Università di Modena e Reggio Emilia

 

31 agosto 2015

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TOPICS for XXXI Cycle

 

Research topic: GUT MICROBIOTA, DIET AND HEALTH

1 (one) position with grant
Scientific tutor: Prof. Maddalena Rossi

Gut microbial composition depends on dietary habits just as health depends on microbial metabolism, but a complete picture of the complex correlations between microbiota, diet and health is still far from being outlined.
 This research focuses on the role of gut microbiome in the metabolism of dietary components,  with peculiar interest in the formation of toxic compound from proteolytic metabolism and in the bio-activation of dietary precursors such as phytochemicals. Moreover, it will studied the role of diet in the modulation of the intestinal microbial composition both  in terms of supply of substrates for the resident microbiota, both as a direct contribution of the foodborne microorganisms.
 Required skills:
We are looking for hard-working candidate with previous experience on at least one of the following fields: microbiology, microbial taxonomy,  biochemistry, DNA manipulation, metagenomics. Good skills in English and in team-working are highly valued. It is also mandatory the availability to spend a period in a European/American lab to refine the molecular techniques and bioinformatics skills useful for the research project.

 

Research topic: MICROBIOLOGY OF FERMENTED FOOD - BREEDING SYSTEM OF ZYGOSACCHAROMYCES ROUXII AS SOURCE OF GENETIC AND PHENOTYPIC POTENTIAL TO EXPLOIT IN FOOD FERMENTATION.

1 (one) position with grant
Scientific tutors: Prof. Paolo Giudici (Tutor); Dr. Stefano Cassanelli, PhD (Co-tutor); Dr. Lisa Solieri, PhD (Co-tutor)

The Zygosaccharomyces rouxii complex encompasses relevant food yeasts for fermentative bioprocesses and foodstuff spoilage. Sexual reproduction and mating system govern the genetic diversity of these yeasts and their phenotypic adaptation to highly sugary and salty food niches. The research project aims at exploring the sex determination systems of yeasts belonging to the Z. rouxii complex. The knowledge about sexual mechanisms triggering yeast genetic and phenotypic diversity will be exploited to construct novel Z. rouxii starter cultures to employ at industrial level.
Required skills: bachelor’s and master's degree in scientific field related to applied biotechnology, microbial biotechnology, bioinformatics, genetics and gene expressions; a solid understanding of the relevant concepts in bioprocesses and genotype/phenotype relationships; strong communication aptitude in English, autonomous data elaboration and presentation abilities as well as original visualization skill.


Research topic: DEVELOPMENT OF CHEMOMETRIC METHODS FOR FAST AND NON-DESTRUCTIVE CHARACTERIZATION OF COMPLEX FOOD MATRICES

1 (one) position with grant
Scientific tutor: Prof. Alessandro Ulrici

The research activity of CHIMSLAB (Chemometrics, Imaging and Spectroscopy Lab) is principally focused on chemometrics, both for the elaboration of advanced algorithms and for the application of chemometric techniques aimed to deepen the knowledge on agricultural and food matrices. The main research areas of the group can be summarised as follows:
- food analysis by means of NIR hyperspectral imaging and FT-NIR spectroscopy;
- development and application of algorithms for processing RGB and hyperspectral images aimed at fast and non-destructive characterization of food matrices;
- application and implementation of chemometric techniques to complex systems, particularly in the field of food chemistry;
- rational experimental planning by means of multivariate experimental design;
- control, characterisation and authentication of raw materials and finite food products.

 

Research topic: ACTIVITY OF CHOCOLATE/TEA POLYPHENOLS AND THEIR METABOLITES ON COLORECTAL CANCER CELLS

1 (one) position with grant
Scientific tutor: Prof. Angela Conte

Polyphenols are an important part of human diet and have received a great deal of attention due to their antiinflammatory, antioxidative and anticancer activities.
Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the second most fatal and the third most diagnosed type of cancer worldwide. Despite having multifactorial causes, most CRC cases are mainly determined by dietary factors. In recent years, a large number of studies have attributed a protective effect to polyphenols and foods containing these compounds (fruits and vegetables) against CRC. Indeed, polyphenols have been reported to interfere with cancer initiation, promotion, and progression, acting as chemopreventive agents. These effects involve multiple molecular and biochemical mechanisms of action, which are still not completely characterized. Moreover after entering the colon, polyphenols are subjected to metabolism by the human gut microbiota. Working with polyphenol metabolites is an important prerequisite to better understand the in vivo effects of pure polyphenols.

