Saturday, June 12, 2021

Novo Nordisk Foundation PhD student in Scale-up of 3-hydroxypropanoic Acid Production in Strains of Corynebacterium glutamicum Equipped with Genetically Encoded Sensors (ScaleSense)


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. If you would like to become an expert in this strategically important interdisciplinary 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 ‘Scale-up of 3-hydroxypropanoic acid production in strains of Corynebacterium glutamicum equipped with genetically encoded sensors’. This position will be hosted at DTU Chemical and Biochemical Engineering in the Process and Systems Engineering Centre (PROSYS Research Centre) working with mathematical modelling, development and optimization of industrial fermentations, biocatalysis, pharmaceutical and food production processes across different scales. The section has a total staff of approx. 50, of which 10 is faculty.

The 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 1 October 2021.

Project description
3-hydroxypropanoic acid (3-HP) serves as precursor of numerous important chemicals, such as acrylic acid, acrylamide and bioplastics. Over the past decade, there has been a growing interest in 3-HP production through fermentation, aiming to replace the petrochemical manufacturing route with a more sustainable process based on renewable feedstock. Corynebacterium glutamicum is a widely used industrial microorganism, which has been successfully engineered for 3-HP production. On the path to reaching industrially viable 3-HP production, the ScaleSense project will investigate potential limitations during process scale-up. In industrial fermentations, the production host is exposed to a challenging environment, which is characterized by non-ideal mixing, restricted mass and energy transfer, as well as changing substrate, product and oxygen concentrations. These factors contribute to diverse stress levels in the cell and can result in a considerable performance loss. Therefore, to explore potential bottlenecks during scale-up, 3-HP producing strains of Corynebacterium glutamicum will be equipped with genetically encoded sensors to monitor the internal state of the cells throughout the fermentation. The strains will be tested in lab and pilot fermentations so as to obtain detailed insights into strain performance and stress responses, and consequently, to provide the basis for improved strain designs that can turn bio-based 3-HP production into an industrial reality. The ScaleSense project is a collaboration between DTU Chemical Engineering, DTU Bioengineering, and industry partner FreeSense ApS.

Responsibilities and tasks
As a PhD candidate working on the ScaleSense project you will:

  • develop 3-HP producing strains of Corynebacterium glutamicum
  • develop strains with genetically encoded sensors for the real-time measurement of intracellular redox state, pH, and stress responses
  • perform fermentation studies in lab to pilot scale reactors
  • develop an improved mathematical model to describe single-cell behavior under variable environmental conditions
  • study the effect of scale on process performance by combining hydrodynamic measurements with physiological insights

We are looking for a candidate with a solid background in:

  • Microbial physiology, especially practical work with bacterial species
  • Running fermentations at different scales (from lab to pilot)
  • Mathematical modelling (e.g. Matlab and Python)
  • Knowledge in metabolic engineering of bacteria will be positively evaluated

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.

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 Professor, Dr. John Woodley and Assistant Professor Helena Junicke approved by 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 Professor, Dr. John Woodley,, or +45 4525 2885, and Assistant Professor Helena Junicke,   

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 12 July 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 here)

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 is one of the largest departments at DTU and hosts 6 research centers. The department is leading in innovative research and teaching, ranging from fundamental engineering disciplines to applied bio-based manufacturing processes. Our mission is to address important societal challenges through sustainable technological solutions. Within this mission, the Fermentation Based Biomanufacturing initiative is strengthening the department’s focus on sustainable biological production systems. The department enjoys very close relations with international partners, and especially a wide range of industrial companies. DTU Chemical Engineering has approx. 230 employees, of which more than 1/3 is scientific staff and is expanding rapidly in 2021. The department is located at DTU Lyngby Campus.

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 ├śrsted 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.

Apply for this job

Apply no later than 12 July 2021
Apply for the job at DTU Chemical Eng. by completing the following form.

Apply online

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