PhD Defining Dietary Fiber formulations to steer a healthy gut microbiota

PhD Defining Dietary Fiber formulations to steer a healthy gut microbiota

Published Deadline Location
5 May 26 May Wageningen

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Job description

We are looking for a PhD candidate for the project "Defining carbohydrate formulations to steer gut microbiota and colonic fermentation processes to support metabolic, immune and mental health", and Food (Bio)chemistry/Microbiology/Molecular Life Sciences to study the effects of dietary fiber and plant proteins on their in vitro fermentation by human and animal inoculum.

The selected PhD candidate will work at the Laboratory of Food Chemistry (FCH) and the Laboratory of Microbiology (MIB) within the public-private partnership project CarboSupport as funded by NWO-ENW, TKI Agri& Food and three industrial partners and carried out at three universities and an university hospital, and coordinated by the Carbohydrate Competence Center.

Evidence is accumulating from previous CCC projects that that kinetics of fermentation of dietary fibers is very dynamic along the gastrointestinal tract and that beneficial products such as short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) are produced already in the small intestine (ileum), and that these SCFAs vary in composition all along the large intestine. The gut microbiome which is responsible for these fermentation processes can be steered by using specific dietary fibers. Although a glycosidic fermentation throughout the gut is desired above a proteolytic fermentation, a sufficient production of proteolytic beneficial bacterial metabolites such as indoles has shown to support gut immune barrier function in the small intestine and support recovery from inflammatory events.

The project aims to study the impact of mixtures of (novel) specific dietary fibers in combination with different protein sources (selected plant- and animal protein fractions) on immunity, metabolism in humans and livestock animals ,and fermentation by the gut microbiota, and how this in turn will impact metabolic and brain function.

The PhD candidate at FCH/MIB will be responsible for studying the in vitro fermentation kinetics of mixtures of selected dietary fibers and proteins by fecal microbiota from humans and piglets. The fate of these molecules during fermentation, the fermentation products formed and microbiota composition and activity will be determined. Desired and undesired (glycosidic as well as protein-originating) fermentation products will be identified and quantified by chromatographic and mass spectrometric methods. Microbiota composition and function will be determined using 16S rRNA gene sequencing, targeted quantitative PCR assays, and metatranscriptomics.


Wageningen University & Research


For this challenging position we are looking for a candidate with the following qualifications:
  • MSc degree in Analytical Chemistry, (Food/Bio) Chemistry, Microbiology Biotechnology or Molecular Life Sciences. Experience with protein and carbohydrate chemistry, microbiology and fermentation will strongly add to the suitability of a candidate;
  • intrinsic interest to independently search for answers on fundamental and applied research questions;
  • excellent research skills;
  • ability to excel in a multi-disciplinary project;
  • excellent communication skills and proficiency in English (both oral and written).
The selected PhD fellow should have passed for an English proficiency test (e.g. TOEFLL or IELTS) or have an approved English MSc degree.

Conditions of employment

Wageningen University & Research offers excellent terms of employment. A few highlights from our Collective Labour Agreement include:
  • Sabbatical leave, study leave, and paid parental leave;
  • working hours that can be discussed and arranged so that they allow for the best possible work-life balance;
  • the option to accrue additional holiday hours by working more, up to 40 hours per week;
  • there is a strong focus on vitality and you can make use of the sports facilities available on campus for a small fee;
  • a fixed December bonus of 8.3%;
  • excellent pension scheme.
In addition to these first-rate employee benefits, you will receive a fully funded PhD position and you will be offered a course program tailored to your needs and the research team.
The gross salary for the first year is € 2.395,- per month rising to € 3.061,- in the fourth year in according to the Collective Labour Agreements for Dutch Universities (CAO-NU) (scale P). This is based on a full-time working week of 38 hours. We offer a temporary contract for 18 months which will be extended for the duration of the project if you perform well.

Wageningen University & Research encourages internal advancement opportunities and mobility with an internal recruitment policy. There are plenty of options for personal initiative in a learning environment, and we provide excellent training opportunities. We are offering a unique position in an international environment with a pleasant and open working atmosphere.
You are going to work at the greenest and most innovative campus in Holland, and at a university that has been chosen as the "Best University" in the Netherlands for the 16th consecutive time.

Coming from abroad
Wageningen University & Research is the university and research centre for life sciences. The themes we deal with are relevant to everyone around the world and Wageningen, therefore, has a large international community and a lot to offer to international employees. Applicants from abroad moving to the Netherlands may qualify for a special tax relief, known as the 30% ruling. Our team of advisors on Dutch immigration procedures will help you with the visa application procedures for yourself and, if applicable, for your family.

Feeling welcome also has everything to do with being well informed. Wageningen University & Research's International Community page contains practical information about what we can do to support international employees and students coming to Wageningen. Furthermore, we can assist you with any additional advice and information about helping your partner to find a job, housing, schooling, and other issues.


Wageningen University & Research

The Laboratory of Food Chemistry (FCH) engages in teaching and research on the chemical aspects related to processing of raw materials into foods, digestion of foods in the gastro-intestinal tract, and on the efficient conversion of biomass remaining after processing. The research of FCH is divided in six areas including dietary carbohydrates and proteins, and has state-of-the-art (analytical) infrastructure to facilitate the research. Our mission is to quantify individual molecules in complex mixtures, to understand their reactivity and properties, to adjust their properties by clever processing (e.g. enzymes, fermentation), and to predict the behavior of such molecules in applications. FCH is a dynamic international team comprising around 15 staff members, 25 PhD students and post-docs, and 40 BSc and MSc thesis students annually. More information on our team can be found at

MIB, consisting of four research groups, engages in research and education focusing on fundamental and applied aspects of the diversity, physiology, ecology and evolution of microorganisms and their viruses. The fundamental knowledge we generate is used in various disciplines, including health & food, bioproducts & energy, and the natural environment & sustainability. Our work contributes to exploring the potential of nature and improve the quality of life. Our ambition is to understand and explore the functioning of microorganisms in natural and man-made ecosystems, including interdependencies with their living and non-living environments. MIB consists of a dynamic group of 100 scientists, PhD and MSc students, and supporting staff. More information on our team can be found at:

The mission of Wageningen University and Research is "To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life". Under the banner Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen University and the specialised research institutes of the Wageningen Research Foundation have joined forces in contributing to finding solutions to important questions in the domain of healthy food and living environment.

With its roughly 30 branches, 6.500 employees and 12.500 students, Wageningen University & Research is one of the leading organisations in its domain. An integrated approach to problems and the cooperation between various disciplines are at the heart of Wageningen's unique approach. WUR has been named Best Employer in the Education category for 2019-2020.

These are the points our employees list as good reasons to come work at WUR: read the 5 reasons to come work at WUR.

We will recruit for the vacancy ourselves, so no employment agencies please. However, sharing in your network is appreciated.


  • PhD
  • Food
  • max. 38 hours per week
  • University graduate
  • 726954


Wageningen University & Research

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Droevendaalsesteeg, 6708 PB, Wageningen

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