University of Antwerp

Doctoral scholarship holder (PhD) assessing the chemical safety of new insect feed streams containing microplastics and related additives for rearing black soldier fly larvae

2024-08-15 (Europe/Brussels)
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The Faculty of Pharmaceutical, Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences of the University of Antwerp (UA) and the Faculty of Engineering Technology of the University of Leuven (KUL) are looking for a full-time doctoral scholarship holder (100%) to work on “assessing the chemical safety of new insect feed streams containing microplastics and related additives for rearing black soldier fly larvae” in the frame of the FWO-SBO funded research project EntoBOOST - Strengthening Insect-Based Agriculture: Resolving key knowledge gaps on insect welfare, safety and gut health benefits of insect products (01/10/2024 - 31/09/2028).

The EntoBOOST project has three objectives: i) Explore if and how stress in insects can be measured by monitoring insect metabolome and behaviour to contribute to the development of science-based guidelines to score insect welfare, ii) Fill research gaps on safety of pre-consumer organic waste streams containing microplastics and/or spore-forming food pathogens to enable safe use of insect feed substrates that do not compete with food or feed production, and iii) Identify which bio-active insect fractions drive observed beneficial effects on gut health in farm animals and define how these effects can be better conserved during processing. This research project will be carried out by a consortium of the leading Flemish research groups in the field of edible insects working together to resolve several urgent challenges for insect production and usage with direct relevance for multiple potential users.

The PhD project will be executed in two research groups:

The Toxicological Centre (TC, UA) with extensive analytical expertise and instrumental capabilities related to environmental and human exposure assessment. The main competences of TC relate to various aspects of the exposomics, such as human biomonitoring, human exposure risk assessment, in vitro studies of contaminant metabolism, identification of (bio)transformation products, and environmental monitoring.

The Research Group for Insect Production and Processing (IP&P, KUL Campus Geel) focuses on biological and (bio)chemical challenges within the industrial insect production and processing value chain. These challenges range from the exploration of the biological and chemical safety of insects to improving/increasing production, processing and usage of insect and insect-based products. We employ biological strategies (e.g. probiotics, substrate fermentation) and/or new chemical/physical extraction procedures (e.g. for protein or chitin).


  • You will work actively on the preparation and defence of a PhD thesis in the field of analytical and environmental chemistry and toxicology
  • A challenging PhD project in which the student will focus on assessing the chemical safety of commercially available pre-consumer waste streams (so called swill), as a substrate for rearing black soldier fly larvae (BSFL). You will chemically characterize the presence of microplastics and related additives present in swill samples and will determine the reciprocal impact between the microplastics/related additives in swill and the BSFL to develop guidelines on its safe application in practice.
  • You will work as part of a multi-disciplinary joint collaboration between the University of Antwerp (TC) and University of Leuven – Campus Geel (IP&P)
  • The project will offer training (e.g. in analytical chemistry, environmental chemistry and toxicology, bioinformatics, insect rearing), and the possibility to participate in specific international courses, workshops and conferences
  • You will publish scientific articles related to the research project


  • Academic Master recognized by the EU in one of the following disciplines: (bio)chemistry, pharmaceutical sciences, bioengineering, environmental sciences, or related fields, or you will have obtained it by the time you start work
  • You can demonstrate excellent study results
  • Knowledge in analytical chemistry, in particular in separation sciences and mass spectrometry, statistics, bioinformatics. Hands-on experience in mass spectrometry is an asset
  • Your research qualities are in line with the faculty and university research policies
  • You act with attention to quality, integrity, creativity and cooperation
  • Flexibility and team spirit in an international research environment
  • Excellent oral and written English communication skills
  • You are willing to conduct your research at both the KU Leuven Campus in Geel and the Campus Drie Eiken of the University of Antwerp in Wilrijk
  • You are willing to compete for externally funded research scholarships

What we offer

  • We offer a doctoral scholarship for a period of one year. Following a positive evaluation, the scholarship can be renewed for another three years.
  • The possibility to participate in international workshops and conferences
  • Scientific development opportunities in an international cooperative, interdisciplinary research environment and an excellent working atmosphere in a very dynamic, international and professional team
  • Extensive state-of-the-art equipment and infrastructure
  • The planned start date is 1st October 2024 or as soon as possible after that date
  • Your monthly scholarship amount is calculated according to the scholarship amounts for doctoral scholarship holders on the pay scales for Contract Research Staff
  • You will receive ecocheques, internet-connectivity allowance and a bicycle allowance or a full reimbursement of public transport costs for commuting
  • You will do your work at Campus Drie Eiken, Wilrijk (UA) and at KU Leuven - Campus Geel, in a dynamic and stimulating working environment
  • Find out more about working at the University of Antwerp here and at the KU Leuven here and here

Want to apply?

  • You can apply for this vacancy through the University of Antwerp’s online job application platform up to and including 15 August 2024 (by midnight Brussels time). Click on the 'Apply' button and complete the online application form. Be sure to include the following attachments:
    • a motivation letter
    • your academic CV
  • The selection committee reviews all applications as soon as possible after the application deadline. Selected candidates will be invited for an interview in September 2024 and will be informed about the remainder of the selection procedure.
  • If you have any questions about the online application form, please check the frequently asked questions or send an email to If you have any questions about the job itself, please contact Prof. Adrian Covaci, and/or Prof. Mik Van Der Borght

The University of Antwerp received the European Commission’s HR Excellence in Research Award for its HR policy. We are a sustainable, family-friendly organisation which invests in its employees’ growth. We encourage diversity and attach great importance to an inclusive working environment and equal opportunities, regardless of gender identity, disability, race, ethnicity, religion or belief, sexual orientation or age. We encourage people from diverse backgrounds and with diverse characteristics to apply.

Job details

Doctoral scholarship holder (PhD) assessing the chemical safety of new insect feed streams containing microplastics and related additives for rearing black soldier fly larvae
Prinsstraat 13 Antwerp, Belgium
Application deadline
2024-08-15 23:59 (Europe/Brussels)
2024-08-15 23:59 (CET)
Job type
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