Contact: Prof. Jef Focant



PhD Position (m/f) – 2

PhD Researcher

University of Liège

Vacancy for highly motivated PhD Researcher: “A comprehensive study of the effect of separation quality on the quality of chemical analysis measurements”

For a multidisciplinary project in collaboration with the University of Brussels, Ghent University and the University of Liège focusing on Mining Chemical Data in Complex Samples, the Organic and Biological Analytical Chemistry (OBiAChem) group of the Molecular Systems (MolSys) Research Unit of the Chemistry Department at ULiege is looking for a highly motivated PhD candidate.

The research group of the PhD promoter Prof. Jean-François (Jef) Focant is conducting research in the field of method development for separation and identification of (semi)volatile molecules. The expertise is mainly concentrated on the hyphenation of comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography (GCxGC) to all types of mass spectrometric (MS) analyzers. The group is recognized as a leader in offering GCxGC-MS based solutions to practical separation science challenges in various fields of applications (medical, forensics, metabolomics, volatilomics, petroleomics, …). These method developments, including data reduction and processing strategies are backed up by a number of fundamental studies performed in the group as well. In the framework of this EOS consortium, the PhD research will be co-promoted by Prof. Frederic Lynen of the Separation Science Group at Ghent University.


The project will consider the global analytical resolution as a function of the applied degree of separation for a large number of samples to contribute to the ongoing debate on the importance of separation vsMS detection. Complex samples will be subject to various degrees of separation (i.e., 1D, 2D and 3D) and correlate this to the number of reliably identified and quantified components, using the sample complexity as a normalizing factor. This will be done for a number of diverse complex samples such as volatile organic compound (VOC) mixtures present in human breath, in metabolomics, and other forensic samples. Higher boiling compounds will be considered as well to evaluate relative separation efficiencies over a large range of molecular weights. Photoionization and lower energy electron impact will be implemented on the TOFMS to enhance the abundance of molecular ions over regular electron impact approaches. Dedicated data processing tools such as scripting and composite image subtraction, including supervised statistical procedures, will be implemented for 4D data sets under strict QA/QC criteria.


The candidate ideally has a Master in Chemistry, Chemical(bio)-engineering, Bio-informatics, or Engineering, with a strong interest in analytical chemistry and computer science. The candidate is familiar with chromatography and mass spectrometry as well as the management, analysis and interpretation of large data sets using statistical tools. Candidates must be proficient in oral and written English, must have excellent communication skills, multi-tasking skills, and be team-oriented, proactive and results driven. The candidate will work as a member of a large research project that will involve frequent interactions with external researchers.

The position can start immediately. Interested candidates should send their CV and a motivation letter to Prof Jef Focant at, referring to the EOS PhD position.


We offer a PhD position (4 year contract) in a stimulating environment at a top European university in a well-equipped, state-of-the-art, experienced and internationally oriented research unit. You will be based at the Department of Chemistry at the Sart-Tilman Campus in Liege.