The second MELiSSA Call for Doctorate and Postdoctoral Proposals (POMP II) is now open.

Background and objectives

The European Space Agency (ESA), an international organization with 22 Member States (, is Europe’s gateway to space. Its mission is to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space continues to deliver benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world.

Targeted Areas of Research

The MELISSA project (Micro-Ecological Life Support Alternative) has been initiated with the objective to design and develop regenerative life support systems for long term space missions. The main objective of the project is to design and engineer an artificial environment allowing ideally 100% of recycling of waste to produce oxygen, water and food utilizing a combination of waste processing compartments colonized by specific microorganisms or plants.

Considering the interest in the POMP I program in 2015, it was decided to open a new call for PhD and postdoc research: POMP II. Please note that the hosting university must be located in one of the following countries: Belgium, Spain, UK or Switzerland. Please note that candidates can be from any country in the world. The hosting university however must be located in one of the above POMP countries.  (more info:

As a core MELiSSA partner and co-founder of the MELiSSA concept, Ghent University is supporting this MELiSSA POMP II call. If you are interested in applying for one of the four topics below with Ghent University as the hosting university, please send your C.V. to before 15/9/2017.


  1. Interest of MELiSSA space developments for circular economy: relevance, feasibility, challenges and recommendations
  2. Urine Treatment in the MELiSSA loop
  3. The Sulphur and  & Phosphorus  cycles in the MELiSSA loop
  4. Study of plants culture on substrate of Urine origin: Roots zone focus.

 “The BRIDGE- bridging the gap between growing media and soil through the microbiome”

Type of employment

  • A Doctoral (PhD) Grant Strategic Basic Research allows young researchers to develop into strategically thinking and innovation-oriented scientists.
  • Strategic basic research in the context of a PhD grant stands for challenging and innovative research (at PhD level), which, if successful, may in the longer term lead to innovative applications with economic added value (for specific companies, for a collective of companies, or a sector, or in line with the VRWI transition areas)
  • The call 2017 will be opened around June 15, 2017
  • Submission deadline: 17h00 October 31, 2017
  • Announcements of results around December 15, 2017
  • Start of fellowship: January 1, 2018
  • Success rate 2016: 30%
  • She/he should prepare this application, with the help of CMET.
  • She/he should have a master degree from one of the countries of the EU, the EER or Switzerland.
  • She/he should have obtained this degree with at least ‘distinction’ (cum laude), and no longer than 5 years ago.
  • She/he should have not previously received an FWO (or an IWT) fellowship (not even in part).
  • At the beginning of the fellowship (January 1st following the call, you have no more than 18 months of scientific experience.
  • Predoctoral researcher: Full time (2x2years), renewable after 2 years and after a positive evaluation.
  • A competitive salary including benefits is offered, salary levels account for years of professional experience.


Background and experience

  • Predoctoral researcher: Environmental, (bio)chemical or bio-engineer (MSc),  or equivalent degree, with strong affinity for biological engineering

Scientific knowledge and skills

  • Ability to rigorously design and perform experiments in a result-oriented and thorough manner.
  • Ability to perform in-depth and critical data analysis.
  • Ability to communicate through high-quality scientific channels, e.g. peer reviewed publications (A1).
  • Potential to contribute to research program development.

Personal knowledge and skills

  • Excellent interpersonal skills to work effectively with team members from different backgrounds and with different tasks.
  • Good oral and written communication skills in English are strictly required.
  • Demonstrated ability to work efficiently and with minimum supervision.
  • Outcome focused, hands-on mentality.



Agriculture is in the grip of the worst drought in over 50 years. Across the nation, crops that should be at their greenest in July are instead small and withered, and are expected to produce 35 per cent less food than normal.

One shortcut might lie in the plant microbiome (rhizospheric and epiphytic) the consortium of fungi, bacteria and viruses that live in the root systems of every plant and bacteria which live non-parasitically on the surface of a plant on various organs such as the leaves, roots, flowers, buds, seeds and fruit. Plants that live in extreme environments use the microbiome to survive stressful conditions. “Plants can’t do it on their own”. In exchange for nutrition, the symbiotic microorganisms help the plants take up nitrogen from the soil and protect them from heat, drought and disease-causing organisms.

Ecophysiological models for crop growth are widely used to simulate crop yield and produce quality under a range of environmental, management and cultivar conditions. These models incorporate many basic principles of plant ecophysiology, but often do not yet accommodate for the increasing knowledge in plant genetics and genomics. There is still an important knowledge gap between genotype and phenotype due to the complex regulation of physiological properties like drought and the microbiome, also called the second genome of the plant. This regulation is also heavily influenced by environmental factors like vapor pressure deficit and temperature.

By incorporating the results of a microbiome analysis within the ecophysiological model, the proteins that are differentially expressed can be linked to different variables that are hard to measure, but easy to simulate. The goal is to demonstrate genotype by environment interaction and to see if the model predictions are more accurate when this knowledge is incorporated into the model. The analysis will be performed to better predict the value of the hydraulic resistance in plants when exposed to water deficiencies.

