Do you want to improve the safety of our food chain? Do you get excited to explore molecular microbiological techniques to detect pathogens? We are looking for a PhD student who is interested in developing microbiological detection methods to detect different pathogens in a one-test procedure. Will you be our new colleague?

This PhD project focusses on the detection of foodborne pathogens in the food chain by targeted (species-based) and untargeted (metagenomic-based) techniques, tackling challenges that come with the implementation of these techniques.

As PhD candidate, your tasks will include:

  • a combination of laboratory work and computational/bioinformatics analysis;
  • optimizing methods to apply species-specific methods for targeted detection of pathogens and to explore metagenomics for untargeted detection of multiple pathogens; 
  • test the applicability to distinguish between dead and alive bacteria using short enrichments;
  • apply molecular microbiological techniques to detect multiple pathogens and sub-types in parallel in one test procedure;
  • apply metagenomics on food samples to assess the predictive power of the food microbiome with respect to food-associated risks.

Pathogens may be present in food and concentrations are often very low, which challenges rapid and reliable detection. Molecular microbiological techniques offer great promise for the assessment of food safety, that may be missed by conventional culture-based techniques. Detection of species and subtypes specific genetic profiles can give direct insight into distribution of species and subtypes of pathogens in food.

Untargeted methods, such as metagenomic-based methods, characterize all the genetic material of the food microbiome in which the pathogens reside, and may detect multiple pathogens and new risks, however can miss low numbers of organisms. Targeted and untargeted molecular microbiological techniques will be used for identification of pathogen hotspots and routes of transmission across the food chain.

You will be given the opportunity to work within a network of international partners in the context of the EC-funded Horizon 2020 consortium Holifood. The research project is embedded within the chair Food Microbiology, which is led by Prof. M.H. Zwietering. You will be supervised by Dr H.M.W. den Besten and Prof. M.H. Zwietering. The mission of the laboratory of Food Microbiology is to generate and disseminate knowledge of food associated microbes to assure quality and safety of food.

In order to control food safety and quality from primary production to consumption, solid knowledge of food microbiology is necessary and both positive (fermentation) and negative aspects (spoilage, disease) of micro-organisms are studied. Quality and safety of food is relevant for public health, sustainability and also for enjoying life. This is what we teach and research. We do this in a dynamic, international group of people with state of the art infrastructure and many national and international collaborations.

We ask

You have:

  • an MSc degree in (food) microbiology, molecular biology, biotechnology, bioinformatics or a related subject;
  • a strong interest and experience in bioinformatics analysis of (meta)genomics data;
  • experience with working in the lab and with data analysis;
  • excellent communication skills, both oral and written;
  • a creative, critical, accurate and efficient way of working;
  • willingness to be involved in teaching activities;
  • excellent English language proficiency. For this position your command of the English language is expected to be at C1 level. Sometimes it is necessary to submit an internationally recognised Certificate of Proficiency in the English Language.

We offer

Wageningen University & Research offers excellent terms of employment. A few highlights from our Collective Labour Agreement include:

  • study leave and partially 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 compensation / 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 € 2.443,- per month rising to € 3.122,- 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 17th 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.

More information

Do you want more information?
For more information about this position, please contact Dr Heidy den Besten, Associate Professor Food Microbiology, telephone +31 317 48 3213, or by email For more information about the procedure, please contact please contact Ina Lüttmann, HR advisor, by email:, or AFSG-HR support,

Do you want to apply?
You can apply directly by uploading your CV and motivation letter, 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 6 November 2022. We hope to schedule the first job interviews in week 46 of 2022. The preferred starting date for this position is January 2023.

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.

We are

The mission of Wageningen University & Research is “To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life”. Under the banner Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen University and the specialised research institutes of the Wageningen Research Foundation have joined forces in contributing to finding solutions to important questions in the domain of healthy food and living environment.

With its roughly 30 branches, 7,200 employees (6,400 fte) and 13,200 students and over 150.000 participants to WUR’s Life Long Learning, Wageningen University & Research is one of the leading organisations in its domain. The unique Wageningen approach lies in its integrated approach to issues and the collaboration between different disciplines.

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