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PhD candidate Epidemiology of Metabolism Disrupting Compounds (1.0 FTE)


We are looking for an enthusiastic and creative researcher to strengthen our research group. Your work will be part of a European research project funded under the H2020 research programme of the EU, i.e. the GOLIATH project: Generation Of Novel, Integrated and Internationally Harmonised Approaches for Testing Metabolism Disrupting Compounds (MDCs).

MDCs are natural and anthropogenic chemicals that have the ability to promote metabolic changes that can ultimately result in obesity, diabetes and/or fatty liver in humans. The GOLIATH project will generate the world’s first integrated approach to testing and assessment (IATA) specifically tailored to MDCs.

You will summarize the literature on occurrence and health effects of MDCs to enable prioritization of testing schemes. Based on outcomes from the testing schemes, you will validate these findings in ongoing birth cohort studies (e.g., YOUTH and FLEHS). You will investigate changes in metabolic outcome parameters (anthropometric measures, concentrations of hormones) in relation to concentrations of suspected and known metabolic disruptors in biological matrices. You will unravel the molecular pathways that connect chemical exposure to outcome through the analysis of -omics data (transcriptome, epigenome, metabolome).

You will work at the cross boundaries of Environmental Health Sciences and Molecular Biology. You will have the opportunity to meet and collaborate with high level international researchers. You will be based both at Utrecht University in The Netherlands, and at the Flemish Institute for Technological Research (VITO) in Belgium. You will publish the findings as papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals. These papers will form the basis of your PhD thesis.



The increasing amount of Distributed Energy Resources (DERs), which have recently been integrated in power systems, and the more proactive role of consumers have transformed the classical centralized power system operation by introducing more uncertainty and decentralization in the decisions. Following this trend, electricity markets are starting to restructure, from a centralized market design in which all the operations were managed by a central (global) market operator, modeled as a classical constrained optimization problem, to more decentralized designs involving local energy communities which can trade energy by the intermediate of the global market operator or in a peer-to-peer setting. This latter design requires the introduction of game-theoretical approaches to model the complex interactions between the agents and provide guidelines regarding decentralized system evolution.

The information (historics of the agents’ past actions, private information captured through types, etc.) that each agent can access is capital, as it impacts the agent’s strategy definition and the dynamic evolution of the underlying game. Various learning mechanisms can be implemented by the agents, in a distributed fashion (Bayesian inference, regret minimization, etc.). Questions on convergence of these distributed learning algorithms, as well as the capability for these algorithms to efficiently approximate equilibrium (Generalized Nash in case of shared resource, correlated equilibrium in case Nature is introduced) resulting from such complex underlying games, raise tricky questions.

In this PhD work we propose to:

• Develop and analyse a game-theoretic model for peer-to-peer energy trading where peers may have various level of information, the performance of which will be compared to centralized and hierarchical market designs. These latter will be used as benchmarks, and formulated using control-theoretic and Stackelberg game approaches in a context of sequential decision making. Endogenous risk impact on the market behavior will also be studied. To perform the comparison of the different market designs, performance indicators will be considered, reflecting various points of view on the system behavior (social welfare, efficiency loss relying on the Price of Anarchy, etc.)

• Provide methodological approaches for the design of a smart contract on top of a decentralized demand and supply matching platform, guaranteeing the automatic detection of a consensus reaching. Careful analysis of distributed trust-based communication mechanisms in a peer-to-peer market design setting should be provided.

• Analyse the robustness of the smart contract in case of malicious behavior of some agents, attacks or faults. The detection of these latter in a decentralized energy trading system will also be considered as a methodological approach.


Practicalities and organization: The PhD work will last 3.5 years, with a possible start in October 2019. The candidate is expected to prepare a workplan and to present it in front of a jury in Belgium, before the official start of the grant.

Contact: Please provide CV, motivation letter and two recommendation letters (by default, the names of two persons who could recommend you) to:
• Dr Ana Busic (ana.busic@inria.fr
• Dr Hélène Le Cadre (helene.lecadre@vito.be)


Registration deadline: 23/08/2019




This PhD will considerably advance the state-of-the-art in optimal valorization and aggregation of energy flexibility by developing, integrating and exploiting novel algorithms for the dynamic quantification of uncertainty and risks regarding energy flexibility.

· In the state-of-the-art of flexibility research, emerging uncertainty is explored and sampled when modelling and optimizing flexibility, but precise definitions and quantifications are lacking.

· This uncertainty will be quantified during this PhD research, using appropriate data science techniques to calculate the risk-of-unexpected-unavailability of the flexibility that was offered earlier, and that take this risk into account when valorizing the energy flexibility in different applications and markets. The result will be that a larger scala of flexibility carriers and types can be valorized.

· The risk factors will be explored and quantified from the points-of-views of the flexibility buyer and the flexibility provider, and applied/adapted to a broad spectrum of energy generating/consuming device types. Ultimately the goals is to provide an approach that can be applied to any type of energy flexibility carriers, including those that cannot be explicitly modelled using a white box or grey box approach

· Novel optimization algorithms will be developed that maximize the reward functions for either and both points-of-view in the context of current and future energy and energy-flexibility markets.


Collaboration with University of Ghent
Registration deadline: 29/07/2019




Would you like to improve your career opportunities even more by gaining a doctorate? If so, be sure to familiarize yourself with the opportunities that VITO is able to offer you! Take a look at our PhD topic list.

VITO supports applicants wanting to do research for four years under the leadership of a university supervisor and a co-supervisor from VITO, resulting in the achievement of a doctorate and tying in with other research done at VITO.

Various options are possible:

VITO doctoral grant

At various times each year, VITO publishes a number of doctorate subjects, with the object of supporting VITO research. These subjects are selected carefully in advance, in the context of strategic collaboration with the university supervisor. As such, both the subject and the supervisor will have been established when an applicant starts his doctorate. The subjects selected for doctorates are usually very much application-oriented. View our PhD topic list to select a subject to get more information and apply. Check the PhD regulations for the acceptance criteria (degree, topic,...).

If you are selected you will be notified. From that moment on you get the chance to work out a PhD proposal, together with your promotor at VITO and your university supervisor. You will have to present your PhD proposal to the doctoral jury at VITO.

FWO-VITO research mandate

On 8th June 2009, FWO and VITO signed a protocol to fund 2 additional doctorates next to the FWO doctoral mandates that are granted annually. This procedure starts by submitting a standard application for an FWO research mandate. Places will be offered to applicants who are ranked high enough and whose research proposal is situated within a strategic VITO domain. More info

Doctorate in the context of European collaboration

If you have a particular interest in international issues, a doctorate in the context of a European project could present you with a unique opportunity. VITO participates in European networks, in which doctorates abroad are often made available.