The aim of this study is to analyze the biochemical activity of tea and chocolate polyphenols (e.g. prohantocyanidins and catechins), and their selected intestinal metabolites (e.g. valerolactones, hydroxyphenylacetic acids) on two human adenocarcinoma cell lines: Caco-2 cell and SW480 cell.

Required skills: the candidate must have experience in cell culture, separation and identification of polyphenols by HPLC and MS, in vitro digestion techniques.

 

Research topic: INN0VATION IN FOOD PACKAGING

2 (two) positions without grant
Scientific tutors: Prof. Patrizia Fava; Prof. Andrea Pulvirenti

Active and intelligent packaging

 

 

General Topics of the School

The research activity of the School of Doctorate concern production, processing, as well as chemistry, technology, quality and safety of food. Each topic is developed in a particular course. Vegetal and animal production, including growing techniques, cattle breeding, pest control are the main topic of the course of Science, Technology, and Biotechnology in Agriculture. Consumer and environment respect along with high quality production and food industry needs are the main concerns of these topics. The new applications of molecular genetics in agriculture are also extensively studied.

Process and product innovation are the main topics of the Food Science, Technology, and Biotechnology course. Food technology, microbiology, chemistry, biochemistry, and molecular biology are the main fields involved in these topics. Raw material quality and its aptitude to processing is also matter of concern, as well as innovative food packaging technologies.

SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND BIOTECHNOLOGY IN AGRICULTURE

Crop physiology: research of crop plant ideotype for low-input farming

The need to reduce inputs in modern farming systems must necessarily go together either the maintenance or the increase of yields for crop plants, because of the increasing world demand of commodities. It is asked to agronomic research not only to find ways to optimize and save inputs, but also to design new physiological ideotypes of crop plants that are more responding in the field to this double objective. This is the object of the research, to individuate physiological types that are more suitable to stabilize yields in low input conditions, in a chosen species, and for the Italian environments.

Product innovation for diversification strategies and business development in agribusiness

The international trade liberalization of agricultural products cuts down the business income of European farmers. It is necessary to develop diversification strategies in farm productions in order to have new opportunities, for example different uses of agricultural commodities and new particular consumer demands. Product innovation is increasingly important for the European agriculture. This is a very complex subject, a lot of elements are involved in it: technical knowledge, management, marketing, business strategies, political decisions, agricultural policy. The first purpose of this research is to analyse these arguments using economic theory and empirical analysis in the agricultural sector. The second purpose is to give indications and to define operating rules to indentify, check, transfer, implement the product innovations in the agricultural sector.

Fine mapping of resistance genes to root-knot nematodes

The goal of the ph.D project will be the study of the genes involved in the resistance to Root-Knot Nematodes (RKN, Meloidogyne spp.) in common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.). Starting point of the research will be the genetic materials (breeding lines, segregating progenies, etc.) developed by the Centro per le Colture Industriali di Bologna (CRA-CIN, Research Center for Industrial Crops) and the derived molecular markers associated to the different resistance sources studied during the last years. The multidisciplinary project will try to connect breeding experience and different genomic tools with the final aim to identify the genes that are regulating the nematode resistance, for example by saturating the flanking regions surrounding the genes with different molecular markers, and trying to clarify the regulation and the expression of those resistance genes.

Construction of a high resolution map of wheat chromosome 5A

The goal of the project is the construction of a high density molecular map that is needed for anchoring BAC contigs to a genetic map, in order to obtain a physical map for sequencing. Several mapping populations will be used during the project, and different parallel marker development approaches. The model species Brachypodium dystachion will be used for searching orthologous sequences. The computational effort for the map construction, together with the association of markers found with agronomically relevant traits will be part of the project.

