydrate Chemistry, Life Sciences, and/or Nutrition.

-        Strong affinity for nutritional research in health and disease, with interest in the link between nutrition and gut microbiota.

-        Strong in establishing collaborations and building networks between partners; in other words a flexible team-player.

-        A pioneering, creative and constructive mindset.

-        A “can do” and “hands-on” mentality for further development of the lab, particularly with respect to carbohydrate analyses, eager to work.

-        Affinity with innovation and entrepreneurship: development of new and health food products.

-        Affinity with education.

-        Eager to work in a starting/growing and international team, affinity in supervision juniors.

-        Willing to write additional research grant for him/herself and the team.

-        If non-Dutch mother language, willingness to learn Dutch.


Conditions of employment

The terms of employment of Maastricht University are set out in the Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities (CAO). Furthermore, local UM provisions also apply. For more information look at the website > Support > UM employees .

Your salary will be based on the VNU salary for PostDocs starting at approx. € 3.746,-- and increasing to € 5.127,-- gross per month over the course of the appointment, according to salary scale 11. On top of this, there is an 8% holiday and an 8.3% year-end allowance.

The contract is for a period of 2.5 year, and could be extended when research grants are being scored. The contract is temporarily with possibilities for extension upon proper functioning, but pending funding. Anticipated starting date: Jan 01, 2021.


Maastricht University

Maastricht University is renowned for its unique, innovative, problem-based learning system, which is characterized by a small-scale and student-oriented approach. Research at UM is characterized by a multidisciplinary and thematic approach, and is concentrated in research institutes and schools. Maastricht University has around 18,000 students and 4,400 employees. Reflecting the university's strong international profile, a fair amount of both students and staff are from abroad. The university hosts 6 faculties: Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, Faculty of Law, School of Business and Economics, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience.

Campus Venlo/Villa Flora

The research facilities of Maastricht University - campus Venlo are located in Villa Flora, a former greenhouse at the outskirts of Venlo. The building has been transformed into a site where numerous parties join together in research on healthy food. The Maastricht University facilities are, with approx. 600 m2, the largest in Villa Flora, and have been in use only since Jan 2018. The brand new facilities are state-of-the-art, and are an excellent setting for the anticipated project. The group of Prof. Venema, where the research will be carried out, has a close collaboration with the Dept. of Human Biology in Maastricht where similar research on the effects of pro- & prebiotics, and SCFA (with a focus on acetate) is being carried out. A strong link with this department is foreseen. Prof. Venema’s lab is equipped with the necessary molecular DNA equipment to carry out the research, such as a Q-PCR machine and an Illumina MiSeq sequencer. Also, the necessary bioinformatics tools are in place to study the effect of the interventions on the gut microbiota composition and activity.

Additional information

Prof. Dr. Koen Venema, HEFI, St. Jansweg 20, 5928 RC, Venlo, The Netherlands; Tel.: +31 6224 35111; email:

Application procedure

Maastricht University is committed to nurturing an inclusive culture and a welcoming atmosphere. This inclusiveness strategy has resulted in a very diverse representation of nationalities and cultures. We strongly believe that diversity (including, but not limited to nationality, age and gender) of the staff and student population will increase the quality of UM education & research. Fostering diversity and inclusivity creates an academic community where individual talents thrive, and values and differences are cherished. We strongly encourage you to apply if you are qualified for this position.

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Don't forget to mention AcademicTransfer and the job number: AT2020.280 in your letter.

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