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ESR Projects

PhD Research projects programme

FoodTraNet comprises 15 Early Stage Researcher (ESR) projects that you can apply to, details of which can be found on this page. FoodTraNet will provide world-class training for high achieving ESRs in the areas described, whilst giving ESRs the ability to transfer their knowledge from basic sciences to industrial applications.

FoodTraNet will also provide exciting opportunities for secondments as well as networking with fellow ESRs!

Detailed ESR Project Descriptions

Below you will find detailed descriptions of each individual ESR project that will provide training. You can also find them in our Call for Applicants document. This information will help you choose the one best aligned to your skills and interests before applying.

ESR Supervisors
We have a world-class team to support you through your PhD. See our dedicated page here to read about our highly experienced supervisors assigned to each ESR project.

ESR 1: Project Title: Markers for pasta and rice authentication - WP1, WP2

Host: Fondazione Edmund Mach (FEM), Centre for Research and Innovation, San Michele All'adige, Italy
Supervisor: Dr. Federica Camin, Dr Luana Bontempo, FEM
Co-supervisor: Prof. Nives Ogrinc, JSI
Enrolment in Doctoral degree: University of Trento, Trento, Italy

Context:
Globally, cereals are the most organically grown crop. In general, a product, to be recognized as organic, must be produced respecting precise rules as established in EC Regulation No 834/2007 that describes the farming practices allowed in organic production and the control systems to be carried out in order to guarantee them. Despite this and that a certification center evaluates the complete traceability of organic products, in the last few years many cases of frauds were reported worldwide in the organic foods sector. Therefore, there is the need of analytical methods that can objectively guarantee the authenticity of these products.

The potential to determine the geographical origin and the authenticity of plant derived material using stable isotope ratios is well established in food authentication studies. Furthermore, in the last years the stable isotope ratios determined in bulk products or in specific compounds, in particular the nitrogen isotope ratio, have been largely investigated as a promising marker of organic – conventional production systems. As a first approximation, natural abundance measurements by Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry (IRMS) provide information on plant species, geographical origin as well as on the agricultural treatments the plant underwent. The main aim of this study is to develop methods for bulk and compound specific analysis of stable isotope ratios for the characterization of organic and conventional pasta and rice as well as for their geographical traceability.

Objectives
To identify biomarkers for discriminating organic vs conventional pasta and rice using IRMS. In details:
(1) identification of markers for characterising organic and conventional production using stable isotope ratios of C and N in amino acids by GC-IRMS, mycotoxin analysis, residual analysis (LC/GC-MS);
(2) evaluation of the data through multivariate statistical analysis;
(3) identification of markers for tracing the geographical origin of pasta and rice using IRMS, ICP-MS;
(4) creation of traceability model through multivariate statistical analysis.

Expected Results:
Identified biomarkers for discriminating organic vs conventional pasta and rice (D1.1); A model for tracing the geographical origin of pasta and rice (D1.2.); Database of authentic samples of pasta and rice (M1); Development of MS methods for determining bioactive compounds in pasta residue (M3).

Planned secondments:
S1: Barilla (M. Suman), 3 months, M7-9, technological preparation of pasta and mycotoxin analysis; S2: CSIC (R.A. Pérez/J.L Tadeo) 1 months, M17, residual analysis; S2S3: JSI (N. Ogrinc) 5 months, M25-29, ICP-MS and MC-ICP-MS analysis; S3S4: OrgSer (B. Hermann), 1 month, M32, Database management.

ESR Profile Requirements:
• A Master’s degree recognised by the EU in one of the following disciplines: analytical chemistry, food chemistry, food science, biotechnology, pharmacy or related discipline.
• Not have resided or carried out his/her main activity (work, studies, etc.) in Italy for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to his/her recruitment.
• Preference will be given to candidates with the best academic study performances according to the ECST grading scale and recognised by the EU.
• Preference will be given to candidates with experience or competencies in analytical chemistry methods, particularly in IRMS, MS, GC and LC techniques.
• Preference will be given to candidates with experience or competencies in data treatment, data analysis and interpretation.
• The successful candidate will be highly motivated, organised, creative, and enjoys working independently and as part of a research team.

ESR 2: Project Title: Authenticity of dairy products - WP2, WP1

Host: Fondazione Edmund Mach (FEM), Centre for Research and Innovation, San Michele All'adige, Italy
Supervisor: Dr. Elena Franciosi, FEM
Co-supervisor: Dr. Federica Camin, UniTN
Enrolment in Doctoral degree: University of Trento, Trento, Italy

Context:
Cheese is one of those food products with potential as a functional food because of its ability to convey bioactive compounds deriving from milk and beneficial health-related bacteria, but it is not yet fully evaluated. This means that the consumer is unaware of the possible nutritional value of functional fermented cheese and lacks knowledge of the authentic characteristics and properties of dairy-based functional foods.

Objectives:
Identify bioactive compounds related to animal feeding/farming and produce novel functional cheeses by adding bacteria already tested for healthy compound production. Specific objectives include:
(1) Characterisation of bacteria for their ability in producing bioactive compounds (B-vitamins, gamma-aminobutyric acid) and for their ability to restore the balance of the gut microbiota (bifidobacteria, propionibacteria) and whole-genome analysis for considering the possibility of their use in functional cheese.
(2) Identify differences in elemental and isotopic parameters between milk to cheese.
(3) Determine authenticity based on a prediction map (isoscape).
(4) Isotopically characterise the main bioactive compounds between milk to cheese using GC-C-IRMS.

