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Investigating ways to improve consumer acceptance, protein digestion and nutrient availability of seaweeds

A postgraduate research opportunity at the University of Otago.


Close date
Monday, 20 December 2021
Host campus
Associate Professor David Burritt, Associate Professor Linn Hoffmann, Dr Katja Schweikert, Dr Santanu Deb-Choudhury


We are seeking two enthusiastic and highly motivated PhD candidates to join a research team investigating ways to improve the consumer acceptance, protein digestion and nutrient availability of seaweeds. The project is co-led by the University of Otago and AgResearch. Scholarships are available through the University of Otago.

About the project

Seaweeds have the potential to be important “future foods”, but seaweeds are generally considered less digestible than many of the foods that we consume at present. For example seaweed proteins are less digestable than animal proteins, which could result in poorer nutrient availability. The main objective of this project is to investigate methods to enhance the digestibility and nutrient availability of seaweeds, and to understand the relationship between structure and nutrition. This knowledge will support the development of seaweed-based “future foods”.


The research will characterise raw, cooked and processed seaweeds. Both field work (seaweed collection) and laboratory work will be required. Key laboratory techniques will include microscopy (confocal laser scanning, and transmission and scanning electron microscopy), omics technologies (proteomics, peptidomics and metabolomics) and the use of advanced in vitro digestion techniques/models that simulate the human digestive system. Full training will be provided by experts in their fields, as required.

The candidates will become part of a collaboration between the University of Otago, AgResearch, Ideas 2 Plate, The Asian Microbiome Library (AMiLi), AgriSea, The Singapore Institute of Food and Biotechnology Innovation, and the Genome Institute of Singapore. The collaboration is fund by the Catalyst Strategic – New Zealand Singapore Future Foods Research Programme. Work will mostly be carried out at AgResearch in Lincoln and at the University of Otago in Dunedin. A visit to Singapore to learn new laboratory techniques may be possible, depending upon COVID‑19 travel restrictions.

Applicant attributes

Successful applicants will have a BSc(Hons) degree or an MSc degree in fields including, but not limited to, Marine Science, Botany, Plant Biotechnology, Food Science, Biochemistry or Chemistry. The applicants must meet the criteria for enrolment in the PhD programme at the University of Otago.

University of Otago PhD programme

An excellent command of written and spoken English is a requirement and a current driver's licence is essential.

Scholarship details

Successful students will receive a stipend of NZ$28,600 per annum, in addition to course/tuition fees. The tenure of the PhD scholarship is 3 years, and it is desired that successful candidates will take up the positions as soon as possible.

How to apply

Applications should include a full CV and the names/contact details of at least two referees. Applications should be sent (preferably by email) to:

Dr Katja Schweikert

Postal address:

Department of Botany
University of Otago
PO Box 56
Dunedin 9054
New Zealand

The cut-off date for applications is 20 December 2021, but review of applications will continue until the available positions are filled.

Further information

For more information on the projects, please contact:

Dr Katja Schweikert


Dr Santanu Deb-Choudhury


Katja Schweikert
Tel   +64 3 471 6146