Novo Nordisk Foundation PhD student in Scaling-up of Trickle Bed Bioreactors for High Rate Gas Fermentations

Wednesday 23 Jun 21

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Biomanufacturing is one of the fastest growing fields and a driver for the transition from a fossil-based to a circular bio-based economy and a sustainable future. Conversion of 2nd generation biomass to chemicals and biofuels constitutes one of the most important paths towards a biobased circular economy. The two main pretreatment routes of lignocellulosic materials are the hydrolytic, targeting the production of soluble carbohydrates, and the thermochemical that generates a gas mixture consisting of H2, CO and CO2, known as syngas. The major advantage of the thermochemical pathway is that more than 90% of the carbonaceous feedstock can be converted to syngas, while in the hydrolytic pathway a significant fraction remains unexploited due to low biodegradability and/or poor pretreatment efficiency. Syngas can be subsequently used as a substrate for the biological production of a wide range of products. Similarly, CO2 captured from industrial off-gas streams may be combined with sustainable hydrogen and converted biologically to valuable chemicals. If you would like to become an expert in this strategically important field and contribute to the green transition, we have an opportunity for you:

The department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering at the Technical University of Denmark offers a position as a PhD student in “Scaling-up of Trickle Bed Bioreactors for high rate gas fermentations”.

This position will be hosted at DTU Chemical Engineering and DTU Biosustain and it will be placed in the Pilot Plant center at the Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering. The center emphasizes on unit operations, reaction engineering, process control, process and plant design, instrumentation, automation and industrial measuring technology, but also topics such as scale-up and scale-down and batch versus continuous processes. Special focus area is fermentation.

This PhD project is part of the PhD Program of the Fermentation Based Biomanufacturing (FBM) Initiative at DTU where we educate true biomanufacturing experts with interdisciplinary competences in cell factory-engineering and process engineering with a strong focus on industrial applications.

The FBM Initiative is funded by the Novo Nordisk Foundation, and under this initiative, scientists from DTU Chemical Engineering, DTU Bioengineering, and the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability work together to engineer new or optimized production hosts or processes and solve the interdisciplinary challenges of large-scale bioproduction. The FBM Initiative’s research infrastructure includes a well-equipped fermentation core with an automation and high-throughput micro-fermentation unit, a pre-pilot plant and a pilot plant.

Located in the Copenhagen area, one of the world's strongest biotech hubs, DTU’s FBM Initiative offers a unique and internationally leading education and research environment with exceptional conditions for biotech career starters.

This is one of six PhD student positions available on the FBM PhD program this year.

The expected starting date is 1st of October 2021.

Responsibilities and qualifications
The project will contribute towards the future development of a technological platform based on biological conversion of gaseous substrates for a) full conversion of carbon found in residual biomasses to higher vaue products via synthesis gas (syngas) and b) reduction of carbon dioxide emissions via valorisation of waste gases with exogenous hydrogen supply. Gas phase fermentations (syngas, CO2 and H2) for the production of methane or liquid chemicals will be demonstrated in pilot scale. Depending on the operational conditions (composition of liquid growth medium, pH, temperature etc.) mixed microbial cultures are considered able to significantly change the distribution of their products. Selection of the operational conditions for directing the microbial production to specific products will take place. Changes in the microbial community will be followed and a model able to simulate microbial community dynamics, products distribution as well as gas-to-liquid mass transfer and flow phenomena will be developed. Where necessary pilot scale tests will be accompanied by lab scale experiments for more efficient and less time-consuming collection of experimental data that will be used for model development and validation. After validation in pilot-scale the model will be used for designing demonstration scale units, including techno-economic study and life cycle assessment of different production options.

You must have a two-year master's degree (120 ECTS points) or a similar degree with an academic level equivalent to a two-year master's degree.

We are looking for a candidate with a solid background in biochemical engineering and/or biotechnology. Candidates should have qualifications within several of the following areas:

  • Handling mixed microbial cultures under anaerobic conditions and characterizing them
  • Working with suspended and/or attached growth (biofilm) bioreactors in batch and/or continuous mode including pilot scale
  • Experience in gas biological conversions
  • Experience in using process simulation tools.
  • Experience in modeling of biotechnological processes
  • Experience in techno-economic study and life cycle assessment

Approval and Enrolment
The scholarships for the PhD degree are subject to academic approval, and the candidates will be enrolled in one of the general degree programmes at DTU. For information about our enrolment requirements and the general planning of the PhD study programme, please see the DTU PhD Guide

The assessment of the applicants will be made by Associate Professor Ioannis Skiadas in collaboration with an internal PhD assessment committee. 

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 appointment terms
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 3 years. 

You can read more about career paths at DTU here.

Further information
Further information may be obtained from Associate Professor Ioannis Skiadas, 

You can read more about DTU Chemical and Biochemical Engineering at  

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 2 August 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:

  • A letter motivating the application (cover letter)
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Grade transcripts and BSc/MSc diploma
  • Excel sheet with translation of grades to the Danish grading system (see guidelines and Excel spreadsheet herein the right hand column)

In the field “Please indicate which position(s) you would like to apply for”, please indicate which project you are applying for (title from the above list of PhD projects or individual research projects).

Incomplete applications will not be considered. You may apply prior to ob­tai­ning your master's degree but cannot begin before having received it.

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

The Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering at DTU is a leader in innovative teaching and research, built on core technical subjects and engineering scientific disciplines. The teaching and research covers separation processes, (bio)reaction engineering, dynamics and process regulation, (bio)process and facility planning, unit operations, heat transmission, fluid mechanics and applied thermodynamics. The Department enjoys very close relations with international partners, and especially a wide range of industrial companies.The department is located at DTU Lyngby Campus) 

DTU Biosustain is an international research center of excellence developing next generation cell factories and bioprocesses for sustainable production of high-value chemical compounds as well as protein-based products. The center uses advanced metabolic engineering techniques and computational biology ensuring efficient and cost-effective design and construction processes. The center’s activities are a balanced mix of basic and translational research, complemented by an emphasis on business development to facilitate commercialization of new cell factories and associated technologies. DTU Biosustain offers state-of-the-art research facilities and assembles world leaders in the field thus offering a unique platform providing excellent talent development and career opportunities.

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.