Expected Results:
Validated methods and creation of isoscapes for verifying authenticity of traditional raw milk cheeses (D2.1); Identify the presence of bioactive compounds and putative probiotic bacteria in traditional raw milk cheeses and in novel dairy products added with healthy and functional bacteria (D2.2); Database of authentic samples of raw milk cheeses (M1).

Planned secondments:
S5: CONCAST (N. Cologna), 3 months, M8-11, production and sampling of raw milk cheeses; S6: CSIC (D. Hernando), 3 months, M15-17, analysis of bioactive compounds; S7: JSI (N. Ogrinc), 3 months, M20-22, elemental composition analysis; S8: FF (A. Johnson), 3 months, M27-29, statistical evaluation of the data with different methods, formation of isoscapes, knowledge exchange.

ESR Profile Requirements:
• Academic Master recognized by the EU in one of the following disciplines: microbiology, food chemistry, food science, biotechnology or related discipline.
• Not have resided or carried out his/her main activity (work, studies, etc.) in Italy for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to his/her recruitment.
• Knowledge of written and spoken English (minimum level B2).
• Preference will be given to candidates with best academic study performances according to ECST grading scale and recognized by the EU.
• Preference will be given to candidates with experience or competences in microbiological methods used to culture milk and cheese and in molecular techniques such as (DNA/RNA/protein extraction, qPCR, gel electrophoresis, cryopreservation, and other methods).
• Preference will be given to candidates with experience or competences in data treatment, data analysis and interpretation including statistical analysis.
• The successful candidate will be highly motivated, organized, and creative, and enjoys working independently and as part of a research team.
• The researcher will play an active part in the scientific life of the international research environment of the FoodTraNet network.

ESR 3: Project Title: Distinctive multimodal molecular organic and traditional wine characterisation - WP1

Host: Universiteit Maastricht (UM-M4I), Imaging Mass Spectrometry, Maastricht, Netherlands
Supervisor: Prof. Ron Heeren, UM-M4I
Co-supervisor: Dr. Berta Cillero-Pastor, UM-M4I
Enrolment in Doctoral degree: Universiteit Maastricht, Maastricht, Netherlands

Context:
The Division of Imaging Mass Spectrometry at M4i is one of the world leader institutes in high resolution molecular imaging of biological and material surfaces. The division targets the development and application of the state-of-the-art mass spectrometry based molecular imaging approaches for biomedical research and food sciences.

Objectives:
To assess the differences between traditional and organic wine-making by combining stable isotope analysis with mass spectrometry imaging. The study will determine the:
(1) molecular composition of commercial fertilisers and biodynamic preparations used in wine production. This includes the identification of different strains of bacteria on the leaves;
(2) the metabolic composition of organic and industrial wines;
(3) effect of biodynamic preparations on the metabolic composition of vine leaves at high spatial resolution: DESI-IMS, MALDI-IMS and SIMS will be combined in a multimodal approach;
(4) specific isotopic ratios (C, N, H, O, Sr and Pb) in wine, leaves and soil to discriminate regional origin using IRMS, MC-ICP-MS and SNIF-NMR;
(5) molecular profile of vine leaves using rapid evaporative ionisation mass spectrometry.

Expected Results:
Multimodal analysis and data integration for improved wine classification/origin (D1.3); Implementation of fast screening methods for wine traceability (M2); Development of MS methods for determining bioactive compounds in wine (M3).

Planned Secondments:
S9: JSI (N. Ogrinc), 3 months, M14-16, specific isotopic ratios of light elements in wine, leaves and soil and Sr and Pb isotope analysis; S10: FEM (L. Bontempo), 2 months M19-20 SNIF-NMR analysis and MS database formation; S11: Agilent (J. Escribano), 3 months, M27-29, Target analysis of bioactive compounds by LC-MS.

ESR Profile Requirements:
• Background in Analytical Chemistry, Biochemistry, Food Sciences, Microbiology, Pharmacy or similar;
• Preferably with experience in mass spectrometry, mass spectrometry imaging, separation sciences and bioinformatics;
• Experience with bacterial culture, protein isolation and bacterial identification;
• Outstanding academic study performance;
• You act with attention to quality, integrity, creativity, and cooperation in an international environment;
• Critical thinking, flexible, highly motivated and independent;

ESR 4: Project Title: Development of novel edible photonic barcodes for food tagging and tracing - WP3, WP1

Host: Jožef Stefan Institute (JSI), Department of Condensed Matter Physics, Ljubljana, Slovenia
Supervisor: Dr. Matjaž Humar, JSI
Co-supervisor: TBD
Enrolment in Doctoral degree: Jožef Stefan International Postgraduate School, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Context:
Traditionally barcodes are placed on the food packaging. However, to tag unpackaged bulk food and other products as well for food traceability and counterfeiting, microscopic optically readable barcodes made out of edible materials and placed within the food itself would be desirable. The candidate will be developing and testing such barcodes.

Objectives:
To develop edible photonic barcodes system for food traceability. Specific objectives are to:
(1) To develop photonic barcodes made entirely of edible materials.
(2) develop a handheld optical barcode reader, for non-contact applications, e.g. through transparent packaging;
(3) test reliability, longevity and readout procedure of barcodes embedded in different foods (wine, olive oil and rice);
(4) study the stability, migration and effects of the photonic barcodes in the food by mass spectrometry;
(5) study consumer and industry acceptance of photonic barcodes

Expected Results:
The project will deliver a demonstrable edible photonic barcoding system for food traceability (D3.1) and its characterisation using MSI (M9)

Planned secondments:
S12: WRG (V. EdkinsM. Pickard) 1 month, M10, learning traditional methods for food traceability; S13: FC (A. Fetlinski), 2 months, M18-19, studying consumer opinion about embedding barcodes; S14: M4I (B. Cillero Pastor), 2 months, M27-28, characterization of photonic barcodes by MSI.

