Research Center School of Biotechnology
Article title Bioprocess postdoctoral researcher
Level on the frame Level 1
Duration of publication Fixed-term contract of 11 months (possibility of extension)
Dublin City University
Dublin City University www.DCU.ie is a young, ambitious and dynamic university, whose mission is to “transform lives and societies through education, research, innovation and engagement”. Known as ‘Irish University of Business and Transformation’, it is committed to developing talent, and discovering and translating knowledge that advances society and the economy. DCU is the Sunday Times Irish University of the Year 2021.
The University is based on three university campuses in the Glasnevin-Drumcondra area of North Dublin. It currently has over 18,000 students enrolled in five faculties – Science and Health, DCU Business School, Computer Science and Engineering, Humanities and Social Sciences and DCU Institute of Education. DCU is committed to achieving excellence in all of its activities. This is demonstrated by its world-class research initiatives, its cutting-edge approach to teaching and learning, its focus on creating a transformative student experience, and its positive social and economic impact. This exceptional commitment from its staff and students has helped DCU rank among the top 2% of universities in the world. It is also regularly listed in the Top 100 Young Universities in the World (currently in the Top 70 QS Under 50, Times Higher Top 150 Under 100).
DCU is ranked 84th in the world in the Times Higher Education University Impact Rankings – measuring the contributions of higher education institutions to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Over the past decade, DCU has also been Ireland’s leading university in technology transfer, as evidenced by intellectual property licensing.
As part of this role, the researcher will be required to participate in the DCU Research Career Framework. This framework is designed to provide significant professional development opportunities for researchers and provide the best opportunities in terms of career development.
Context and role
A postdoctoral position is available at the School of Biotechnology at Dublin City University (DCU) to undertake research on the following project: “Development of an economically viable dark fermentation process for the production of biohydrogen from distillery waste Irish Whiskey and Dairy Industry (EcoDF)”. This postdoctoral position is funded by an award from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland. This project involves a high level of industry engagement, particularly with the Irish whiskey distillery and dairy industries, in the form of sample collection and regular research meetings.
In the dark fermentation process, complex organic matter is broken down into its monomer during the hydrolysis step, to be further converted into volatile fatty acids during the acetogenesis step. Anaerobic microbes, namely Enterobacter spp., Clostridium spp., Bacillus spp. or Ruminococcus spp.. The intermediate substrates are then fermented into biohydrogen in the absence of light at room temperature. It is considered the most advantageous sustainable energy production process, as the calorific value of biohydrogen (142 Mj/kg) is three times higher than that of biomethane (50
– 55 Mj/kg. Due to its high energy value, biohydrogen has an indicative price range of 0.9 to 7.3 € per kg while it is only 0.4 to 0.7 € per kg for biomethane. Additionally, the current global biohydrogen market size is EUR 124.4 billion with an estimate to reach EUR 183.4 billion by 2025, while the estimated biomethane market size is only of 2.4 billion euros. The financial potential and the unique character of biohydrogen make it a “fuel of the future”.
This project aims to develop cost-effective solutions for the widespread adoption of dark fermentation using pot ale, draff and cheese whey and dairy waste water from the Irish whiskey and dairy industries for the production of biohydrogen. In this regard, the project aims to create a comprehensive overview by maximizing the biohydrogen yield of the aforementioned substrates, to guide large-scale applications in terms of energy harvesting and environmental points of view in the transition to a low carbon economy. The ultimate goal of this project is to initiate a future economically viable best practice in
- the optimization of the efficiency of the biodegradation of waste and the microbial activity of the inoculum will be reinforced by new pre-treatments,
- model and optimize operational parameters via Design Expert software prior to scale-up assess techno-economic analysis and environmental benefits of potential future industrial pathways of dark fermentation The project will be supervised by Assistant Professor Burcu Gunes in Engineering bioprocesses at the School of Biotechnology, Dublin City University.
Main tasks and responsibilities
Reporting to his principal researcher, the postdoctoral researcher will:
Applicants should have a PhD in Bioprocess Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Biotechnology, Microbiology with relevant experience and understanding of “biomass to bioenergy” conversion technologies
- Engage with existing industry partners and establish a new connection in consultation with Dr. Burcu Gunes.
- Achieve all experimental objectives specified in the project.
- Document all experimental data, analyzes and protocols.
- Report/present regularly at group meetings.
- Attend relevant meetings, seminars and conferences.
- Contribute to the preparation of manuscript and patent applications relevant to the project.
- Complete a detailed report at the end of the project.
- Undertake standard laboratory management tasks.
- Support and interact with the existing Gunes group at the School of Biotechnology.
- Undertake other duties as defined by Dr. Burcu Gunes
- Is highly motivated and passionate about sustainability and climate change research
- Has strong technical skills in handling single and/or mixed bacterial cultures, microbial fermentation, process design and scale-up as evidenced by original and peer-reviewed publications.
- Demonstrates strong research experience in the development and application of analytical assays for the characterization of organic waste (substrate) as well as the quantitative analysis of hydrogen.
- Has experience in techno-economic process assessment and/or life cycle analysis.
- Has a significant number of publications relevant to the project, has excellent data analysis, communication and organizational skills.
- Demonstrates experience with statistical software for mathematical modeling and process optimization
- Has experience supervising and mentoring undergraduate and postgraduate students
- Has experience in problem solving in a research laboratory environment.
- Has experience of participating in successful interdisciplinary research programs.
- Has the ability to communicate effectively and has excellent social skills.
The incumbent will be required to complete the following essential compliance training: orientation, health and safety and intellectual property and data protection training. Further training may be required if required.