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1.    TOPIC “Antioxidant in livestock diets”
One position with grant

Scientific Tutors: Prof. Domenico P. Lo Fiego (tutor); Prof. Luisa A. Volpelli (co-tutor)
The researches will concern the use of natural substances acting as antioxidant in the diets of livestock (i.e. pigs and dairy cows). The effects of various substances and raw materials will be tested on animal performance and on derivative products:
•    growth, feed conversion, feed intake, milk production, reproductive traits
•    slaughtering traits
•    quality of meat and milk and of derived products
•    metabolic indicators
Requested traits of the candidate:
•    basic knowledge of animal production
•    availability to work with farmed animals (pigs and cows)
•    ability to work in laboratory

2.    TOPIC “Bioactive edible packaging for feed and food”
One position with grant

Scientific Tutor: Prof. Andrea Pulvirenti
The research project will focus on the development of bioactive edible packaging, with a special interest on the antimicrobial effect of natural substances, which could exert their action on feed and/or food products.  
Required skills of the candidate:
•    Basic knowledge of food microbiology, food processing, organic chemistry
•    Availability to work in food companies and with farmed animals
•    Good competence and practical skills in common laboratory practices
•    Good knowledge of English language

3.    TOPIC “Evolution of quality standard in food industry”
One position without grant

Scientific Tutor: Prof. Andrea Pulvirenti

4.    TOPIC “Quality control of Microbials”
One position with grant

Scientific tutors: Prof. Emilio Stefani (tutor); prof. Andrea Pulvirenti (co-tutor)
In agriculture, industrial products defined as “Microbials” may contain one or more microorganisms, belonging or originating to the natural agro-ecosystems and specifically selected to improve crop production and protection. They are regarded as a sustainable solution to ensure biodiversity of microbial communities in soil and plants, together with an effective control of several plant pathogens.
The research focuses on the development, implementation and characterization of industrial Microbials, in order to meet the highest standards of quality control during any step of their industrial production. This will be done by using the latest methods and techniques in molecular biology and microbial genetics.
Required skills: The prospective candidate has sufficient knowledge of industrial production of Microbials, together with lab skills related to basic and applied microbiology, namely manipulation of microorganisms (bacteria, yeasts, fungi) and their microbial genetics. A good English knowledge is an asset.

5.    TOPIC “Symbiotic agriculture: increasing knowledge on the mode of action of beneficial microorganisms”
One position with grant (from Industry)

Scientific tutor: Prof. Emilio Stefani
Several microorganisms, part of the microbial communities present is soil and in plants (as endophytes or epiphytes), play a significant role in agro-environments as plant growth promoters, control of plant diseases, facilitation of nutrients uptake by plants. Understanding the mode of action of such microbes (bacteria, yeasts, fungi) and their relationship to crop plants will help to focus research on selected microorganisms, with the scope to develop innovative products (Microbials) to be used in sustainable crop production, gaining a positive impact in agricultural environments in terms of microbial diversity and stability.
The research focuses on searching microbial candidates in agricultural and natural environments suitable to be used in crop management as biocontrol agents or plant growth promoters. A set of already available microbes and new ones (bacteria and yeasts) will be thoroughly studied and used in field experiments on selected crop plants. This in order to assess their potential use as Microbials in symbiotic agriculture. Additionally, their mode of action in plants will be unravelled through biochemical analyses and a transcriptomic approach, coupled with RNA-seq analysis.
Required skills: The prospective candidate is an agronomist and plant biotechnologist, with a strong background in molecular plant-microbe interactions. Sufficient knowledge of genomics, transcriptomics and RNA-seq analysis would be an asset. A good English knowledge is required, together with the availability to attend a significant period (not less than 4-6 months) abroad, in a world-leading lab involved in research related to the research topic.