ESR Profile Requirements:
Candidates with physics or engineering background with experience in photonics are preferred. Experience in material science or chemistry is desirable but not required.

ESR 5: Project Title: Characterization of bioactive compounds in organic beekeeping - WP1

Host: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC-INIA), Department of Environment and Agronomy, Madrid, Spain
Supervisor: Prof. María Dolores Hernando, CSIC-INIA
Co-supervisor: Prof. Amadeo Rodríguez Fernández-Alba, UAL
Enrolment in Doctoral degree: Universidad de Almería, Almería, Spain

Context:
Beekeeping is an ancient tradition in Europe, important for the environment, sustaining biodiversity by providing essential pollination for a wide range of crops and wild plants. Alongside honey, which is undoubtedly the most widespread bee product, bees also provide us with pollen, propolis and royal jelly from which people can benefit. However, there is limited evidence to support the approval of the health claims related to beekeeping products. The PhD student is expected to identify natural compounds and residues in beekeeping products from both conventional and organic production using targeted and screening methods based on mass spectrometry.

Objectives:
Characterize bioactive compounds as markers of organic beekeeping Specific objectives include:
(1) development of extraction methods for the analysis of bioactive compounds;
(2) elucidation of chemical structures of bioactive compounds detected in organic beekeeping using targeted and non-targeted approaches using high-resolution-MS techniques;
(3) characterisation of honeybee products from different geographic areas (Spain, Italy and Slovenia) using IRMS.

Expected Results:
The candidate will identify specific markers capable of differentiating organic vs conventional beekeeping (D1.4); MS methods for determining bioactive compounds (M3); A database of bioactive compounds in organic and conventional food products (M4).

Planned Secondments
S15: AUTH (D. Lambropolou), 3 months M7-10, develop knowledge and skills for the isolation and extraction of bioactive compounds; S16: JSI (N. Ogrinc/E. Heath) 3 months, M13-15, analysis of bioactive compounds and stable isotope analysis; S17: UAL-EURL (A.F. Alba) 3 months, M19-20-22; analysis of bioactive compounds by high resolution-MS (Orbitrap and QTOF); S18: Agilent (J. Escribano), 1 month, M17, training in advanced MS techniques.

ESR Profile Requirements:
• Academic Master recognised by the EU in one of the following disciplines: Analytical Chemistry, Chemistry, Food Sciences, or Pharmacy.
• Outstanding academic study performance.
• Expertise or knowledge of analytical chemistry, particularly in separation sciences and mass spectrometry, statistics and data management.
• Strong interest in basic and applied research.
• You act with attention to quality and creativity.
• Critical thinking, highly motivated and independent.
• Flexible and able to work in a team in an international research environment.

ESR 6: Project Title: Novel strategies for verifying food authenticity and building consumer trust – WP5

Host: Jožef Stefan Institute (JSI), Department of Environmental Sciences, Ljubljana, Slovenia
Supervisor: Prof. dr. Nives Ogrinc, JSI
Co-supervisor: Prof. Barbara Koroušić-Seljak, JSI
Enrolment in Doctoral degree: Jožef Stefan International Postgraduate School, Ecotechnologies, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Context:
One of the main obstacles for commercial application of authenticity tests such as Stable Isotope Ratio Analysis (SIRA) is the availability of a suitable reference sample databases and the cost and time required for development of databases for new products of interest. The proposed PhD will address this obstacle by investigating the question “how to build appropriate database”, focusing on the following key points: a) What is the current state of the art for authenticity testing? What tests are currently available and widely used? b) What databases are available, how have they been collated and where are they held? c) Sampling theory – what sampling strategies have been applied in previous studies? What theories from other disciplines may be useful for application in this study? E.g. Non-probability sampling (i.e. haphazard/convenience sampling) or probability sampling (i.e. simple random). d) Commercial considerations – what variables of commercial production need to be considered to develop a suitable database; e) Identify target tests and products for validation studies (likely rice, oil, wine, meat, fresh produce). Further s/he will develop a new sampling strategies based on theoretical and commercial considerations and validate the sampling strategy for target products and methods.

Objectives:
To develop novel strategies to ensure commercial food authenticity. Specific objectives include:
(1) determination of the optimum number and sampling frequency and analysis in food authenticity;
(2) commercial considerations – what variables of commercial production need to be considered to develop a suitable database;
(3) identification of target tests and products for validation studies (likely rice, oil, wine, meat, fresh produce);
(4) to assess regulatory barriers and drivers to sustainability.

Expected Results:
The ESR will deliver an integrated consumer assurance protocol framework and toolkit for creating trust and ensuring food quality and traceability throughout the supply chain (D5.2).

Planned secondments:
S19: JSI (N. Ogrinc), 2 months, M8-M10, development and utilisation of novel sampling strategy for collection/collation of rice samples for project; S20: CONCAST (N. Cologna), 1 month, M13, knowledge exchange, training in commercial food production; S21: FC (A. Feltinski), 5 weeks, M22-23, knowledge exchange in relation to the consumer interest, behaviour and trust.

