PhD position on process analytical technology for synthetic co-cultures

Updated: 26 days ago
Deadline: 22 Mar 2024

Zero-Emission Biotechnology Program

One of the major challenges facing mankind is to facilitate our material needs, from construction material to clothing to our personal nutrition, whilst negating the impact the production processes thereof currently have on the environment: towards a zero-emission economy. Bioprocesses can play a major role in this, as they facilitate the conversion a range of (carbon/nitrogen based) substrates into an even wider range of products. Nevertheless, to fully compete with traditional chemical processes, more effort needs to be put in minimizing the environmental impact that bioprocesses still have. This effort includes quantifying the impact of various process routes as well as creating micro-organisms (or consortia thereof) that can deal with new feed stocks or produce more sustainable products. Other approaches involve recycling waste streams and designing reactors optimized for newly engineered microbes. The zero-emission economy also requires engineering enzymes that can turn currently persistent pollutants into harmless molecules – or useful products – and developing the analysis methods required to rapidly screen enzymes, cells and processes.

To address these challenges, the TU Delft Biotechnology Department set up a “Zero Emission Biotechnology Program”. The program aims to use the renowned knowledge and expertise of the TU Delft Biotechnology Department, with competences ranging from the most fundamental to the most applied research. In total 12 positions are developed and each person will be positioned in an interdisciplinary team to benefit from different sections.

PhD project

This project is focused on synthetic defined co-culture bioprocesses because these possess advantages for complex biological conversions over mono- and undefined mixed-cultures, such as the “division of labor” principle and the ability to produce non-native products, leading to higher productivity. This is relevant for sustainable biotechnological bioprocesses as these can become increasingly more difficult to perform with mono- or undefined mixed-cultures when tackling, for example, the conversion of CO2 to complex added-value products.

This project will employ in-line process analytical technology (PAT) for real-time identification, characterization, and monitoring of defined co-culture bioprocesses. PAT consists of analytical techniques that monitor parameters in-situ during cultivation without sampling, to retrieve both chemical and biological data with a single measurement point. Thus, PAT facilitates (near) real-time information, creating a better understanding of processes, as well as the opportunity to use cultivation data for process optimization to maximize productivity.

This project is part of a department-wide consortium and in close collaboration with the section Industrial Microbiology.

Key focus points

  • Standardize synthetic defined co-culture processes
  • PAT implementation for (bio)chemical and biological measurements
  • Apply state-of-the-art model building techniques to develop accurate PAT models
  • In-depth characterization of synthetic co-cultures using (near) real-time signals
  • Process optimization strategy development based on real-time data

The core of this project is experimental and computational work is required to develop (near) real-time monitoring models. You will have the opportunity to further develop your scientific career by 1) gaining hands-on experience with lab-scale co-culture process development, 2) expanding your skill set with setting up in-situ monitoring and PAT-based modelling for process understanding and optimization, and 3) the ability to apply creativity and conceptual thinking to answer pressing research questions for synthetic co-culture bioprocesses. In addition, you will participate in educational activities as a (MSc or BSc) course assistant and supervisor of BSc/MSc graduation projects.

Research group

The position will be in the research group Data-Driven Bioprocess Development which is part of the Bioprocess Engineering section at the Department of Biotechnology. This group focusses on unravelling the connection between raw materials, process parameters, and product quality, and using that information to optimize or design for a wide variety of bioprocesses.      

The ideal candidate is an ambitious, proactive, and result-driven researcher. We are looking for the following requirements:

  • A Master’s degree in an area relevant to the subject, such as biotechnology, biochemical engineering, microbiology, or biochemistry
  • Recent fermentation/upstream processing experience is considered essential (mammalian or microbial)
  • Data analysis and programming experience (Python, Matlab, or equivalent) is considered essential
  • Comfortable taking the lead and dealing with multiple stakeholders
  • Fluent in English (written and spoken)
  • Excellent communication/reporting skills and presentation capabilities    

Doing a PhD at TU Delft requires English proficiency at a certain level to ensure that the candidate is able to communicate and interact well, participate in English-taught Doctoral Education courses, and write scientific articles and a final thesis. For more details please check the Graduate Schools Admission Requirements .

Doctoral candidates will be offered a 4-year period of employment in principle, but in the form of 2 employment contracts. An initial 1,5 year contract with an official go/no go progress assessment within 15 months. Followed by an additional contract for the remaining 2,5 years assuming everything goes well and performance requirements are met.

Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities, increasing from € 2770 per month in the first year to € 3539 in the fourth year. As a PhD candidate you will be enrolled in the TU Delft Graduate School. The TU Delft Graduate School provides an inspiring research environment with an excellent team of supervisors, academic staff and a mentor. The Doctoral Education Programme is aimed at developing your transferable, discipline-related and research skills.

The TU Delft offers a customisable compensation package, discounts on health insurance, and a monthly work costs contribution. Flexible work schedules can be arranged.

For international applicants, TU Delft has the Coming to Delft Service . This service provides information for new international employees to help you prepare the relocation and to settle in the Netherlands. The Coming to Delft Service offers a Dual Career Programme for partners and they organise events to expand your (social) network.

Delft University of Technology is built on strong foundations. As creators of the world-famous Dutch waterworks and pioneers in biotech, TU Delft is a top international university combining science, engineering and design. It delivers world class results in education, research and innovation to address challenges in the areas of energy, climate, mobility, health and digital society. For generations, our engineers have proven to be entrepreneurial problem-solvers, both in business and in a social context.

At TU Delft we embrace diversity as one of our core values and we actively engage to be a university where you feel at home and can flourish. We value different perspectives and qualities. We believe this makes our work more innovative, the TU Delft community more vibrant and the world more just. Together, we imagine, invent and create solutions using technology to have a positive impact on a global scale. That is why we invite you to apply. Your application will receive fair consideration.

Challenge. Change. Impact!

With more than 1,100 employees, including 150 pioneering principal investigators, as well as a population of about 3,600 passionate students, the Faculty of Applied Sciences is an inspiring scientific ecosystem. Focusing on key enabling technologies, such as quantum- and nanotechnology, photonics, biotechnology, synthetic biology and materials for energy storage and conversion, our faculty aims to provide solutions to important problems of the 21st century. To that end, we educate innovative students in broad Bachelor's and specialist Master's programmes with a strong research component. Our scientists conduct ground-breaking fundamental and applied research in the fields of Life and Health Science & Technology, Nanoscience, Chemical Engineering, Radiation Science & Technology, and Engineering Physics. We are also training the next generation of high school teachers.

Click here to go to the website of the Faculty of Applied Sciences.

The position is available in the Department of Biotechnology, Biotechnology (tudelft.nl)

Only for more information about this vacancy, please contact Dr.ir. Marieke Klijn, Assistant Professor, per e-mail, [email protected]

Only for more information about the application procedure, please contact Ms. Kawieta Ramautar, Management Assistant, per e-mail [email protected]

**It is our aim to have the interviews on 4 or 11 April 2024.

Are you interested in this vacancy? Please apply before 22 March 2024 via the application button and upload ONLY your motivation letter and CV.

  • A pre-employment screening can be part of the selection procedure.
  • Applying for an exemption for specific research and educational areas is an obligatory part of the selection procedure for this vacancy. This exemption must be obtained from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW) before an employment contract is agreed upon. Click here for more information.
  • You can apply online. We will not process applications sent by email and/or post.
  • Please do not contact us for unsolicited services.


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