Two PhD Positions on Improving the Sustainability of our Foods through Life Cycle Assessments at KU Leuven University in Belgium: The MeBioS division investigates the interaction between biological systems and physical processes. In the Sustainability of the Agri-Food chain group, headed by Prof. Annemie Geeraerd Ameryckx, two PhD positions are available related with Life Cycle Assessments (LCA) applied to our food choices.


In the past years, the sustainability of our food products is increasingly being focused upon. Popular media easily come forward with bold, generalizing statements, while the underlying facts and figures are often weak and unnuanced. What is especially missing is the lack of context when making statements. While this is a more general trend in our modern society (not limited to foods), opinions about food are often formulated in a strong, passionate way because of the intimate relationship we all have with our foods – after all, we ingest them several times a day.

In this research, the aim is to develop a framework that helps researchers to reflect on the sustainability of our foods in a more rigorous way. The quantification of the sustainability of our foods is typically done using life cycle assessments (LCA), an exact sciences research method. We hypothesize that this isolated, classical approach is not sufficient to bring LCA applications to their full potential, especially when it comes to our value-laden food product choices.

Hence, in these two PhD positions, we aim not only to conduct dedicated LCA’s but also be clear on the context (including values underlying sustainability aspects such as environmental impact, animal welfare, economic viability, …) of different, existing LCA’s. 

At the moment, we envisage five potential case-studies.. Two case-studies focus on typical options raising at consumer level: (i) choosing between a local versus a food product produced father away (and how to define local), and (ii) trying to minimize food waste.

Two additional case-studies focus on steps in the production and processing part of the food chain: (i) the importance of efficiency in agricultural and food processes, and (ii) the issue of where to allocate the environmental impact of a certain material to when it is part of multiple agriculture or food chains. Finally, a fifth case-study, namely the balance between sustainability and nutritional value, is relevant for both professional and consumer levels.

The exact case studies which will be handled during the PhD will be decided in the first year of the research and will give the candidates the chance to focus on his/her own research priorities and (developing) scientific interests.


We are looking for two creative and motivated PhD candidates with a broad interest in the agri-food chain and in factors determining our food choices. A sustained willingness to decipher existing reports and a keen eye for detail is also essential.

Funding is foreseen for four years, the normal PhD duration. The PhD candidates will start with a one year contract which can be renewed after positive evaluation. The candidate will be requested to apply for a personal PhD scholarship as well.

As a side task, one PhD position will take up responsibility as secretary and policy development for Ethics Committee on Dual Use, Military use & Misuse of Research (EC DMM). Therefore a profound command of the Dutch language is essential for this first position.

The second PhD position will have a task in an existing applied project about reducing food waste of raspberries and black berries, giving the chance to learn more about the role and prevention of microbiological spoilage and to link this work with sustainability aspects.

The ideal candidates have a training in bioscience engineering, engineering, or exact sciences with a strong focus on the agriculture, food and environmental sciences and modelling. Knowledge and experience with conducting life cycle assessments and engineering aspects of the agri-food chain is a plus.

Given the tasks related with EC DMM an interest in applied ethics is also needed for the first position, and an interest in the role of microbiological spoilage is needed for the second position. The day to day work is conducted in the Department of Biosystems, MeBioS, Sustainability in the agri-food chain group, under the supervision of Prof. Annemie Geeraerd.

A second supervision by Prof. Johan De Tavernier, Faculty of Theology and Religious studies who is an expert in applied ethics, is foreseen for position 1.


For more information please contact Prof. dr. ir. Annemie Geeraerd Ameryckx, tel.: +32 16 32 05 91, mail: or Prof. dr. Johan De Tavernier, mail:

You can apply for this job no later than July 08, 2022 via the online application tool

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