ESR Profile Requirements:
Food science, chemistry with possible additional knowledge in data management: R programming, Python coding, SQL database/coding, clustering and classification machine learning methods.

ESR 7: Project Title: Alternative waste exploitation: microplastics in water and reuse in crops - WP2

Host: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas CSIC-INIA, Department of Environment and Agronomy, Madrid, Spain
Supervisor: Prof. María Dolores Hernando, CSIC-INIA
Co-supervisor: Prof. Ester Heath, JSI
Enrolment in Doctoral degree: Jožef Stefan International Postgraduate School, Ecotechnologies, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Context:
While the impacts of microplastics (MPs) in the environment have been the subject of significant media and scientific attention, the research on the uptake and accumulation of MPs by plants is still very scarce. MPs may enter agricultural systems through a variety of means, such as through organic fertilization, plastic mulching, waste water irrigation, plastic littering, surface runoff or from atmospheric deposition of airborne MPs. The PhD student is expected to study whether MPs pass through the physical barriers of tissues of plants growing from treated wastewater and whether MPs translocate from roots to aerial parts, in a laboratory setting.

Objectives:
To assess uptake of MP and NP in crops grown on hydroponic conditions. Specific objectives:
(1) development of extraction techniques for MP and NP in root, stems and leaves;
(2) optimization of methodologies for the detection of MP and NP;
(3) determine if the presence of MP and NP in irrigation water can reach edible parts of vegetables;
(4) evaluate the role of MP and NP as scavengers and transporters of contaminants represented by pesticides, bisphenols, pharmaceuticals, PCP and PAHs.

Expected Results:
A novel multi-functional “Smart” polymer nanostructured materials: MIP and SAP materials (D3.2); MSI methods for MIPs and SAPs characterisation (M9); Synthesis of MIPs and SAPs (M10); selective extraction and simultaneous determination of bioactive compounds and CEC in food and food wastes by using HRMS.

Planned Secondments
S27: TA (K. Tsarhopoulos), 2 months, M8 and M22, training in advanced MS analysis; S28: CSIC (R.A.Pérez/ J.L Tadeo), 2 months, M10-11, knowledge and skills exchange for target, suspect and non-target analysis; S29: JSI (E. Heath), 4 months, M17-20, testing the smart MIP/SAP sorbents for quantitative analysis of CECs in collaboration with ESR7 and ESR10; S30: UA (A. Covaci) 2 months, M27-28, testing novel MIP sorbents for the quantitative analysis of one of the new chemicals identified by ESR9 at UA.

ESR Profile Requirements:
• Academic Master recognized by the EU in one of the following disciplines: Analytical Chemistry, Environmental Chemistry, Chemistry, or Food Sciences.
• Outstanding academic study performance.
• Expertise or knowledge of analytical chemistry, particularly in separation sciences and mass spectrometry, data management and statistics. Strong interest in basic and applied research.
• You act with attention to quality and creativity. Critical thinking, highly motivated and independent.
• Flexible and able to work in a team in an international research environment.

ESR 8: Project Title: Synthesis of “smart” polymer nanostructured materials for use in food research - WP3, WP2

Host: Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTH), Chem./ Environ. Pollution Control Laboratory, Thessaloniki, Greece
Supervisor: Prof. Dimitra Lambropoulou, AUTH
Co-supervisor: Prof. Dimitrios Bikiaris, AUTH
Enrolment in Doctoral degree: Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki, Greece

Context:
In the last years, food safety authorities and researchers have paid great attention to chemical contaminants (e.g. pesticides, emerging contaminants, etc) that may be present in food as a result of the various stages of its production, packaging, transport or storage, or as a result of environmental contamination of air, soil and water. Hence, for food evaluation there is an urgent need for reliable and precise analytical methods enabling screening followed by confirmatory analysis. However, analysis of complex matrix such as food samples is still challenging due to the presence of many interferents which could be present and can occasionally lead to erroneous results, making both qualitative and quantitative analysis of target analytes difficult.

To overcome the endogenous compounds interference in analytical methods, a sample preparation method is often required prior to further analysis of these contaminants. Hence, more reliable, expeditious, inexpensive, low solvent consumption and environmentally friendly sample preparation methods are required. To meet these new demands, research on all branches of analytical science have been carried out; in particular, the techniques and strategies for sample preparation have been subject of extensive investigation. In view of this aspect, the development of new materials has gained increasing research interest in sample preparation, due to their desirable characteristics and advantages versus traditional and commercial sorbents. Thus, the main goal of this study is to advance existing knowledge and methods for preparing “smart” polymer nanostructured materials (Molecularly Imprinted Polymers (MIP) and Super Adsorbent Polymer (SAP)) with tailored properties and to combine their utility with the simplicity of sorptive extraction techniques for determination of different groups of legacy and emerging contaminants in food and food wastes by using advanced mass spectrometry techniques such as high resolution mass spectrometry.

Objectives:
To synthesize smart polymer nanostructured materials for selective removal of bioactive compounds and compounds of emerging concern. Specific objectives:
(1) provide a cost-effective extractive media (Molecularly Imprinted Polymers (MIP) and Super Adsorbent Polymer (SAP)) with enhanced thermal, chemical or mechanical stability;
(2) determine target bioactive compounds and contaminants of emerging concern (pesticides, industrial chemicals etc.) in food and food wastes;
(3) apply MIP and SAP for selective isolation and extraction for the target, suspect and non-target analysis using GC and LC Mass Spectrometry (MS) techniques (HRMS) (Orbitrap LC-MS), LC-MS/MS, GC-MS);
(4) optimise experimental design using Multivariate Statistical Techniques (MST) based on a Design of Experiments (DoE) methodology;
(5) compare novel materials with state-of-the-art commercially available sorbents and coatings in real-life applications connected to ESR7, ESR9 and ESR10.

