PhD-candidate (1,0 FTE) at FHML-NUTRIM / dept. of Pharmacology and Toxicology for investigating the influence of sugar sources on the Maillard reaction in food

Updated: 2 months ago
Deadline: 13 Oct 2022

PhD-candidate (1,0 FTE) at FHML-NUTRIM / dept. of Pharmacology and Toxicology for investigating the influence of sugar sources on the Maillard reaction in food
PhD-candidate (1,0 FTE) at FHML-NUTRIM / dept. of Pharmacology and Toxicology for investigating the influence of sugar sources on the Maillard reaction in food
Published Deadline Location
29 Sep 13 Oct Maastricht

In recent decades, a significant change has taken place in the food industry with many food manufacturers switching from sucrose as a sugar source to fructose and high-fructose corn syrup. The large-scale change from sucrose to fructose and glucose may have contributed to the large increase in the incidence of IBD. How does the change of sugar sources in food products influence the course of the Maillard reaction and how does this subsequently affect the gut? How does gastrointestinal digestion contribute to this?
Job description

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a chronic inflammatory disease of the gastrointestinal tract that belongs to the autoimmune diseases. The very first case of IBD in Europe was reported in 1875 and it was until the second half of the 20th century still a rare disease. However, after the Second World War there was a rapid increase in the incidence of IBD. This increase is most pronounced in industrialized regions, including The Netherlands. There seems to be a clear relationship with a simultaneous increase in adherence to the Western diet.

An important feature of a Western diet is the high content of sugars and fats. Although proper heating of the food also plays an increasingly important role in the preparation of our food, it may also contribute to possible negative health effects due to the activation of the Maillard reaction and the subsequent formation of Maillard reaction products. The Maillard reaction is dependent on several factors, such as the presence of proteins and reducing sugars, temperature, pH and hydration. Moreover, gastrointestinal digestion has recently been proposed as a contributing factor to the formation of Maillard reaction products.

In the last decades, an important change has taken place in the food sector with many food manufacturers switching from sucrose as a sugar source to fructose and high-fructose corn syrup. Whereas sucrose is a non-reducing sugar, fructose and glucose are reducing sugars. This change from sucrose as a sweetener to fructose and glucose as sweeteners in food could thus have a major effect on the course of the Maillard reaction in food. To what extent this change of sugar source influences the Maillard reaction and how this has contributed to the increased prevalence of inflammatory bowel disease needs to be further investigated.

We are therefore looking for an enthusiastic PhD candidate to analyze the influence of different sugar sources and other parameters (digestion, temperature, pH, etc.) on the course of the Maillard reaction, and to furthermore investigate how this changes the toxicological effects of Maillard reaction products in the intestines. This will be done using chemical analytical techniques, (liquid chromatography coupled with tandem mass spectrometry (UPLC-MS/MS) and various in vitro toxicological assays with regards to several toxicological endpoints. Furthermore, the TNO GastroIntestinal Model (TIM-1) will be used to study the effect of digestion on the course of the Maillard reaction. The PhD position will be based at Maastricht University in the department of Pharmacology & Toxicology in collaboration with Wageningen Food Safety Research (WFSR).

  • max. 38 hours per week
  • €2541—€3247 per month
  • Maastricht View on Google Maps

Maastricht University (UM)


Candidates will be judged based on the requirements outlined below.

You have:

  • A successful Master of Science (MSc) in Biomedical Sciences, Molecular Life Sciences, (Analytical) Chemistry, Food Technology, Food Safety or any related field;
  • A solid theoretical background in and affinity with biochemistry, toxicology, and/or food safety;
  • Hands-on experience (and strong analytical capacity) with standard  chemical analytical techniques (such as HPLC, Mass spectrometry) and molecular techniques (such as HPLC, GC, PCR, cell culture, RT-PCR, Western blotting and immunocytochemistry); 
  • A real researcher’s mentality: open-minded, curious, enthusiastic, independent, self-starting, inquisitive and accurate;
  • Strong communication skills in English (fluent at C1 level), including scientific English writing and presenting and who has the ambition to share research outside of regular scholarly activities (such as writing publications);
  • Team player enjoying working in a multidisciplinary, international and growing team.

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: 48 months.

Temporary employment for 4 years. Before the end of the first year, an evaluation takes place and a go-no go decision will be taken for the other three years.
Each year an evaluation will take place.

Your salary will be € 2,541 gross per month in the first year up to € 3,247 gross per month in the fourth year according to the PhD-candidate salary scale. An 8% holiday and an 8.3% year-end allowance is also provided. 

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  > About UM > Working at UM .

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 22,000 students and about 5,000 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. 
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NUTRIM - School of Nutrition and Translational Research in Metabolism 
NUTRIM School of Nutrition and Translational Research in Metabolism initiates and catalyzes translational research into nutritional health benefits and risks focusing on metabolic and chronic inflammatory diseases. Through its research master and PhD program NUTRIM aims to educate scientists of high academic excellence and ambassadors to support and develop the field of nutrition, metabolism and toxicology within and outside the Netherlands. Sixteen biomedical, clinical, and behavioural-science departments are incorporated within NUTRIM

More information:

Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology
This project is situated within the Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology where a multidisciplinary team of biologists, chemists and toxicologists is working together to address mechanisms by which chemicals and oxidative stress alter cellular processes to cause diseases and study the way in which intervention is possible. To reach these goals, the department's laboratory is well equipped with facilities for chemical analysis including mass spectrometry (MS) and electron spin resonance (ESR), the analysis of DNA damage and multiple state-of-the-art molecular biological techniques. The research will be done in close collaboration with Wageningen Food Safety Research (WFSR). WFSR has extensive  chemical-analytical expertise, a broad range of state-of-the-art mass spectrometry instruments, and substantial knowledge about the chemistry of the Maillard reaction in food products. The chemical analytical work will be performed at WFSR during the project. The toxicological work will be carried out at the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology of Maastricht University. It is therefore foreseen that the candidate will be working two years in Maastricht and two years in Wageningen.

Additional information

Additional information about the vacancy can be obtained from:

Dr. Misha Vrolijk:  

Prof. Dr. Frederik Jan van Schooten:

Dr. Stefan van Leeuwen:

To apply at this vacancy, press the button ‘apply now’ to see the application procedure.

Working at Maastricht University

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Application procedure

Applications should include a motivation letter (of approximately 1 A4), and a curriculum vitae with contact details of two references.

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Maastricht University is committed to promoting and nurturing a diverse and inclusive community. We believe that diversity in our staff and student population contributes to the quality of research and education at UM, and strive to enable this through inclusive policies and innovative projects led by teams of staff and students. We encourage you to apply for this position.

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