Specific goals

  • Identification of plants (grapes, avocado’s…) with a decreased demand for water
  • Selection and identification of microbial consortia from the soil and on the plant in correlation with plants that have a low demand for water
  • Study the influence of this microbial consortium on the water demand of the plant and fruit quality
  • Identification of the critical factors that determine the composition of the microbial consortium
  • transfer of the microbial consortium to growing media
  • cultivation of plants in the presence of this microbial consortium and in combination with critical factors
  • cultivation of plants in the soil and demonstration of proof of concept.

This research will be conducted in collaboration with Greenyard. Greenyard is a global market leader in fresh and prepared fruits and vegetables, flowers and plants, fresh logistic services and growing media. Counting the majority of Europe’s leading retailers amongst its customer base, the group provides efficient and sustainable solutions to customers and suppliers through best-in-class products, market-leading innovation, operational excellence and outstanding service.

With more than 8,000 employees operating in 25 countries worldwide, Greenyard identifies its own people and its key customer and supplier relationships as the assets that enable the group to deliver products and services worth almost €4 billion a year.

In June 2015, Greenyard has combined its four constituent companies – UNIVEG, Pinguin, Noliko and Peltracom – under one unified banner to become a global market leader in fresh and prepared fruits and vegetables and growing media.


The Center for Microbial Ecology and Technology (CMET – formerly known as LabMET; is part of the Faculty of Bioscience Engineering at Ghent University, ranked at position 85 in the Shanghai ranking of best universities (2003). Under the initial lead of prof. em. dr. ir. Willy Verstraete, CMET has over 35 years of experience in the study of applied microbial processes and microbial ecology in the contexts of waste(water) treatment, bioremediation, bioproduction and resource recovery. It is one of the top performing laboratories worldwide in its field, and links excellent basic science with application, leading to a high level of peer reviewed outputs besides commercial outcomes including 7 spin-off companies over time. Reactor and process developments go from millilitre scale to full scale industrial.


The laboratory of Plant Ecology ( is also part of the Faculty of Bioscience Engineering at Ghent University. Besides measuring with state-of-the-art plant sensors and equipment, the Laboratory of Plant Ecology aims at creating added value by process-based plant modelling. We also use the powerful combination of sensor measurements and plant models to develop plant-based control and stress detection systems.


Submission and closing date

Applications must be sent via email to as pdf or word documents, with in the subject line mentioning “FWO –SB The Bridge”. Final closing date is July 15th 2017, but applications will be regularly reviewed prior to the deadline, hence, early application is recommended.

Application files

  1. Covering Letter. The covering letter should include the position reference, your contact address and telephone number. It is an opportunity in not more than one page to introduce yourself and highlight the key reasons you should be considered for the role.
  2. Resume or Curriculum Vitae. A resume is a brief history of your employment and experience that covers the following areas:
  • Educational qualifications and professional affiliations that detail the full title of the qualification, the year awarded and the title of the institution attended;
    • Employment history in chronological order, starting with current position and specifying dates of employment, title of each position, name of employer, main duties or accountabilities and achievements;
    • Research fields and current interests, publications (full list as attachment with three most significant marked with an asterisk), research grants awarded and, if applicable, details of teaching evaluation;
    • The names and contact details (address, telephone, fax and e-mail) of three referees, including if possible a senior person (preferably your supervisor, manager or head of organisational unit) closely associated with your current work. A referee must be able to comment on your work experience, skills and performance with respect to the selection criteria.
  1. Selection Criteria. A statement addressing how each of the selection criteria has been met is required to assist the Selection Committee determine whether you have the relevant qualifications, knowledge/skills, experience and personal qualities.

Selection process

A Selection Committee will consider all applications and shortlist candidates for interview who appear to meet the selection criteria at the highest levels. They will be invited to attend an interview and the remaining unsuccessful applicants will be notified accordingly.

An invitation to attend an interview provides an opportunity to provide further information to the Selection Committee to substantiate your claims against the selection criteria or demonstrate your capabilities. Please note that for some positions interviews may be conducted by teleconference in the first instance.

The Selection Committee will subsequently seek referee reports, if not sought prior to interview, before making a decision to make an offer of appointment to the preferred candidate. The purpose of referee checks is to obtain, in confidence, factual information about your past work history, as well as opinions regarding the quality of your work, behaviour in the work place and suitability for the position. Referee reports may be sought orally, or for academic staff, in writing by post or e-mail.

If you are the preferred candidate, you will receive a written offer of appointment to the position. Do not take any action, such as resigning from your current position, before you receive a written offer of appointment.

More information

Please contact CC Prof Kathy Steppe ( and CC Prof. Nico Boon, ( and Dr. Oliver Grunert (