Expected Results:
A novel multi-functional “Smart” polymer nanostructured materials: MIP and SAP materials (D3.2); MSI methods for MIPs and SAPs characterisation (M9); Synthesis of MIPs and SAPs (M10); selective extraction and simultaneous determination of bioactive compounds and CEC in food and food wastes by using HRMS.

Planned secondments:
S27: TA (K. Tsarhopoulos), 2 months, M8 and M22, training in advanced MS analysis; S28: CSIC (R.A.Pérez/ J.L Tadeo), 2 months, M10-11, knowledge and skills exchange for target, suspect and non-target analysis; S29: JSI (E. Heath/T. Kosjek), 4 months, M17-20, testing the smart MIP/SAP sorbents for quantitative analysis of CECs in collaboration with ESR7 and ESR10; S30: UA (A. Covaci) 2 months, M27-28, testing novel MIP sorbents for the quantitative analysis of one of the new chemicals identified by ESR9 at UA.

ESR Profile Requirements:
• Outstanding academic study performances according to ECST grading scale and recognised by the EU.
• Knowledge of environmental analytical chemistry, separation sciences, mass spectrometry, statistics, and bioinformatics.
• Interest in basic research, analytical chemistry, and human exposure to contaminants.

Additional Qualifications:
• Publications in scientific journals on environmental analytical chemistry and polymer science.
• Presentations at scientific conferences on environmental analytical science and polymer science.
• Proven knowledge of environmental analytical chemistry and chromatography techniques coupled to mass spectrometry.
• Proven knowledge of polymer science.
• Proven knowledge of Information Technology.
• Programming knowledge in R or Matlab environment.

ESR 9: Project Title: Identification of contaminants of emerging concern in novel foods for human consumption - WP2

Host: University of Antwerp (UA), Toxicological Center, Antwerp, Belgium
Supervisor: Prof. Adrian Covaci, UA
Co-supervisor/mentors: Prof. Alexander van Nuijs and Dr. Giulia Poma, UA
Enrolment in Doctoral degree: University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium

Context:
The Toxicological Centre (TC) has a longstanding experience, analytical skills and instrumental capabilities related to the human biomonitoring and assessment of environmental and human toxicology, with emphasis on legacy and emerging contaminants (including phthalates and flame retardants). The PhD student is expected to identify contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) in novel food commodities using non-target and suspect high-resolution mass spectrometric (HRMS) screening methods.

Objectives:
To identify emerging chemicals in novel food commodities of animal origin using non-target and suspect screening methods. Specific objectives:
(1) develop and harmonise workflows for non-target screening methodologies for determining new chemicals currently available in chemical databases;
(2) characterise emerging chemicals by high-resolution MS screening in (novel) foods of animal origin for human consumption (seafood, edible insects, beehive products);
(3) critically assess the performance of analytical platforms based on HRMS
(4) generate databases by chemometric processing of data to establish geographical patterns of CECs.
(5) - Estimate chemical food safety of newly identified CECs in novel foods.

Expected Results:
Identification of unregulated and emerging chemicals in novel foods of animal origin (D2.3); development of MS methods for determining CECs (M5); Comprehensive database of identified CECs (M6)

Planned Secondments
S31: TA (K. Tsarhopoulos), 5 weeks, M10-11, exposure of ESR to a private sector analytical enterprise, which use of similar MS technology; S32: FF (A. Johnson) 2 months, M15-16, training in food characterization; S33: JSI (T. Kosjek), 2 months, M32-33, knowledge exchange to investigate country-differences in the patterns of new chemicals.

ESR Profile Requirements:
• You must hold an Academic Master recognized by the EU in one of the following disciplines: chemistry, biochemistry, biomedical or pharmaceutical sciences.
• The researcher must not have resided or carried out this/her main activity (work, studies, etc.) in Belgium for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to his/her recruitment.
• Outstanding academic study performances according to ECST grading scale and recognized by the EU.
• Expertise or knowledge in analytical chemistry, in particular in separation sciences and mass spectrometry, statistics, bioinformatics. Strong interest in basic research, analytical chemistry, and human exposure to contaminants.
• Your research qualities are in line with the faculty and university research policies.
• You act with attention to quality, integrity, creativity, and cooperation.

ESR 10: Project Title: Alternative waste exploitation: contaminants of emerging concern in agricultural wastewater reuse - WP2

Host: Jožef Stefan Institute (JSI), Department of Environmental Sciences, Ljubljana, Slovenia
Supervisor: Prof. Ester. Heath, JSI
Co-supervisor: Prof. Nives Ogrinc, JSI
Enrolment in Doctoral degree: Jožef Stefan International Postgraduate School, Ecotechnologies, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Context:
The Jožef Stefan Institute, Department of Environmental Sciences (JSI-O2) has over 20 years of experience developing and applying analytical methods for qualitative and quantitative determination of organic pollutant residues in environment-, health- and food-related matrices. The PhD student is expected to identify residues of contaminants of emerging concern (CEC) in model vegetables after applying wastewater for irrigation and treated sludge for fertilisation using non-target, suspect and target mass spectrometric screening methods.

