PhD fellowship in RASOPTA at the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences

Updated: 3 months ago
Job Type: FullTime
Deadline: 15 Sep 2021

A 3-year PhD fellowship is available at the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences (PLEN), Section of Microbial Ecology and Biotechnology (MEB), University of Copenhagen, Frederiksberg, Denmark, with an expected start January 1st 2022.

The fellowship is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 956481.


The RASOPTA consortium consists of enthusiastic academic researchers and innovative non-academic partners, which together will train a new generation of scientists with expertise in sustainable and healthy fish production with minimum water consumption. Production of fish in recirculated aquaculture systems (RAS) requires experiences from several scientific disciplines, but there is need to bridge existing knowledge gaps between these disciplines to ensure a high water quality, healthy and non-stressed fish, and a supreme consumer quality of the fish. Therefore, in RASOPTA state-of-the-art training in important disciplines within RAS technology will be provided by 10 universities and research institutes and 8 non-academic partners in 8 countries. Primary goals of the training are to improve microbial processes to maintain a high water quality, to identify flavour compounds that may affect consumer preference for fish produced in RAS, and to ensure an optimum health and welfare of the fish. The research also aims at developing a DNA-based chip for early warning of quality and health of the fish. To reach these interdisciplinary goals in RASOPTA, the consortium will train 12 Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) in disciplines ranging from chemistry, microbiology and molecular biology, to physiology and pathology of fish.

About your project

The PhD (ESR) project at PLEN-MEB is part of a work package on microbiology and chemistry of off-flavour dynamics and will be carried out in collaboration with three other ESRs, enrolled at Dept. of Food Sciences, University of Copenhagen (FOOD), Friedrich-Alexander-Universität, Dept. Chemistry & Pharmacy, Germany (FAU), and the research institute Fraunhofer, Inst. for Process Engineering & Packaging, Freising, Germany (IVV).

At PLEN, important tasks for the PhD student will be to identify microorganisms that produce off-flavours in RAS and characterize their biology and ecology. Focus will be on bacteria that produce the off-flavour compound geosmin (produced by selected bacteria in RAS). The experimental procedures will include a wide range of disciplines, ranging from classical cultivation methods to molecular and bioinformatic analyses of genes involved in the geosmin synthesis.

The microbiological information obtained at PLEN-MEB will be related actual composition of off-flavour compounds in different types of RAS at FOOD, while IVV will study composition of fish feed and its impact on off-flavour production. At FAU, sensory profiles and consumer preference for taste in fish will be characterized.

Interactions between academic partners and between universities and industries are important elements in RASOPTA. To ensure collaboration between the European partners in the project, stays at FAU (analysis of off-flavour dynamics in German RAS), at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology NTNU (relations between microbial water treatment and off-flavours), and at producers of sturgeon (France) and salmon (Denmark) to study dynamics of off-flavour microbiology in large-scale RAS facilities, are included in the project. Duration of the stays is estimated to 3 months.

The candidate will be enrolled at the PhD School of Science (Graduate Program in Natural Sciences, /) at the University of Copenhagen. The graduate program requires the student to obtain 30 ECTS points during the three-year period in order to graduate. Courses are shown at the PhD School of Science website (including a mandatory course for responsible conduct of research) at . Mandatory training activities in RASOPTA will contribute 12 ECTS to the ESRs.

Eligibility criteria

- The researcher must not have resided or carried out his/her main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the country of his/her host organization for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to his/her recruitment - unless as part of a procedure for obtaining refugee status under the Geneva Convention[1] .

- The researcher must be Early Stage Researcher (ESR): at time of recruitment he/she must be in the first 4 years (full-time equivalent research experience)[2] of his/her research careers and must not have been awarded a doctoral degree.

Further requirements

Qualifications: Master’s degree, preferably within microbiology, biology, biotechnology, or a closely related field. To be considered for the position, it is a condition that your Master’s degree is equivalent to a Danish Master’s degree.

Experience: Experiences in organizing and structuring laboratory work; capacity to collaborate but also work independently; teaching and supervision of students.

Knowledge and skills: Basic knowledge on microbiological, molecular and bioinformatic approaches; good communication skills; fluency in written and spoken English.

Abilities: Interpreting scientific literature and understanding the research process are essential. Communication with non-academic staff, e.g. during secondments at industrial partners.

Other: Self-motivated and critical approach to work; willingness to learn new skills; and willing to travel and go on secondments.)

About Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences (PLEN)

The mission of PLEN is to stimulate fundamental research and the synergy between basic and applied research in biology and environmental science. The focus is on plants, microorganisms, animals and the environment as a basis for sustainable production of food and other biological products. At the Section Microbial Ecology and Biotechnology (MEB), the research in environmental microbiology aims to elucidate, understand, and exploit basic interactions between microorganisms and their environment. This research is relevant for protecting and promoting microbial ecosystem services for the benefit of environmental and human health. The research focuses on microbial transformation of inorganic and organic compounds in water and soil and the impacts of pollutants on microorganisms from the cellular to the ecosystem level. This research is relevant for protecting and promoting microbial ecosystem processes for the benefit of environmental and human health.

Researchers at PLEN collaborate with several national and international research institutes in a creative, open and dynamic work environment. PLEN wishes our staff to reflect the diversity of the society and thus, the department welcomes applications from all qualified candidates regardless of personal background.

Terms of employment

Employment will start at January 1st 2022.

The terms of employment and salary are in accordance with the Memorandum on Job Structure for Academic Staff. Terms of appointment and payment accord to the agreement between the Ministry of Finance and The Danish Confederation of Professional Associations on Academics in the State.

The starting salary is currently starting from DKK 27,800 including annual supplement (+ pension up to DKK 4,500) and in accordance with the rules and regulations laid down by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action European Training Network.

More information

More information about Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences can be found at . For further information about the position, applicants may contact Associate Professor Mette H. Nicolaisen (phone +45-35332649; email: ), or Associate Professor Niels O. G. Jørgensen (phone +45-35332625; email: .


The application must include a cover letter, a curriculum vitae, diplomas (e.g. exam scores), contact information for possible reference persons, as well as any other relevant material.

The closing date for applications is September 15th 2021.

Candidates must submit their application electronically via “apply now below” or via the following link:


After the expiry of the deadline for applications, the authorized recruitment manager selects applicants for assessment on the advice of an Interview Committee.

Selected candidates are invited for interviews in October 2021.

[1] 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Protocol

[2] This is measured from the date when a researcher obtained the degree which would formally entitle him or her to embark on a doctorate, either in the country in which the degree was obtained or in the country in which the researcher is recruited, irrespective of whether or not a doctorate is or was ever envisaged.

Part of the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU), and among Europe’s top-ranking universities, the University of Copenhagen promotes research and teaching of the highest international standard. Rich in tradition and modern in outlook, the University gives students and staff the opportunity to cultivate their talent in an ambitious and informal environment. An effective organisation – with good working conditions and a collaborative work culture – creates the ideal framework for a successful academic career

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