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01 agosto 2014

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TOPICS for XXX Cycle

Research topic: Stress adaptation and tolerance in the spoilage yeasts belonging to the Zygosaccharomyces genus.

1 position with grant
The osmo and halotolerant food Zygosaccharomyces yeasts are able to survive in the face of high concentrations of non-ionic (sugars and polyols) and ionic (mainly Na+ cations) solutes. This ability determines the success of fermentation on high osmolarity food matrices and leads to spoilage of high sugar and high salt foods. The research project aims to decipher the mechanisms used by these yeasts to endure salts and sugars stresses: analysis of Na+ and K+-fluxes across the plasma membrane; characterization of cell wall properties; compatible osmolyte production; study of stress signalling pathways. The project will contribute to build a system-based knowledge on these mechanisms that may improve the yeast spoilage control in food, enhance the yeast-based bioprocess yields, and engineer the osmotolerance in other organisms.
Required skills: bachelor’s and master's degree in scientific field related to microbial molecular biology and microbial biotechnology; a solid understanding of the relevant concepts and genetics; strong communication, data presentation and visualization skills; communication skill in English.
Scientific tutors: Prof. Paolo Giudici (Tutor) paolo.giudici@unimore.it
Dr.ssa Lisa Solieri, PhD (Co-tutor)

Research topic: Breeding system and genome shuffling as sources of natural and artificial yeast diversity to exploit in food fermentation.

1 position without grant
The Saccharomyces sensu stricto complex encompasses the industrially most exploited yeasts in food fermentation. The development of novel food yeast biocatalyzers deals with the construction of non-genetically modified (GM-free) starter cultures that bring sensorial complexity to fermented food and carry out the fermentation processes in a fast and effective manner. The research project aims to create improved strains showing the typical hybrid heterosis and a wider range of growth conditions compared to parental strains. We will create inter- and intra-specific Saccharomyces breeding lines by two GM-free methods, namely spore-to-spore mating and genome shuffling. The most promising candidates will be tested in wine fermentation and scaled up from laboratory to winery and industrial level.
Required skills: bachelor’s and master's degree in scientific field related to applied biotechnology, bioinformatics, and genetics; a solid understanding of the relevant concepts and genetics; strong communication, data presentation and visualization skills; communication skill in English.
Scientific tutors: Prof. Paolo Giudici (Tutor) paolo.giudici@unimore.it
Dr.ssa Lisa Solieri, PhD (Co-tutor)


Research topic: Levan-type exo-polysaccharides (LT-EPSs) from prebiotics acetic acid bacteria

1 position with grant
The worldwide increasing interest in prebiotics as food ingredients and pharmacological supplements is due to their healthy effect. Levan-type exo-polysaccharides (LT-EPSs) composed of D-fructose units carrying a D-glucosyl residue at the chain end, are already recognized as prebiotics.
LT-EPS production due to a levansucrase activity has been detected in many bacteria, among which acetic acid bacteria that produce large quantities of LT-EPS growing on sucrose enriched media.  Understanding mechanisms related to prebiotic activity of acetic acid bacteria could drive them towards new industrial applications.

This project aims to develop tailored procedures for the search and improvement of acetic acid bacteria as feasible catalysts for the synthesis of LT-EPS. It includes: 1) screening of existing strains and specific selection from high metabolites productive matrices; 2) characterization of levansucrases from LT-EPS-overproducing acetic acid bacteria strains; 3) assessment of the biological activity of acetic acid bacteria LT-EPS.

Required skills
The student should have strong interest in laboratory research in food microbiology and biotechnology. Critical evaluation of scientific literature is required.
Communication skills: ability to transfer results in scientific reports, papers, oral and web based presentations.
Scientific tutor
Dr. Maria Gullo


Research topic: Sustainable management of invasive insects: biological control and implementation of monitoring systems for the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Halyomorpha halys, a dangerous fruit pest recently introduced in Northern Italy

1 position with grant
This project will investigate: a)different types of attractive stimuli to develop a more efficient/effective field monitoring system for H. halys; b) the feasibility of biological/microbiological control strategies, by exploring the potential of autochtonous natural enemies and entomopathogenic microorganisms.
Degree in Biology, Natural Sciences, Agricultural Sciences or similar. Background and experience in field monitoring and biological/microbiological control of insect pests in agricultural/forest ecosystems
Dr Lara Maistrello


Research topic: Molecular investigation of pesticide resistance in aphids: involvement of chromosomal rearrangements and microbiome changes.

1 position with grant

Pesticide resistance in aphids have both economic and environment consequences. This research focuses on the analysis of the role of chromosomal rearrangements and aphid microbiome (with peculiar interest for secondary bacterial symbionts) in non-canonical resistance to pesticides.

Required skills:
The candidate is required to have familiarity with the main biomolecular techniques. For the selection purpose, it would be considered preferential title to possess knowledge on DNA extraction, amplification and sequencing. It is also mandatory the availability to spend a period in a European/American lab to refine the molecular techniques of the research project.

Scientific tutors:
Prof. G.C. Manicardi (SSD BIO/18)

Prof. M. Mandrioli (SSD BIO/18)


Research topic: Sustainable cropping systems. Genomics and Bioinformatics for Unraveling Abiotic Stress Tolerance Mechanisms in Crops

1 position with grant
The advent of plant genomics platforms together with bioinformatics allowed in the last few years to move to sequencing projects of large genome crops. One result of the last revolution of technologies known as new generation sequencing (NGS) is the partial shift of genomics research from model plants to globally important crop species, in particular for cereals. The application of plant genomics tools to cereal crop species, in particular, understanding of mechanisms limiting crop yields, such as abiotic stress, is the main aim of the present project. The final aim being the improvement of quality and quantity of the production of agricultural plants strategic for the Italian and European economy. The specific aims of this PhD project are: a) understanding how structural and functional variation of cereal genomes is responsible of tolerance to an abiotic stress (selected at the beginning of the project) in an economically relevant cereal species (selected at the beginning of the project); b) transfer of this knowledge to a bioenergy crop for improving bioenergy production efficiency and thus sustainability of agricultural cropping systems.

Required skills
Degree in Agricultural Sciences, Plant Biotechnology, Industrial Biotechnology, Plant Biology, or similar MSc degree. High degree records. Fluent knowledge of English language. Will constitute additional preference titles: knowledge of genetics and genomics, basic bioinformatics. The PhD student will be supposed to publish one scientific article on peer-reviewed International Journals per year.

Prof. Nicola Pecchioni


Research topic: Shelf-life in foodstuff prolonged using new and advanced technology. Technology used for stopping the diffusion of foodborne disease, by controlling the growth of pathogenic microorganisms

1 position with grant and 1 position without grant

Required Skills:
- Knowledge about the pathogens classification.
- Knowledge about the molecular biology
- Knowledge of different food matrix and his development during the shelf life.
-Knowledge about the importance of shelf life on the foodstuff and the foodborne disease.

Scientific tutor: prof. Andrea Pulvirenti,   andrea.pulvirenti@unimore.it


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.


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 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.


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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