Objectives:
To assess the reuse of wastewater and sludge for agricultural use and the nutritional value and safety of crops. Specific objectives are to:
(1)Develop analytical workflows (LC-MS/MS: target, suspect, non-target) for the determination of contaminants of emerging concern (CEC) residues in different matrices (soil, aq. phase, plant tissues).
(2) Characterise the presence of CEC residues in treated wastewater and treated sludge.
(3) Evaluate the uptake and distribution of CEC residues (parent compounds, metabolites, transformation products) in plant tissues (roots, stem, leaves) after application.
(4) Model plant uptake under different experimental condition.
(5) Evaluate the effects of treated wastewater and treated sludge on fruit quality attributes.
(6) Assess consumer risk from consuming plants irrigated with treated wastewater and grown in treated sludge amended soil.

Expected Results:
The candidate will deliver a thesis assessing agricultural irrigation with wastewaters and fertilisation with treated sludge concerning food quality and safety (D2.4); A MS methods for determining bioactive compound residues (M3); A MS methods for determining unregulated chemicals and chemicals of emerging concerns (CEC) (M5); Risk assessment on the use of crops irrigated with wastewater (M7).

Planned secondments:
S34: AUTH (D. Lambropoulou), 1 month, M9, exchange of knowledge and skills for the isolation and extraction of CEC and NFCs; S35: CSIC (D. Hernando), 6 months, M13-18 develop the skills of extraction of plant material and wastewaters and characterise micropollutant content and up-take; S36; TA (K. Tsarhopoulos), 1 month, M21 knowledge exchange on the new state-of-the-art techniques in MS analysis; S37: NIJZ (U. Blaznik), 1 month, M35, introducing the methods for assessing the risk on potential use of food residues.

ESR Profile Requirements:
As the candidate, you must have:
• A Master’s degree recognised by the EU in one of the following disciplines: chemistry, food sciences, environmental sciences, biochemistry, biomedical or pharmaceutical sciences;
• An outstanding academic study performance according to ECST grading scale and recognised by the EU;
• Expertise or knowledge of analytical chemistry, particularly in separation sciences and mass spectrometry, statistics, bioinformatics, and an interest in performing basic research and human exposure to contaminants;
• Research qualities in line with the faculty and university research policies;
• The ability to pay attention to quality, integrity, creativity, and cooperation;
• The ability to work independently and as a part of a team in an international research environment

ESR 11: Project Title: New chemical and bio-sensors for food quality and safety – WP3, WP1, WP2

Host: Institute for Environmental Protection and Sensors Ltd. (IOS), Maribor, Slovenia
Supervisor: Prof. Aleksandra Lobnik, IOS
Co-supervisor: TBD
Enrolment in Doctoral degree: University of Maribor, Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, Maribor, Slovenia

Context:
Focus will be on development of optical sensor for non-invasive detection of freshness, pesticides, various allergens in real-time and will primarily serve to the food processing industry to assure product traceability and safety from the production line to the end users. Optical sensor technology provides a viable alternative to electrodes and other chemical-sensing devices because it has low sensitivity to electromagnetic noise, compatibility with optical fibers, easily miniaturized and does not require a reference cell.

Objectives:
To develop nano-based chemical/bio-sensor receptors for determination of organophosphates, freshness, food quality.

Expected Results:
Nano- and bio-sensors for determination of food quality and safety (D3.3); Sensor performance characterised (M8).

Planned Secondments
S38: BOKU (G. M. Guebitz), 3 months, M14-16, development of bio-sensors and immobilization of enzymes on nanomaterials; S39: JSI (E. Heath), 2 months, M21-22, validation of developed sensors; S40: CSIC (D. Hernando/R.González), 2 months, M27-28, application of sensor for determination of pesticides in real system – food waste.

ESR Profile Requirements:
The main requirements are to understand the process of the sensor development which involves interdisciplinary topics and includes some knowledges from the material and nanomaterial science, photonics, chemicals, optical indicators, analytical chemistry as well some basic knowledge from biology. The main goal of this work is to design appropriate bio-chemical sensor for organophosphates, food freshness, as well for food quality parameters.

ESR 12: Project Title: The synthesis of smart biopolymer materials with nanostructured surfaces with antimicrobial, biocompatible, anti-adhesive properties - WP3

Host: Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTH), Chem./ Environ. Pollution Control Laboratory, Thessaloniki, Greece
Supervisor: Prof. Dimitrios Bikiaris, AUTH
Co-supervisor: Dr. Dimitra Lambropoulou, AUTH
Enrolment in Doctoral degree: Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki, Greece

Context:
It is estimated that 1.2-1.5 billion tonnes of food is wasted globally each year and the shelf life of food, its maintenance/conservation and safety is of high interest to everyone in the food chain, including producers and consumers. There are several factors affecting food shelf life like microbiological, chemical, biochemical and physical (storage) conditions. For long-term storage the packaging is one of the most important factors which affect food preservation. New packaging materials, mainly polymers, are designed to protect food against chemical and microbiological contamination, to optimize and extent shelf life and to protect consumer health. These polymers should be free of any substances that could interfere or contaminate food and should have high mechanical performance, appropriate gas barrier and high antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. Last years there is of high interest to use biobased and fully biodegradable and biocompatible polymers as food packaging materials. Furanoate polyesters are the most important class of bio-based polymers derived from biomass, or synthesized from biomass-originated monomers, and can be used as alternatives to fossil-based polymers.

