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The KU Leuven Laboratory of Food Chemistry and Biochemistry (LFCB) and Soft Matter, Rheology and Technology lab (SMaRT) are recruiting a highly motivated person for conducting research on the interface of food chemistry and rheology.
LFCB is a renowned research group in cereal science. It has expertise on all major classes of cereal biopolymer constituents and enzymes impacting these polymers: proteins, lipids, starch and non-starch polysaccharides. The group aims at integrating the knowledge which it generates to the benefit of understanding functionality in diverse biotechnological processes and exploiting the impact of cereals, pseudocereals and pulses on health. SMaRT investigates complex, micro- and nano-structured materials, encompassing a wide variety of time- and length scales. In the last years, the research in SMaRT has mainly focused on high-interface materials. Such multiphase materials encompass (polymeric) emulsions, stable or weakly aggregated suspensions with matrices consisting of various rheologies, foams and (flow-induced) crystallizing (bio)polymeric systems.
This research is part of the Strategic Basic Research project FIBRAXFUN: “A knowledge base for exploiting novel wheats richin arabinoxylan (AX) dietary fibre throughout the wheat value chain”. This project involves seven research groups; three at KU Leuven, one at VUB, one at Ghent University, one at the Research Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (ILVO)and one at Rothamsted University. It will house four PhD students, two half-time postdocs,one half-time senior scientist and lab technicians (two half-time and two 25%).The project aims to develop and characterise novel high dietary fibre wheat lines and apply beyond state-of-the-art technology for exploring the diverse structures of AX in white flour thereof and its properties relevant to (sourdough) bread making. This project will form a scientific base for optimizing their processing in bread making and delivering health benefits via bread and other staple foods such as breakfast cereals and pasta. Fifteen industrial partners are members of the Advisory Committee during the whole project.
In this specific PhD topic, you will explore the structures and techno-functional properties of AX present in novel wheats and investigate their impact on dough rheology and bread properties. Due to their unique physico-chemical properties, AX have major effects in several biotechnological processes, including bread making. Different effects are generally observed depending on their extractability and molecular weight. As a consequence, xylanases, with solubilising and degradingactivity, can strongly affect cereal processing applications.
The aim of the study is to develop structure-function relationships of unique AX contents and structures during classical bread making. First, you will identify ther elationship between content, structure and properties (extractability andoxidative gelation) of AX present in novel wheats. Second, the AX viscosity steering and surface-active properties in aqueous model systems will be related to their chemical structure. This will shed light on the potential of AX to stabilize dough interfaces during fermentation. You will also unravel the xylanase action pattern on different AX populations in relation to their viscosity steering and interfacial properties. The outcomes will allow selecting a wide range of unique flour samples to further address the technological implications of the use of wheat lines differing in AX levels and structures in bread making. Third, in-depth insight into the contribution of AX content and structure to the functionality of the dough aqueous phase and to the overall rheological behaviour will be generated. To this end, the rheological properties of doughs need to be evaluated under scientifically justified but industrially relevant conditions that will lead to reproducible and interpretable results. In this respect, the flow behaviour of dough under either shear or elongational conditions are typically studied separately. Finally, you will master the classical yeast-based bread making process and inter alia evaluate bread quality inrelation to AX content and characteristics in the dough aqueous phase using xylanases.
- Master's degree in bioscience engineering,chemistry, biomedical sciences or chemical engineering with distinction
- Strong motivation for scientific research is a must
- Adequate knowledge of English for scientific discussions and writing
- Willingness to work at interdisciplinary boundaries, in close collaboration with the other project members
- Previous experience with non-starch polysaccharides, cereal chemistry and/or rheology will be a plus
We can offer a fully funded PhD position for a period of four years, subject to meeting the requirements and deadlines set out by the supervisors and the KU Leuven Arenberg Doctoral School.