Junior Research Scientist in reactivity of phytoconstituants in plant-based products


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INRAE presentation

The French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food, and the Environment (INRAE) is a public research establishment under the dual authority of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Research.

INRAE is recruiting researchers by open competition and offering permanent position.

It is a major player in research and innovation created on 1st of January 2020. INRAE is a research institute resulting from the merger of INRA and IRSTEA. It is a community of 12,000 people with more than 200 research units and 42 experimental units located throughout France.

The institute is among the world leaders in agricultural and food sciences, in plant and animal sciences, and is 11th in the world in ecology and environment. INRAE’s main goal is to be a key player in the transitions necessary to address major global challenges. In the face of the increase in population, climate change, scarcity of resources and decline in biodiversity, the institute develops solutions for multiperformance agriculture, high quality food and sustainable management of resources and ecosystems.

Work environment, missions and activities

You will perform your research in the UMR SQPOV (Safety and Quality of Plant-based Food Products) laboratory, part of INRAE’s TRANSFORM department. Possessing internationally recognized expertise in the field of fruit and vegetable microconstituents, SQPOV contributes to the re-invention of food processing technologies, aiming to maintain food quality and safety while maximising biomass valorisation of food raw materials. The laboratory’s permanent staff is composed of 45 INRAE and Avignon University employees (i.e., 21 researchers and university teachers, 12 engineers and 12 technical and administrative staff). Annually the laboratory hosts approximately 15 PhD students and postdoctoral researchers. SQPOV is organised around 3 research teams and a state-of the-art analytics core facility. As a member of the research staff, you will be hosted by the QuAlim team which develops knowledge on how fruit- and vegetable-related (fruit & veg) microconstituents evolve and how these interact with macroconstituents (e.g., proteins, polysaccharides) during food processing and gastrointestinal digestion.

Your research will address challenges resulting from a shift of agrifood industry practices towards greater sustainability and which aim to use new raw foodstuffs resulting from (for example) agroecological farm practices. Fruit & veg are key features of healthy diets, their role in preventing metabolic disorders that affect 20% of the French population being well recognised. Therefore, the production of nutritionally beneficial fruit & veg-based products that are appreciated by the consumer is a major target in the wider framework of the transition towards healthier, more sustainable food systems.
To design healthier, more sustainable, consumer-friendly plant-based foods, it is essential to account for the evolution of nutritional and sensorial properties during food processing and during digestion. Moving beyond current analytical methods used to monitor polyphenols, carotenoids, and vitamins (C and E), you will focus on other less studied compounds (e.g., glucosinolates, folates, triterpenoids) that appear to be determinants of the health benefits of fruit & veg. You will develop untargeted analytical methods to study pools of lipophilic and hydrophilic molecules associated with highly variable (different cultivars, diverse farm practices, etc) raw materials and both conventional (e.g., thermo-mechanical processes) and innovative (e.g., microwave) food processing technologies. The acquired data will be used to perform hierarchical clustering of reactivity determining parameters (e.g., temperature, oxygen, pH) and the process steps and digestive phases that affect micro- and macroconstituent stability. Using model systems, you will elucidate reaction mechanisms and study the different interactions occurring between phytoconstituents and macromolecules from plants or biological fluids. The integration of data into different mathematical models capable of predicting nutritional quality across the whole food processing cycle can be tackled in collaboration with colleagues both in SQPOV and those in its external network. Knowledge gained from your research can be tested at different scales (e.g., pilot and factory scales) through on-site collaboration with the CTCPA. This will ultimately lead to the development of new technical itineraries for food processing using a reverse engineering approach.

To perform your research, you will benefit from the QuAlim team’s expertise in analytics and physical chemistry, and the opportunity to train interns and PhD students. For your work, you will have access to a range of state-of-the-art analytical equipments (HPLC-MS, GC-MS etc.), tools to characterize molecular interactions (e.g., fluorimetry, isothermal titration calorimetry), food processing devices (e.g., a 8L instrumented thermo-mechanical mixer) and in vitro static and dynamic digestion simulators. Omic analyses will be developed using the newly established Metaboscope core facility in Avignon University (Triple quadrupole HPLC-MS, MALDI-ToF, NMR) and the CriBioM metabolomics facility in Aix-Marseille University.
To begin your work, you will benefit from the financial and scientific framework of on-going projects. Progressively you will establish a sustainable research line and contribute to new projects in response to national (e.g., ANR) and international (e.g., Horizon Europe) project funding opportunities.
Finally, as a new researcher you will be eligible for financial aid from INRAE.

Our research team tells you more about your future job

Training and skills

PhD or equivalent

Competition is open to candidates with a PhD (or equivalent).
You hold a PhD in chemistry or physical chemistry of biomolecules, polymer or colloids.

You have acquired skills in omics analysis and chemometrics.
Working knowledge of human nutrition and food processes will be useful attributes for this post.

You are fluent (spoken and written) in English and have previous experience of working abroad in an international environment.
Successful candidates that have not yet acquired international experience will be expected to perform a postdoctoral fellowship abroad immediately following their 12-month probationary period.

INRAE's life quality

By joining our teams, you benefit from:

- 30 days of annual leave + 15 days "Reduction of Working Time" (for a full time);
- parenting support: CESU childcare, leisure services;
- skills development systems: training, career advise;
- social support: advice and listening, social assistance and loans;
- holiday and leisure services: holiday vouchers, accommodation at preferential rates;
sports and cultural activities;
- collective catering.

For international scientists: please visit your guide to facilitate your arrival and stay at INRAE

All persons employed by or hosted at INRAE, a public research establishment, are subject to its internal regulations, particularly with regard to the obligation of neutrality and respect for the principle of secularism. In carrying out their functions, whether or not they are in contact with the public, they must not express their religious, philosophical or political convictions through their behaviour or by what they wear.  

Offer reference

  • Profile number: CR-2024-TRANSFORM-1
  • Corps: CR
  • Category: A
  • Open competition number: 26
Living in France and working at INRAE Our guide for international scientists

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