The annual production growth of biobased polymers is estimated by around 18-20% using renewable sources, thus reducing CO2 emissions by 60-80% and the needs for non-renewable energy use (NREU) at about 70%. Nanotechnology can contribute to this direction with the use of new and smart nanoadditives enhancing the properties of traditional food packaging materials. Additional techniques can be also applied on food packaging polymers i.e., coating with nanoadditives to improve its permeability to gaseous compounds (water and oxygen), and specific micro/nano textured geometries can be designed, fabricated and replicated using nanoimprint lithography. This will further enhance the antimicrobial and antifungal properties of the food packaging surface, leading to improved food maintenance/conservation and safety.

Objectives:
To develop new biopolymer packaging material with antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. Specific objectives:
(1) produce high purity 2,5-furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA) for the preparation of bio-based polyesters using diols like ethylene glycol, propylene glycol and butanediol as packaging material;
(2) study the addition of nano-additives with antimicrobial properties by in situ polymerisation;
(3) characterise smart biopolymers (molecular weight and physical properties: thermal, mechanical, the degree of crystallinity, solubility, gas barrier, toxicity and antimicrobial properties);
(4) determine the safety and migration of smart polyester residues (monomers, decomposition byproducts) into foods or carbonated drinks and juices using LC-MS and GC-MS;
(5) up-scaling for industrial application.

Expected Results:
A new biopolymer packaging material with antimicrobial and antioxidant properties (D3.4); Characterization of smart biopolymer materials using MSI methods (M9); Synthesis of monomers and polyesters including nano-additives (M10).

Planned secondments:
S41: UM (L. Fras/V. Kokol/Z. Peršin), 2 months, M17-M18 to investigate interactions between polymer matrix and inorganic nanoparticles using a quartz crystal microbalance (QCM) technique; S42: AHat (L. Tourasanidis), 2 months, M13 and M28, up-scaling of production technologies to industrial application and commercialization; S43: M4I (B. Cillero Pastor) 4 months, M20-M23, nano-TOF SIMS analysis for packaging surface characterization and interaction with food components. Bacterial profiling (fast screening) by MALDI-MS.

ESR Profile Requirements:
• PhD Candidate must hold an Academic Master recognized by the EU in one of the following disciplines: chemistry or chemical engineering science, polymer science or material science.
• The researcher must not have resided or carried out this/her main activity (work, studies, etc.) in Greece for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to his/her recruitment. Compulsory national service and/or short stays such as holidays are not taken into account.
• Outstanding academic study performances according to ECST grading scale and recognized by the EU.
• Expertise or knowledge in polymer science, in particular in material synthesis and characterization.
• Strong interest in basic research, organic and polymer chemistry
• You act with attention to quality, integrity, creativity, and cooperation.
• Flexibility and team spirit in an international research environment.

Additional Qualifications:
• Publications in scientific journals on material and polymer science;
• Presentations in scientific conferences on material and polymer science;
• Proven knowledge of chemistry or chemical engineering or polymer or material sciences;
• Proven knowledge of material characterization (e.g/ XRD, FTIR, DSC, mechanical properties, etc);
• The knowledge is substantiated by relevant diploma thesis or relative courses of the course (analytical grade and if the title of the course does not directly lead the correlation, the analytical score will be accompanied by the description of the course in the Study Guide) or with a relative publication or with a relevant certificate.

ESR 13: Project Title: Functional coatings for active packaging development - WP3

Host: University of Maribor (UM), Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, Maribor, Slovenia
Supervisor: Prof. Lidija Fras Zemljič, UM
Co-supervisor: Prof. Dimitrios Bikiaris, AUTH; Dr. Klementina Pušnik Črešnar, UM
Enrolment in Doctoral degree: University of Maribor, Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, Maribor, Slovenia

Context:
Laboratory for Characterization and Processing of Polymers (LCPP) is active within the Institute of Engineering Materials and Design at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, University of Maribor. The main expertise is toward the development of Functional Materials, including packaging materials. PhD student is expected to develop new active packaging material and advanced coatings/fillers using natural substances with antioxidative and antibacterial properties.

Objectives:
Develop new PET/PP/PLA packaging material and advanced coatings/fillers using natural substances with antioxidative and antibacterial properties. Specific objectives will be to:
(1) Develop, manufacture and demonstrate a combined innovative and sustainable packaging solution based on active agents;
(2) Integrate nano-sensors for non-destructive sensing and real-time detection of critical species within food packs to monitor food quality and safety along the food supply chain (connected to ESR11);
(3) Perform safety assessment in terms of chemical, toxicological and microbiological risks;
(4) Demonstrate “real world” applicability for target foods, i.e. meat and cheese;
(5) Up-scale from the laboratory to industrial demo pilot line.

Expected Results:
New PET/PP packaging and alternatively biodegradable PLA materials and advanced coating/fillers based on natural substances with antioxidative and antibacterial properties (D3.5); Characterisation of PET/PP and PLA packaging material with emphasis on surface properties and adsorption/desorption phenomena and migration study using MSI (M9); Functional coatings and fillers (M11).

Planned Secondments
S44: FC (A. Feltinski) 1 month M7, 2 months M33-34; study the consumers behaviour in relation to smart packaging considering economic aspect; S45: AUTH (D. Lambropoulou), 2 months, M9-10, development of functional coatings based on hydrophobic chitosan and its characterisations; S46: M4I (B. Cillero Pastor), 2 months, M19-20, analysing surface properties of functionalised surfaces as well as adsorption/desorption phenomena using advanced MSI; S47: IOS (A. Lobnik), 1 month, M28, integration of sensors in packaging material; S48: AHat (L. Tourasanidis), 1 month, M31, up-scale of ESR laboratory knowledge to industrial demo pilot line.

