Postdoc position within microbial foods to explore gastronomic and textural properties of filamentous fungi

Monday 11 Oct 21

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Apply no later than 15 November 2021
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Do you want to contribute to the development of mycelium- based meat and seafood alternatives and accelerate the transition to a greener future?

A research opportunity funded by the Good Food Institute will now be available in the BSB section at the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability under the supervision of Dr. Leonie Johanna Jahn and Prof. Morten Otto Alexander Sommer and at the two-Michelin star restaurant Alchemist. The project will bridge microbiology more specifically mycology with classical food sciences and allows the gastronomic exploitation of the findings. Therefore, the postdoc will be part of an interdisciplinary research environment allowing to develop a unique skillset across disciplines with a highly application oriented nature.

Currently food production for human’s accounts for about 35% of all global greenhouse gas emissions, takes up 38% of the earth’s landmass and requires 70% of global fresh water. While this is already unsustainable, the demand for food is growing with the population of earth. We envision reducing the carbon footprint, land- and water-use as well as factory farming by creating novel foods based on microbial biomass. Filamentous fungi are highly attractive candidates for the development of sustainable meat/seafood alternatives. Due to their natural ability to form hyphae they can be utilized to create highly textured three dimensional meat alternatives without the need of artificial processing steps. Furthermore, different molds have traditionally been used in fermentations for the creation of desirable umami-rich flavors. In this project the mycelium of phylogenetically diverse filamentous fungi will be screened for their natural ability to produce textures. Furthermore, growth conditions and genetic determinants important to drive texture formation will be identified. Findings from this work will directly be applied by creating a whole-cut seafood alternative under the supervision of Diego Prado at the two-Michelin-star restaurant the Alchemist.

Specific tasks will include cultivation of diverse filamentous fungi under different growth conditions and media compositions; rheological characterization of their textures using a texture analyser; the creation of a phylogenetic tree of the involved species by amplicon sequencing of selected genetic markers and subsequent bioinformatics analysis. Genetic determinants of texture will be identified by using an available knock-out library of a selected fungi and by reintroducing promising knock outs of homologous genes in other species. The resulting data from the texture analysis will be bioinformatically analysed and visualized for example using multi variant analysis methods. Finally, the postdoc will be working at least 3 months part-time in the Alchemist restaurant to develop a seafood alternative using the mycelium of a selected fungus grown on plant-based substrates.

We work in an interdisciplinary team with a lot of creativity, enthusiasm and motivation to make an impact on the food production of the future. We offer an exciting research area with the potential to develop new food products in an entrepreneurial environment. We offer a well-resourced lab, internationally outstanding collaboration partners and a supportive and social work environment. Through the funding of the Good Food Institute we will also be part of their network and participate in conferences and meetings with the Institute, which will promote exposure to the international plant-based science and food scene. On this basis personal and scientific growth are well supported and career development will be enhanced. The collaboration with the research and development team of the Alchemist adds interesting insights in applied fermentation technologies, product development and allows excursions in the world of delicious taste and textures.

Responsibilities and qualifications
The responsibilities of the position will include:

  • Growing phylogenetically diverse filamentous fungi
  • Performing a HTP screen of the textural properties of diverse filamentous fungi using a texture analyser
  • Understanding the impact of growth conditions on the texture of selected filamentous fungi
  • Genetic engineering of selected filamentous fungi
  • Coding for data analysis
  • Development of a seafood alternative using a filamentous fungi

A qualified candidate has:

  • Experience in handling filamentous fungi
  • Experience in genetic engineering of filamentous fungi
  • Experience in coding (Python, R, or similar)
  • Experience in food science or a gastronomic background will be viewed favorably
  • Highly motivated by the potential of developing fungi-based seafood/meat alternatives for a sustainable future
  • Hard working and dedicated to their work
  • Team player with a desire to help his/her colleagues succeed
  • Strong writing and communication skills
  • Very well organized and planning oriented.

As a formal qualification, you must hold a PhD degree (or equivalent).

We offer
DTU is a leading technical university globally recognized for the excellence of its research, education, innovation and scientific advice. We offer a rewarding and challenging job in an international environment. We strive for academic excellence in an environment characterized by collegial respect and academic freedom tempered by responsibility.

Salary and terms of employment
The appointment will be based on the collective agreement with the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations. The allowance will be agreed upon with the relevant union.

The period of employment is 2 years. The starting date is the 1st of February 2022.  

You can read more about career paths at DTU here.

Further information
Further information may be obtained from Leonie Johanna Jahn lejj@biosustain.dtu.dk

If you are applying from abroad, you may find useful information on working in Denmark and at DTU at DTU – Moving to Denmark.

Application procedure
Your complete online application must be submitted no later than 15 November 2021 (Danish time).

Applications must be submitted as one PDF file containing all materials to be given consideration. To apply, please open the link "Apply online", fill out the online application form, and attach all your materials in English in one PDF file. The file must include:

  • Application (cover letter)
  • CV
  • Academic Diplomas (MSc/PhD)
  • List of publications

All interested candidates irrespective of age, gender, disability, race, religion or ethnic background are encouraged to apply.

The Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability (DTU Biosustain)
Recent progress in our ability to read and write genomic code, combined with advances in automation, analytics and data science, has fundamentally changed the scope and ambition of harnessing the potential of biological systems. Big data approaches and analysis of biological systems are key research instruments at the Center. DTU Biosustain utilizes these advances for microbial cell factory design to foster sustainable lifestyles in relation to three application areas: Sustainable Chemicals, Natural Products, and Microbial Foods.

Technology for people
DTU develops technology for people. With our international elite research and study programmes, we are helping to create a better world and to solve the global challenges formulated in the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Hans Christian Ørsted founded DTU in 1829 with a clear vision to develop and create value using science and engineering to benefit society. That vision lives on today. DTU has 12,900 students and 6,000 employees. We work in an international atmosphere and have an inclusive, evolving, and informal working environment. DTU has campuses in all parts of Denmark and in Greenland, and we collaborate with the best universities around the world.