Quality Improvement of fruit productions

The aim of the research is to understand the critical environmental and physiological factors that can improve the fruit productions, through the interaction with the agronomic management. This will include the study of how such factors affect the fruit quality. The results of the action of the key factors will be analyzed, as quality traits as well as compounds with nutraceutical value, not only on the fresh product of the chosen species, but also on the transformed products.

Innovation and quality in organic zootechny

PhD students activity will be carried out in the agro-zootechnical field, with particular attention to the effects of innovative farming technologies, alternative to the current conventional ones, on animal products quality. In detail, the attitude of raw materials to be processed into highly safe and high value added products will be investigated. Further, attention will be paid to the relationships between organic pig farming and the quality of the finished products. Finally, the characteristics of carcass and meat obtained from local swine breeds, reared according to the organic system, will be defined.

Increase of anthocyanin production in tomato

Anthocyanins are water-soluble pigments widely distributed throughout the plant kingdom. Beside their physiological roles in plants, several positive effects of anthocyanins in the diet have been described, and interest grew in anthocyanin pigments, and in food plants containing anthocyanins, because of their possible health benefits as antioxidants. The main objective of the research will be the study of the role of anthocyanins in the response to biotic and abiotic stresses. In particular, it will be evaluated the tolerance/susceptibility to abiotic (chilling) and biotic (Alternaria infection) stresses of single and double mutants of an available collection of mutants impaired in anthocyanin content. The research will also deal with the identification of the alleles of candidate genes that could explain the mutations, selected among regulatory elements of the anthocyanin biosynthesis pathway.

FOOD SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND BIOTECHNOLOGY
Food Microbiology

The research activity of Food Microbiology group focuses microbial ecology associated to safety and stability of foods. The research activity includes: i) the knowledge of food ecosystems; ii) the transformation and preservation techniques; iii) the microbial activities to obtain metabolites useful for biotechnological applications.

Our experimental approaches include the integration of classical methodology and metabolomics and metagenomics to characterise the microbial diversity in food ecosystems as well as their potential exploitation in innovative microbial processes.

Yeasts, acetic acid bacteria and lactic acid bacteria involved in fermented foods production are the main microbial groups investigated through poliphasic identification and technological characterisation, and about 2,000 strains have been collected as bioresource for selection and genetic improvement of strains useful for wine, vinegar, beer, sourdough and cheese production.

Biochemistry

Biological activity and metabolism of naturally occurring compounds. In particular, their protection against oxidative stress and protein glycation and their ability to modulate the biochemical activity of digestive enzymes.

Evaluation of the food flavour profile with an electronic nose

Food flavours have been traditionally studied by gas chromatography. More recently, the use of electronic sensors is gaining interest in this field.

The study of relationships among composition, food quality, and the response of an electronic nose to several foodstuffs is the main objective of this research topic. In addition, the problem of off-flavours and taints can be considered as well for its great concern in food industry. Among the others, food taints could derive from technological process, poor storage conditions, and occasional contamination. The study of relationships among composition, food quality, and the response of an electronic nose is the main objective of this research topic. The correlations among sensory analysis, GC determinations, and electronic nose responses applied to different matrices (food, raw materials and packaging materials) will be considered.

Meat production, meat processing and quality assessment.

Pork production requires high standards of quality to meet the consumers’ expatiations and the need of transformation industry. The former requires healthy product, with low levels of fat and cholesterol; the latter look at the fatty acid composition, which is a matter of great concern for its implication in curing for its higher oxidability. In addition, the outbreak of defects in pig thighs (superficial veining, red skin, blood splash etc.) can cause a high incidence of rejects at seasoning. Hybrids and genetic selection for leaner carcasses modify lipid characteristics, becoming richer of unsaturated fatty acids. Although favourable for human nutrition, an increase of these substances may cause oxidation problems, especially for long-seasoned products such as Italian seasoned ham. Chemical composition of fat, sensory and rheological attributes of final products, the influence of farm factors, the characteristics of backfat and intramuscular fat for the improvement of ham quality in PDO dry-curing, and the study of the qualitative characteristics of the carcass and meat of farm animals are the main research objectives.
 
 

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