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PhD student Animal-free milk proteins: Development of a secretory production system of bovine caseins

Do you want to become part of a large group of researchers working on the microbial secretory production of milk proteins? Do you want to use your passion for …

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Droevendaalsesteeg, Wageningen, Gelderland
Tijdelijk contract / Tijdelijke opdracht
Uren per week:
38 - 38 uur


Do you want to become part of a large group of researchers working on the microbial secretory production of milk proteins? Do you want to use your passion for life science to carry out research to develop an animal-free, yeast-based system for expression of casein kinase to phosphorylate caseins? Then this PhD position, embedded in two closely cooperating Wageningen UR teams (applied microbial biotechnology, and dairy science & technology), may be interesting for you.

In a new consortium of many companies and universities, led by Wageningen University, we aim to produce milk proteins without cows. The focus of the consortium will be on the main milk proteins, which are caseins, that are present in milk as large colloidal particles called casein micelles. This research will have different parallel projects, focused on 1) production of the right caseins by yeast, 2) reconstitution of casein micelles from these caseins, 3) the physical properties of these reconstituted casein, 4) cheese preparation from the reconstituted casein micelles and investigation of casein digestibility, 5) social aspects of this novel way of producing milk, and 6) the economic feasibility and sustainability of this process. This vacancy concerns project 1; production of caseins by yeast.

Your main tasks will be:
  • Development of a secretory production system for various caseins using yeast strains as expression host;
  • investigation of secretory casein production by fermentation in bench-top bioreactors;
  • analysis of secreted casein and any post-translational modifications (e.g. glycosylation, phosphorylation) by various techniques including gel electrophoresis and mass spectrometry;
  • development of casein phosphorylation by co-expression of casein kinase and/or expression of kinase followed by in-vitro phosphorylation;
  • contribution to purification of secreted casein from the fermentation broth;
  • in-depth analyses of the results and writing of high quality scientific papers.
The research is embedded within the chair Food Quality and Design group https://www.wur.nl/en/Research-Results/Chair-groups/Agrotechnology-and-Food-Sciences/Food-Quality-and-Design-1.htm and member of the FQD team, which is led by Prof. Vincenzo Fogliano https://www.wur.nl/en/Research-Results/Chair-groups/Agrotechnology-and-Food-Sciences/Food-Quality-and-Design-1.htm.
You will be co-supervised by Frits de Wolf and Marc Werten.


You have:

  • A successfully completed MSc degree in the field of biotechnology, microbiology, molecular life
  • practical experience with molecular biology techniques (cloning, PCR, sterile operations, genetic transformation);
  • practical experience with in-silico (software-mediated) manipulation of DNA- and protein sequences;
  • practical experience with various biochemical techniques and preferably also with culturing in bioreactors;
  • meticulous, punctual, responsible, creative and self-starting attitude, careful planner;
  • strong scientific writing skills (evident from your MSc thesis and/or publications);
  • enthusiasm for interdisciplinary research (molecular biology, fermentation technology, protein purification);
  • excellent command of written and spoken English (a certificate of Proficiency in English may be required, depending on your MSc program);
  • team player with a drive, capable of communicating with people from other disciplines.


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.

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.

Additional information

Do you want more information?
For more information about this position, please contact contact both Frits de Wolf, Senior Scientist, email: frits.dewolf@wur.nl and Marc Werten, Scientist, email: marc.werten@wur.nl.

For more information about the procedure, please contact Emma Langelaan, HR Advisor, by mail: emma.langelaan@wur.nl or Rutger Voorrips, Recruiter, by mail: rutger.voorrips@wur.nl.

Do you want to apply?
You can apply directly using the apply button on the vacancy page on our website which will allow us to process your personal information with your approval.
This vacancy will be listed up to and including 19 August 2021.

Equal opportunities
Wageningen University & Research (WUR) employs a large number of people with very different backgrounds and qualities, who inspire and motivate each other. We want every talent to feel at home in our organisation and be offered the same career opportunities. We therefore especially welcome applications from people who are underrepresented at WUR. For more information please go to our inclusivity page. A good example of how WUR deals with inclusiveness can be read on the page working at WUR with a functional impairment.