PhD fellowship within fermentation of keratinous waste substrates

Deadline: 03.01.2022

Norwegian University of Life Sciences

NMBU has a particular responsibility for research and education that secures the basis for the life of future generations. Sustainability is rooted in everything we do and we deliver knowledge for life. NMBU has 1,800 employees of which about 250 phd scholarships and 6,000 students. The university is divided into seven faculties.

NMBU believes that a good working environment is characterised by diversity.

We encourage qualified candidates to apply regardless of gender, functional ability, cultural background or whether you have been outside the labour market for a period. If necessary, workplace adaptations will be made for persons with disabilities.

More information about NMBU is available at www.nmbu.no.

About The Faculty of Science and Technology

The Faculty of Science and Technology (REALTEK) develops research-based knowledge and educates civil engineers and lecturers needed to reach the UN's sustainability goals. We have approximately 150 employees, 70 PhD students and soon 1500 students. The education and research at REALTEK cover a broad spectrum of disciplines.

This includes data science, mechanics and process engineering, robotics, construction and architecture, industrial economics, environmental physics and renewable energy, geomatics, water and environmental engineering, applied mathematics as well as secondary school teacher education in natural sciences and use of natural resources such as in agriculture, forestry and aquaculture. The workplace is in Ås, 30 km from Oslo.

Do you have experience with growing filamentous fungi and bacteria and interest in analytical chemistry and enzymology?

Do you have experience with vibrational spectroscopy?

Do you wish to work in an exciting multidisciplinary team in the field of Biorefinery and Bioprocess development?

About the position

The Faculty of Science and Technology at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU) has a vacant PhD-position related to the development of fermentation processes for valorizing of low value keratinous biomass, such as feathers into high-value biomass. The PhD position is for a period of 3 years, or up to 4 years if teaching or other work duties are agreed.

The PhD position is part of the national Center for Industrial Biotechnology (SFI-IB. The PhD project relates to the Center’s focus on the industrial application of modern biotechnological methods, such as enzymes and microorganisms, for the production of a diverse range of commodities, including chemicals, pharmaceuticals, food and feed ingredients, detergents, textiles, energy and materials. This is a long-term project involving a consortium of 4 research organisations, SINTEF (host), NORCE, NTNU and NMBU and, 14 industrial partners.

This particular PhD project focuses on developing microbial and/or enzymatic conversion of feathers and other keratin-rich recalcitrant materials. The PhD project aims at providing a detailed understanding on: (1) Which filamentous fungi and bacteria are able to degrade keratinous biomass? (2) What are the optimal process parameters for microbial and enzymatic conversion of feathers? (3) What are the key enzymes and can they be developed as industrial biocatalysts? (4) Can we monitor and optimize fermentation/digestion processes by online monitoring using vibrational spectroscopy?

Project and supervisor group

Associate professor Volha Shapaval, Professor Achim Kohler, and Dr. Boris Zimmermann at the Faculty of Science and Technology, Professor Vincent Eijsink and Professor Svein Jarle Horn at the Faculty of Food Science and Biotechnology, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Ås, Norway.

Main tasks

  • Screening of filamentous fungi and bacteria for keratinase activity;
  • Performing growth experiments with feathers and related materials;
  • Enzyme discovery, production and characterization
  • Monitoring fermentation/degradation of feathers by vibrational spectroscopy;

The successful candidate is expected to enter a plan for the progress of the work towards a PhD degree during the first months of the appointment, with a view to completing a doctorate within the PhD scholarship period.


In order to be appointed, the candidate must meet the requirements for admission to one of the PhD programs at NMBU. A master's degree of at least 120 credits (ECTS) is required, which is based on a bachelor's degree of at least 180 credits (ECTS), or cand.med.vet. degree, or integrated master's degree of at least 300 credits (ECTS). The applicant must have a master thesis which corresponds to at least 30 credits.

The applicant must have a documented strong academic background from previous studies, and be able to document good English skills, both written and oral. For more detailed information on admission criteria, see the PhD Regulations and the “supplementary provisions for the PhD programmes”.

The applicant must document expertise and interest in the research subject.

Required Academic qualifications

  • Master in Biotechnology / Microbiology / Biochemistry / Chemistry / Chemical Engineering
  • Fluent English, both written and oral
  • Experience with research through a master thesis work

The following experiences and skills will be emphasized:

  • Experience in working with microorganisms (filamentous fungi and/or bacteria)
  • Experience in enzymology
  • Experience with infrared/Raman spectroscopy, or infrared/Raman imaging
  • Experience with multivariate data analysis (for example principal component analysis, partial least squares regression, artificial neural networks)

You need to:

  • Be able to work both independently and in a multidisciplinary research team and needs to describe these skills in the application

Remuneration and further information

The PhD position is placed in government pay scale position code 1017.

PhD fellows are normally placed in pay grade 54 (NOK 491.200,-) on the Norwegian Government salary scale upon employment and follow ordinary meriting regulations.

Terms of employment are governed by Norwegian guidelines for PhD fellowships at Universities and University Colleges.

For further information, please contact:

Information for PhD applicants and general Information to applicants.


To apply online for this vacancy, please click on the 'Apply for this job' button above. This will route you to the University's Web Recruitment System, where you will need to register an account (if you have not already) and log in before completing the online application form.

Application deadline: 03.01.2022

Applications should include (electronically):

  • A letter of intent
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Full publication list
  • Copies of degree certificates and transcripts of academic records (all certified)
  • A list of two persons who may act as references (with phone numbers and e-mail addresses)
  • Proof of English proficiency must be attached in accordance with NMBU PhD regulation section 5-2 (3).

Publications should be included electronically within the application deadline. Printed material which cannot be sent electronically should be sent by surface mail to the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Faculty of Science and Technology, P.O. Box 5003, NO-1432 Ås, within 06.12.2021. Please quote reference number 21/04817.

If it is difficult to judge the applicant’s contribution for publications with multiple authors, a short description of the applicant’s contribution must be included.

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