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Exploring natural and artificial biofilms of acetogenic bacteria to improve microbial electrosynthesis rates

Applications are invited for a PhD fellowship/scholarship at Graduate School of Science and Technology, Aarhus University, Denmark, within the Engineering programme. The position is available from 1 May 2020 or later.

Title:
Exploring natural and artificial biofilms of acetogenic bacteria to improve microbial electrosynthesis rates

Research area and project description:
Microbial electrosynthesis is a novel biotechnological process for the conversion of excess renewable electricity and CO2 into biofuels or other organic compounds. This process relies on acetogenic bacteria capable of reducing CO2 to organic compounds using electrons delivered by an electrode (cathode). One major problem limiting the rate of microbial electrosynthesis is the low number of bacterial cells that attach to a cathode. This Phd will investigate whether the production rate of microbial electrosynthesis can be improved by increasing the number of cells on the cathode.

The project will explore two different strategies to increase cell numbers on cathodes. First, natural biofilm formation will be stimulated by condition selection and adaptation. Second, artificial biofilms will be created by immobilizing cells in different polymeric matrices. These natural and artificial biofilms will allow to increase and control the cell numbers on cathodes and assess the effect of attached cell numbers on microbial electrosynthesis rates. Several state-of-the-art techniques, including confocal microscopy and microsensor measurements, will be applied to characterize the two type of biofilms.
 

Qualifications and specific competences:
We are looking for talented and enthusiastic applicants with a Master’s degree in Microbiology, Bioengineering, Biotechnology, or another discipline with a relevant specialisation. Practical experience with the cultivation of anaerobes, biofilms, cell immobilization, bioelectrochemical systems, etc. will be considered as a plus. Analytical and critical thinking are essential to pursuit a PhD. Further requirements are English fluency and being a team player.

Place of employment and place of work:
This project is a collaboration between the Microbial Electrosynthesis research group, headed by Assistant Professor Jo Philips (Engineering Department) and the Sensor research group of Assistant Professor Klaus Koren (Bioscience Department).

The place of work will be in at Section of Biological and Chemical Engineering, Department of Engineering, Hangøvej 2, 8200 Aarhus N, Denmark. Aarhus University is located in the vibrant city of Aarhus.

About the Microbial Electrosynthesis Research Group
The Microbial Electrosynthesis Research group is a recently started group studying the microbial processes behind microbial electrosynthesis, with as main goal to improve the application of this process. The Microbial Electrosynthesis Research Group is part of the growing and highly dynamic section of Biological and Chemical Engineering.

About the Sensor Research Group
The Sensor group is located at the Institute for Bioscience and focuses on the development and application of both optical as well as electrochemical sensors. We are one of the world leading groups when it comes to development and application of microsensors. We produce in house several types of electrochemical microsensors, but also optical sensors. The laboratory is well equipped and hosts an interdisciplinary team of scientists.

Contacts:
Applicants seeking further information are invited to contact:

Assistant professor Jo Philips (jo.philips@eng.au.dk)

Assistant professor Klaus Koren (klaus.koren@bios.au.dk)

Associate professor Alberto Scoma (as@eng.au.dk)


Application procedures

Before you apply

Information and attachments:

Please be aware that you must have all relevant appendices, attachments, addresses for referees, etc. ready when you apply, as the entire application must be uploaded to the system in one go.

Documentation of language skills:

The English language requirement at GSST is comparable to an “English B level” in the Danish upper secondary school (“gymnasium”).

English language qualifications comparable to an “English B level” are documented by one of the following tests:

  • TOEFL test, minimum score: 560 (paper-based test) or 83 (internet-based test). The paper-based test must have a “total score”. From the August 2019 call, GSST will no longer accept the paper-based test.
    Aarhus University does not accept the TOEFL ITP test. Aarhus University’s TOEFL code is 8935. Ask the test centre to send your test results to Aarhus University, in order to enable verification of your test results.
  • IELTS (academic) test, minimum average score: 6.5 points
  • Cambridge English Language Assessment:
    Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency (CPE)
    Cambridge English: Certificate of Advanced English with grade A,B or C (CAE)
    Cambridge English: First Certificate  with grade A (FCE)

When to take the test and how to upload the documentation:
The test result must not be more than two years old at the time of application.

The English language test should be taken before applying for admission and uploaded under “language skills documentation” in the online application form.

It is possible to apply for admission before you have taken the test. In this case documentation stating that you have signed up for a test (please state expected submission date) must be uploaded. If the test result is not part of the original application the test result is to be sent to sphd@psys.au.dk no later than one month after the application deadline.

The following applicants are exempted from documenting their English qualifications/taking a test:

  • Applicants with citizenship from the following countries: Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States, or one of the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway or Sweden).
  • Applicants with a Bachelor’s or Master’s programme completed in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, or the United States. In this case, please upload your Bachelor’s or Master’s diploma under the section ”Language skills documentation”.
  • Applicants with a Bachelor’s or Master’s programme completed at a Danish university for which the requirement was English B level at the time of admission. In this case, please upload your Bachelor’s or Master’s diploma under the section ”Language skills documentation”.

The programme committee may request further information or invite the applicant to attend an interview.

How to apply:

1)      Find the application form:
Go to www.phd.scitech.au.dk/for-applicants/apply-here - Note, the online application system opens on 1 December 2019.
Choose February 2020 Call with deadline 1 February 2020 at noon (11.59 AM CET).
You will be directed to the call, and must choose the programme 'Engineering'.

2)      Fill in the following information:

  • Personal information
  • Academic background
  • Admission
  • Financing (if any)
  • Study: In the dropdown menu you must choose the project: "Exploring natural and artificial biofilms of acetogenic bacteria to improve microbial electrosynthesis rates"
  • Source (how you found out about the call)

Next to some of the information fields you will find a number. Click on the number to get further directions on how to fill in the information field/what information is needed.

3)      Application attachments:
Please be aware that you cannot submit the application if one or several of these documents have not been uploaded.

If you wish to upload more than one document under each section, you must scan/merge all documents into one large PDF file and upload this. Please note that we reserve the right to remove scientific papers, large reports, theses and the like. Instead you can indicate a URL where the information is available.

All information in the application must be in English or Danish, preferably English.

As a minimum all applications must include (pdf-files only, max. 20 MB, no zip):

  • One reference (template for references)
  • Curriculum vitae,
  • Motivation (max. 1 page)
  • Transcripts, grade point averages (weighted and unweighted), and diploma(s) for both Bachelor’s and Master’s degree
  • Project description (½-4 pages). For technical reasons, you must upload a project description. When - as here - you apply for a specific project, please simply copy the project description above, and upload it as a PDF in the application. If you wish to, you can indicate an URL where further information can be found. Please note that we reserve the right to remove scientific papers, large reports, theses and the like.
  • Documentation of language skills if required.

After submission of the application, you will receive a confirmation e-mail with an application ID, you should use for reference if needed.

GSST reserves the right to verify the authenticity of your educational diploma and transcripts:

  • Request additional information to verify an application.
  • Reject the application if it is proven, or if the University has reasonable belief, that the information provided is false or if the applicant refuses to provide the requested information, whether or not an offer has already been made. 
  • For further information on applying, assessment procedures, etc. please see the GSST Application Guide.  

Please note:

  • The programme committee may request further information or invite the applicant to attend an interview.

All interested candidates are encouraged to apply, regardless of their personal background.

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