ESR Profile Requirements:
• You must have an EU-recognized Academic Master in one of the following disciplines: Chemistry, Food Science, Materials Engineering, Environmental Science, Biochemistry.
• Excellent academic record according to the ECST grading scale and recognized by the EU.
• Expertise or knowledge in colloid chemistry, materials and/or biotechnology.
• Experience in the use of surface analytical methods. To have an overview of the state of the art in novel packaging materials. Strong interest in basic research, colloidal chemistry and materials engineering.
• Your research skills are in line with faculty and university research guidelines.
• You act with quality, integrity, creativity and collaboration.
• You have experience in writing scientific articles.

ESR 14: Project Title: Plastics in Seafood - WP1, WP3

Host: Universiteit Maastricht (UM-M4I), Imaging Mass Spectrometry, Maastricht, Netherlands
Supervisor: Prof. Ron Heeren, UM-M4I
Co-supervisor: Dr. Berta Cillero Pastor, UM-M4I
Enrolment in Doctoral degree: Universiteit Maastricht, Maastricht, Netherlands

Context:
The Division of Imaging Mass Spectrometry at M4i is one of the world leader institutes in high resolution molecular imaging of biological and material surfaces. The division targets the development and application of the state-of-the-art mass spectrometry based molecular imaging approaches for biomedical research and food sciences.

Objectives:
To develop mass spectrometry imaging protocols for fast polymer characterisation and detection in seafood that could be used by regulation bodies and policy-makers. Specific objectives:
(1) Perform surface characterisation of the most abundant plastic contaminants found in European fish and seafood using high mass/spatial resolution mass spectrometry (MALDI-MSI and nano-TOF-SIMS);
(2) Understand the interphase between plastic and biological tissues obtained from fish and seafood;
(3) Analyse the protein profiles of tissues polluted by microplastics;
(4) Determine the risk to public health.

Expected Results:
MSI protocols for fast screening polymeric residues in seafood for use by regulatory bodies and policy-makers (D1.5); Implementation of fast screening methods using MSI tools (M2); Introducing MSI methods for nano-material characterisation (M9).

Planned secondments:
S49: UA (A. Covaci), 2 months, M22-23, application of non-target and suspect screening approaches based on accurate mass high resolution mass spectrometry; S50: CSIC (D. Hernando/R.González), 3 months, M26-28, chemical modification analysis after plastic exposure; S51: Agilent (J. Escribano), 1 month, M31, training in the treatment of MS data with mass spectrometry software platforms.

ESR Profile Requirements:
• Background in Analytical Chemistry, Biochemistry, Food Sciences, Environmental Sciences, Pharmacy or similar;
• Experience with mass spectrometry, Synthetic polymer analysis, mass spectrometry imaging, liquid chromatography and bioinformatics;
• Experience with microplastic extraction and analysis;
• Strong interest in human exposure to contaminants;
• Outstanding academic study performance;
• You act with attention to quality, integrity, creativity, and cooperation in an international environment;
• Critical thinking, flexible, highly motivated and independent.

ESR 15: Project Title: Consumer awareness and perception – WP5, WP1, WP2, WP3

Host: WRG Europe Ltd (WRG), Exeter, United Kingdom, UK
Supervisor: Dr. Vicky Edkins, WRG
Co-supervisor: Prof. Nives Ogrinc, JSI
Enrolment in Doctoral degree: Jožef Stefan International Postgraduate School, Ecotechnologies, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Context:
Consumer preferences and acceptance (alongside national and international policy frameworks) are a central driver in the adoption of innovative new tools and methods within both food production and food processing. Identifying these factors and describing the interplay between them will provide a broader understanding of this driver. This will enable the suite of tools and methodologies developed within FoodTraNet to be shaped, targeted, and aligned with the requirements of consumers thus accelerating their potential adoption.

Objectives:
To establish new approaches and models for more efficient communication with consumers in terms of food labelling claims, new food items, circular economy and the acceptance of new nanotechnologies. Specific objectives are to:
(1) Study traditional food in Europe, specifically food produced in Poland in relation to ‘Protected Designation of Origin', 'Protected Geographical Indication' and ‘Organic’ labelling;
(2) Investigate the nature of the European food value chain, contributing to consumer trust, choice and increased sustainable consumption, thereby supporting the transition to a circular economy;
(3) Evaluate industry and consumer acceptance of innovative, user-driven, packaging solutions and overcoming the barriers to market uptake.

Expected Results:
New approaches and models for more efficient communication with consumers in relation to food labelling claims, novel food, circular economy and the use of nanotechnology (D5.1); Analysis of consumer awareness and perception (M12).

Planned Secondments
S52: FEM (L. Bontempo), 1 month, M13, consumer awareness of PDO products, cultural constrains; S53: UWM, FC (M. Grzybowska-B), 2 months, M20-21), assessment of consumer awareness in relation to alternative, new food, reuse of food waste; S54: UM (L. Fras), 2 months, M33-34, consumers and packaging solutions; S55: JSI (M. Humar), 1 month, M35, investigation of consumer feedback in relation to the use of new photonic barcodes.

ESR Profile Requirements:
• Experience in data collection and collation of large data sets;
• Experience of statistical analysis and identification of relevant trends;
• Excellent communication skills (both written and verbal).

Work package descriptions associated with the ESR projects can be found here.