Doctoral fellow

Last application date
Aug 31, 2020 23:59
LA22 - Department of Animal Sciences and Aquatic Ecology
Employment category
Doctoral fellow
Limited duration
You hold a Master degree in Bioscience Engineering, Biochemistry, Biotechnology, Biomedical Sciences, Veterinary Medicine, Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Medicine, Chemistry or an equivalent degree.
Occupancy rate
Vacancy Type
Research staff

Job description

We welcome candidates for a PhD position within a project on cultured meat. In this project, 4 PhD students and 1 postdoctoral fellow will be recruited, of whom 3 PhD students will conduct collaborative research on cell differentiation and tissue engineering (this vacancy). This project is a collaboration between UGent (Faculty of Bioscience Engineering - Prof. S. De Smet, Prof. K. Dewettinck, Prof. J. Van Camp, Prof. J. Dewulf, Prof. W. Verbeke, Prof. B. Sas; Faculty of Veterinary Medicine - Prof. C. De Schauwer en Dr. B. Devriendt; Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences - Prof. J. van Hengel: Faculty of Sciences – Prof. S. Van Vlierberghe) and KU Leuven campus Kortrijk (Tissue Engineering Lab - Prof. L. Thorrez).

Short summary of the CUSTOMEAT project: Cultured stem cells for customized meat design

Cellular agriculture is a promising avenue for sustainably contributing to the growing food demand. In this respect, cultured or in vitro meat receives increasing attention. Yet, there is currently no scientific evidence that animal myofibers equivalent to meat as a nutrient dense, highly structured food, can be made in vitro. This project will address several existing hurdles. A major challenge is to obtain a suitable cell type capable of both sufficient proliferation and robust differentiation. Muscle adult progenitor cells have a very good differentiation capacity, yet weak proliferation capacity, whereas mesenchymal and embryonic stem cells display the opposite behavior. First, we will compare and enhance the proliferation and differentiation capacity of these three cell types, resulting in an informed choice of cell type for myofiber generation. Secondly, we will design a ‘smart matrix’, including food grade components that contribute to texture, flavor and a good nutritional profile. This involves a proper choice of materials which is mutually dependent on the technological approaches to create a 3D structure. Physicochemical stability of, and cellular adhesion and survival on these new matrices will be investigated. The best performing smart matrices will be tested on their potential to support muscle cell differentiation and structured fat. These insights will be subsequently used to increase muscle fiber size and to study in vitro muscle development in a 3D architecture. In addition, strategies for stimulating the build-up of contractile proteins will be investigated. This project will deliver a sound scientific basis and assessment of key technologies for advancing knowledge in this field and allowing informed decision making for downstream valorization strategies.

Two PhD students will mainly focus on the cell biology and culture work, whereas one PhD student will mainly focus on the development of a smart matrix and fat structuring. However, continued exchange and collaboration within the team is crucial because of the interdisciplinarity of the research. The research should result in novel scientific findings that lead to publications in international scientific journals, valorisation of the developed technological tools and a PhD degree. A limited contribution to university teaching is also expected (practical sessions).

The start date of the position is from 1 October 2020 onwards.

We offer a position for 1 year. In case of positive annual evaluations, the position can be extended up to a maximum of 4 years.

Profile of the candidate

  • Master degree in Bioscience Engineering, Biochemistry, Biotechnology, Biomedical Sciences, Veterinary Medicine, Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Medicine, Chemistry or an equivalent degree.
  • Interest in conducting scientific research to obtain a PhD degree.
  • Interest/knowledge in tissue engineering and food structuring.
  • Experience in cell culturing, materials development, bioprinting and/or electrospinning and food science and technology is an advantage but not strictly required.
  • Have a critical scientific attitude and good analytical and planning skills.
  • Able to take on responsibilities, work independently but also as part of an interdisciplinary research team.
  • Fluency in spoken and written English.
  • Flexible towards working place (several faculties of UGent and campus Kortrijk of KULeuven).


Eligibility of application:

Candidates must be holder of a diploma at least equivalent to a master's degree that was awarded in a country of the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland.

Candidates who obtain their diploma in the course of the academic year 2019-2020 can also apply for this position.

How to apply

Applications should be sent via email to Prof. Stefaan De Smet ( ) before 31 August, 23:59h (Central European Time), with “vacancy CUSTOMEAT“ in the email subject and providing the following documents:

  • Professional resume (CV), including an overview of study results, named as: “CV_Family name”
  • Motivation letter, named as: “MotivationLetter_Family name”
  • Contact details (Name, telephone & email) of at least 1 academic referee.

We advise to submit your application as soon as possible, as a decision may be taken before the deadline. After an initial screening and selection based on CV and motivation letter, interviews will take place.

For additional information about this vacancy, please contact Prof. Dr. ir. Stefaan De Smet (Tel 0032 9 264 90 03; Email ).