PhD position - Thermal and pressure induced protein structuring in meat analogues

Context & Job description

Current meat production is unsustainable, depleting our natural resources while fueling climate change and consequently meat analogues are becoming increasingly popular. Meat analogues are typically produced by high moisture extrusion where protein powders are subjected to thermal and pressure treatments leading to a fiber-like microstructure mimicking the texture and appearance of meat. The project aims at in-situ studies of the formation of protein domains and their alignment that determines the mechanical properties of meat analogues. We propose to use high-pressure flow cells suitable for small angle X-ray and neutron scattering experiments to study the plastification and alignment of protein aggregates under process conditions. The experiments will allow to highlight the role of different ingredients in the structuring process. The scattering measurements will be combined with off-line characterization of meat analogues to establish a robust description of protein melt flow, structuring and product properties. Understanding protein melt properties will further impact many other fields including biomaterial-based packaging and tissue material where plastification is a key factor to control moisture permeability and mechanical strength.

Further information may be obtained from Olga Matsarskaia (tel.: +33 4 57 42 82 56, email: matsarskaia@ill.fr) and from Peter Fischer (+41 44 6325349, email: peter.fischer@hest.ethz.ch).

Expected profile

  • Degree allowing enrolment for a PhD (such as MSc, Master 2 de Recherche, Laurea or equivalent) in physics, materials science, engineering, (bio)chemistry, biology or closely related science
  • A background in soft condensed matter research, food science and/or biochemistry is desirable
  • Knowledge of scattering methods (X-ray, neutron and/or light scattering) and rheology would be an advantage
  • Manual skills and rigorous attention to detail are essential in this work environment
  • Proficiency in English (A proof of upper-intermediate level would be advantageous and can be provided in the application. Applicants originating from native-English-speaking countries can apply without the need for proof of level. An official degree conducted in English will be also accepted as a proof; Students without proof upper-intermediate level may still apply and their level of English will be checked during the interview).
  • Compliance with the Marie Sklodowska-Curie mobility rule: candidates may not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in France for more than twelve months in the three years immediately before the date of recruitment.
  • At the date of recruitment, early-stage researchers must be in the first four years of their research careers and have not yet been awarded a doctoral degree.
  • Candidates must satisfy eligibility criteria according to the partner university requirements for PhD enrolment.

More details about the application procedure on www.innovaxn.eu/for-students/documents/

Working conditions

The successful candidate will be enrolled as a PhD Student at ETH Zurich and based full-time at the ILL (Grenoble, France), other than a 6-month secondment at Planted Food AG. Additional visits totaling no more than 3 months may be made to ETH Zurich when needed. Furthermore, a varied pedagogical training programme will be offered to the successful candidate throughout the 3-year PhD project.

More details on the InnovaXN programme on www.innovaxn.eu

Company description

InnovaXN is a Horizon 2020 MSCA COFUND programme providing an opportunity for 40 industrial companies to work with 40 PhD students, performing advanced research and exploiting the unique characterisation techniques of the ESRF and ILL. Through collaborations with industry, innovation will be the central theme of the programme. This will provide a unique cross academic-industry science setting, secondment opportunities and society-relevant research, training the future key researchers able to tackle major research and societal challenges.

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