6.    TOPIC “Development and application of bioinformatics tools for Next Generation Sequencing data analysis and interpretation- exploiting cereal crops and model species”
One position with grant

Scientific tutors: Dr. Enrico Francia (tutor); Dr. Justyna Anna Milc (co-tutor)
The discipline of Bioinformatics addresses the need to manage and interpret the plethora of diverse data that is being massively generated by the 'omic' sciences. This discipline represents the convergence of biology, computer and information technology sciences, and encompasses analysis and interpretation of biomolecular (e.g. genomic and transcriptomic) data, modelling of biological phenomena, and development of algorithms and statistical approaches. This includes information on genomes, biomolecules, biomolecular circuitry, and biological processes at the molecular, cellular, organismal and population levels.
Required skills: knowledge of applied biotechnology, bioinformatics, genetics and gene expressions; strong communication aptitude in English, autonomous data elaboration and high motivation.

7.    TOPIC "Development of a high throughput plant phenotyping system for innovating durum wheat breeding in the Mediterranean"
One position without grant
Scientific tutor: Prof. Nicola Pecchioni
It is aim of the present PhD project to perform a detailed study for setting up a high throughput (HT) plant phenotyping system with the final aim to innovate and improve the efficiency of durum wheat breeding for the Mediterranean environments. The project will have to design a comprehensive strategy for the high throughput field phenotyping of durum wheat, applicable to soft wheat and other straw cereals. In particular, it will be performed a survey and a series of test and validation experiments for choosing for the aim the: best suited technologies (lean phenotyping, drones, phenomobiles, etc), breeding programs, phenological phases, breeding technologies (e.g. MAS and genomic selection vs. HT phenotyping), plot sizes and single plants, environments and targeted traits. The project will also include a significant effort to either adopt existing bioinformatic packages, or to develop new ones specifically suited for wheat breeding, collaboration will be established with IBG2 Plant Science, Forschungszentrum Jülich and other institutions as appropriate. Through a collaboration with CREA Cereal Research Centre, the project will be part of the national plant phenotyping initiative named PHEN-ITALY.
Required skills: knowledge of wheat breeding and genomic techniques, quantitative genetics and applied biotechnology; good communication aptitude in English.

8.    TOPIC “Food, microbiota and health”
One position with grant

Scientific tutor: Prof. Maddalena Rossi
Required Skills: intestinal microbiota, metagenomics, lactic acid bacteria, fermentation processes.

9.    TOPIC “Microbial biotechnology for development and implementation of technologies for the production of ice creams”
One position with grant (from Industry)

Scientific tutor: Prof. Maddalena Rossi

10.     TOPIC “Development of innovative acetification processes and products”
One position with grant (from Industry)

Scientific tutor: Dr. Maria Gullo
The research aims to develop innovative fermented beverages and vinegars. New raw materials and acetification processes will be studied and prototypal scale productions implemented.

11.     TOPIC  “Valorization of enological production chain effluents”
One position with grant

Scientific tutors: Prof. Andrea Antonelli (tutor); Dr. Francesca Masino, Dr. Giuseppe Montevecchi (co-tutor)
Wineries produce a vast variety of wastes. Many of them are collected by distilleries that distils millions of tons of effluents (marc and different slurries) to yield ethanol and potable spirits. In turn, heads, faints or tails, washes, and solid matter contains a number of highly valuable molecules that can be profitably used in many fields: flavour industry, building blocks for bio-based industries, biomolecules, energy recovery (methanol in fuel cells), plastic fillers, lipids (with innovative systems), etc.
The main aims of this research can be summarized as follows:
- study of the composition (identification and quantification) of the effluents with appropriate techniques;
- recovery and purification of the different substance contained in the effluents;
- some applications of the substances separated in the previous step.
Required skills: preference will give to the candidates with experience in food technology and chromatographic techniques (HPLC and GC-MS). Good skills in English and in team-working are highly valued, as well. It is also mandatory the availability to spend a period in an European/American lab to refine skills useful for the research project.



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.