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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 researcher to work on a project on the interface of food chemistry and rheology.
This research will be part of the ProFibFun project (“Tailoring food protein functionality by rational design of fibrillar structures”). ProFibFun is a currently ongoing SBO-project (Strategical Base Research) with six research groups (four at KU Leuven and two at UGent) housing 4 PhD students, 1 postdoc and 2 half-time lab technicians. The project aims to increase the insight in the formation, techno-function and nutrition of cereal and egg protein fibrils (amyloids). This project will form a scientific base to improve the techno-functionality of food proteins in industry. Therefore, seven industrial partners are acting as advisors during the whole project.
The LFCB is one of the leading laboratories in cereal science. It has expertise on all major classes of cereal biopolymer constituents and enzymes impacting these polymers: storage as well as physiologically active proteins and their (wheat endogenous) inhibitors, lipids, starch and non-starch polysaccharides. Cereals make up a more than significant proportion of a balanced human diet, be it as bread, pastry, biscuits, breakfast cereals, beer, rice, pasta products, … The Laboratory 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. The processing technologies studied include cereal based processes and applications such as gluten-starch separation, dough mixing, fermentation, baking as well as production of cereal based products (bread, cakes, cookies, pasta, waffles). The Laboratory studies food’s building blocks and their physico-chemical transformations and interactions during the entire transition of raw materials to final product.
This PhD project will be conducted in the framework of the above mentioned ProFibFun. The Chair research aims at exploring the potential of protein fibrils for improved functionalities in food. Protein are important structural components in foods like bakery products, pasta, meat analogues, dairy products and others. The production process often aims to form protein aggregates during heating or acidification. The type of aggregation is determined by the composition of the food matrix and the applied conditions. Controlling these factors is thus key to obtain improved functionalities. The aim of the study is to investigate effect of processing in single and complex protein systems and the impact on rheological behavior.In this specific PhD topic, you will rationally tailor the level and morphology of protein fibrils and the rate of fibril formation from egg, wheat, maize and rice proteins by processing. Also, the impact of different types of proteins and other food constituents (e.g. salt, starch, sugar, etc.) on fibrillation will be investigated. The complexity of food constituent mixtures will be gradually increased up to real food systems. In addition, the presence or absence of amyloid fibrils in commercial food products will be screened. Furthermore, the rheological properties (e.g. water binding, gelling, foaming, etc.) of the formed structures will be studied in-depth. In a final step, the well-chosen protein mixtures and conditions will form a base for the manufacturing of some selected food products.
• Master's degree in bioscience engineering, chemistry, biomedical sciences or civil engineering (with sufficient chemistry education) with distinction
• Strong motivation for scientific research is a must
• Fast learning on the progress made in the ongoing project
• Adequate knowledge of English for scientific discussions and writing
• Willingness to work at interdisciplinary boundaries, in close collaboration with the other project members and the industrial partners
• Previous experience with food research, protein aggregation, polymer chemistry or rheology will be a plus
We can offer a fully funded PhD-position for a period of 4 years, subject to meeting the requirements and deadlines set out by the supervisors and the Arenberg Doctoral School.