Application engineer position for NMR monitoring of oleaginous microalgae cultivations

Application engineer position for NMR monitoring of oleaginous microalgae cultivations

Context: Oleaginous microalgae are a source of biomass rich in oil (or triacylglycerol, TAG), an energetically dense class of molecules generated by esterification of fatty acids (FAs). FAs are carbon chains of various structures, which can be of interest to different industrial sectors, from very long-chain polyunsaturated GAs for food, health and cosmetics, to monounsaturated/saturated GAs for commodity chemistry and biofuels. Oil from algae is therefore one of the most promising renewable alternatives to fossil hydrocarbons. As part of the B-BEST priority research program and equipment, the diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum (PT) will be studied, as it is known to produce large quantities of lipids as TAGs droplet form in the extracellular medium.

The CEISAM and GEPEA laboratories involved in the ALGADVANCE project have a 6-year collaboration in which they demonstrated, as part of the AMER-METAL project, that Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy gives precise access to the identity and quantity of microalgal lipids [1] directly on the whole biomass, thanks to high magnetic field instruments. On the other hand, compact NMR devices [2] were able to monitor the lipid production of microalgae, thanks to signal elimination from the water medium [3] during 15 days of culture by coupling a photobioreactor [4].


Objectives: The main objective will be to characterize the lipids produced by PT, using a high-field instrument (700 MHz of the CEISAM site in Nantes) to identify the different lipid classes and chains not only in extracts, but also in the challenging whole cells in vivo. In this context, we will be implementing methods that are more resolutive, faster and more sensitive, and capable of overcoming intracellular inhomogeneities. In addition, the high repeatability of NMR makes it a tool of choice for quantifying identified lipids in mixtures in cell and in the cultivation medium. Secondly, we will evaluate the performance of a 80 MHz instrument (CEISAM and GEPEA in St Nazaire sites) to validate this device for identifying and quantifying PT lipids, in comparison with information obtained at higher field at 700 MHz. Finally, we will be able to monitor PT cultures in real time by coupling the 80 MHz spectrometer to a photobioreactor as a culture seat. This part will be carried out in collaboration with the PhD student of the project working on the GEPEA site.


[1] Dylan Bouillaud, these de doctorat, 2017-2020, Multiscale NMR analysis of the microalgae metabolism

[2] Castaing-Cordier, T.; Bouillaud, D.; Farjon, J.; Giraudeau, P. Recent Advances in Benchtop NMR Spectroscopy and Its Applications. In Annual Reports on NMR Spectroscopy; Academic Press, 2021.

[3] Bouillaud, D.; Heredia, V.; Castaing-Cordier, T.; Drouin, D.; Charrier, B.; Gonçalves, O.; Farjon, J.; Giraudeau, P. Benchtop Flow NMR Spectroscopy as an Online Device for the in Vivo Monitoring of Lipid Accumulation in Microalgae. Algal Research 2019, 43, 101624.

[4] Bouillaud, D.; Drouin, D.; Charrier, B.; Jacquemmoz, C.; Farjon, J.; Giraudeau, P.; Gonçalves, O. Using Benchtop NMR Spectroscopy as an Online Non-Invasive in Vivo Lipid Sensor for Microalgae Cultivated in Photobioreactors. Process Biochemistry 2020, 93, 63–68.

Environment of work: The project is being carried out in collaboration between two CNRS laboratories: CEISAM (Chimie Et Interdisciplinarité : Synthèse, Analyse, Modélisation) for the analytical development side, and the GEPEA (Environnement - Agroalimentaire) process engineering laboratory for the development of processes for microalgae cultivation. CEISAM's MIMM team is renowned for its development of liquid-state NMR techniques, applying these tools to the analysis of complex mixtures, and GEPEA's BAM team for its development of breakthrough, high-productivity culture systems.

Profile: Candidates must hold a Master's degree in (Bio)Analytical Chemistry or Physical Chemistry and have a solid theoretical knowledge in NMR. Previous experience in this field (internship) is appreciated but not essential. The engineer will also need to be open-minded, given the interdisciplinary and collaborative nature of the project, carried out between two laboratories in the Nantes area. This recruitment will offer a unique opportunity to become involved in innovative developments in NMR, at the interface between spectroscopy, analytical chemistry, biology and process engineering.

This recruitment will offer a unique opportunity to an engineer with 1 to 3 years' experience to invest in the application of high and low fields NMR to a better understanding of the lipidic metabolism of microalgae. The net monthly salary is between 1,500 € and 2,000 € for up to 30 months, depending on status and skills.

Application procedure: Candidates shall submit before the 22nd of March 2024 their complete Curriculum Vitae, a motivation letter as well as two recommendation letters to:

Jonathan Farjon (

Olivier Gonçalves (