Job Opportunities

Opportunities for a PhD Candidate

Position Information

We are seeking a highly motivated, creative student to pursue a doctoral Program of Study in Dr. Mary Ann Lila’s laboratory at the Plants for Human Health Institute, North Carolina State University, North Carolina Research Campus.  NC State’s Plants for Human Health Institute (PHHI) is comprised of integrated research and outreach units centered on the health-protective, bioactive properties of plant-based foods. The North Carolina Research Campus (NCRC) is a private and public venture, with the mission to advocate and validate translational strategies in the domains of nutrition and human health and longevity. The successful postdoctoral candidate will become part of a new USDA AFRI SCRI project – VacciniumCAP: Leveraging genetic & genomic resources to enable development of blueberry and cranberry cultivars with improved fruit quality attributes – and specifically will pursue research in formulation of colloidal aggregate particles (ingredients) using blueberry/cranberry polyphenols and edible protiens, and uses of the colloidal aggregates in food allergy/immunoprotection therapies.

Duties & Responsibilities

The selected candidate will use elite plant germplasm and emerging natural ingredient and product platforms to integrate fruit and vegetable bioactives and micronutrients into novel colloidal protein-polyphenol colloidal ingredients and prototype food products, with the aim of enhancing stability, nutrient density and bioaccessibility.  Fruit/vegetable produce and waste streams will be mined as sources of value-added components. Processed food products formulated with novel ingredients will be screened in parallel to those created with simple, uncomplexed fruit/vegetable powders to compare micronutrient/bioactive concentrations, stability, bioavailability and consumer acceptability.

A special focus for the candidate will be investigation of hypoallergenic properties of the protein-polyphenol colloidal aggregate particles.Food allergies have a detrimental impact on quality of life, can present life-threatening consequences and are of increasing public health concern.  The allergic reaction or adverse immune response always occurs in response to certain allergens (allergenic proteins) within a food which are recognized by sensitive individuals as harmful foreign material.  Segments of the allergenic edible proteins (epitopes) bind and cross-link to allergen-specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies on mast cell and basophil surfaces, triggering the downstream cascades responsible for the allergic response. There is intense interest in developing therapeutic strategies that could alleviate the danger and severity of IgE-mediated or immune cell mediated allergic reactions.  Initially using allergenic peanut proteins to develop the novel strategy, we have developed stable (food grade) binding of natural fruit/vegetative plant-derived phytochemical constituents to allergenic epitopes on the proteins to create protein-phytoactive particles which will attenuate allergic reactions to protein-rich foods

While driving a vehicle is not essential, it is important that the student be amenable to travel between the Raleigh campus (where classes will be taken) and the NCRC (where the research will be conducted).  Typically, PhD candidates front load classes for the Program of Study in the first 1.5 years of the program, then relocate to the Kannapolis, NC area to complete the research requirements.


MSc Food Science, Bioprocessing or related field, or BS with industry training and willingness to pursue a PhD.

The successful candidate will be able to evolve independently and develop new models of experimentation in cooperation with related research teams.

Application deadline: open

Start date – Spring/Summer 2020

For further information, contact:  Dr. Mary Ann Lila, Director, Plants for Human Health Institute, Department of Food Bioprocessing and Nutritional Sciences, North Carolina State University,