PhD program

  • Call for Doctorate (Ph.D.) / Postdoc proposals

    The second MELiSSA Call for Doctorate and Postdoctoral Proposals (POMP II) is now open. De deadline for submission of proposals is November 1st 2017, 17:00 CET.


    Background and objectives

    The European Space Agency (ESA), an international organization with 22 Member States (, is Europe’s gateway to space. Its mission is to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space continues to deliver benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world.

    Targeted Areas of Research

    The MELISSA project (Micro-Ecological Life Support Alternative) has been initiated with the objective to design and develop regenerative life support systems for long term space missions. The main objective of the project is to design and engineer an artificial environment allowing ideally 100% of recycling of waste to produce oxygen, water and food utilizing a combination of waste processing compartments colonized by specific microorganisms or plants. Such an ambitious objective comes with challenges such as the highly multidisciplinary approach and the very long term research. Due to its nature and principal objectives the MELiSSA project requires a strong strategic vision on the interaction between different processes as well as between research institutes.

    In order to reinforce this interaction as well as the continuity of the research, national delegations, external audits as well as MELiSSA institutes have recommended to organize a Pool of MELiSSA PhDs and Postdocs, abbreviated: the POMP program.  POMP I was successfully launched in 2015 which is set up to attract students belonging to the faculties of Sciences, Engineering and Agronomy (Bioengineering). The main objective is to organize a European competition for MELiSSA PhDs and Postdoctoral candidates, over six countries: Belgium, Switzerland, Spain, Ireland, Italy and Romania. Considering the interest in the program it was decided to open a new call for PhD and postdoc research: POMP II. Please note that the hosting university must be located in one of the following countries: Belgium, Spain, UK or Switzerland. 

    Please note that candidates can be from any country in the world. The hosting university hoewever must be located in one of the above POMP countries.  


    The POMP program and fund is managed by the MELiSSA Foundation. The MELiSSA Foundation will also leverage the POMP program by involving the Ph.D. students and postdocs in ‘team events’ such as the MELiSSA summer university, the yearly MELiSSA meeting and the COSPAR conference. COSPAR is the major biannual conference on Space research. For more information see COSPAR.

    To be admitted to the POMP PhD / postdoc program, candidates must:
    - hold a university degree equivalent to a master's degree with a focus in the same scientific discipline as the intended field of study.

    - have a good command of English and of the working language of the university you plan to do your PhD or postdoc.

    Further specific admission requirements may be set by the department that has advertised the position.


    Proposal Submission Process
    To enroll in the POMP program, candidates should submit their application following the information written in the call for applications. A
    pplications must contain a detailed PhD topic based on one the 9 themes available on the download page of this website. Successfull proposals shall be elaborated in line with the expertise of the hosting university and hosting MELiSSA partners,

    What the foundation finances

    - stipends or PhD / postdoc salary in case the student is employed by the university
    - bench fees
    - academic enrollment fees
    - certain travel expenses

    Please note that a certain extent of co-financing by the university is required in most cases.

    Please also note that the Foundation does NOT finance more than 5% overhead in the event the student is directly employed directly by the host university. Applications without overhead are treated on a priority basis.


    How to apply

    Applicants have to:
    1. follow the instructions provided
    2. fill in the forms providing the requested information and email the documents as pdf file only


    Different documents are available for download to help to prepare a proposal to this call:

    1. list of MELiSSA partners (with keywords about their activities) which will collaborate with the University departments interested in the call.

    2. list of MELiSSA publications

    3. document stating how to prepare a PhD / Postdoc proposal

    4. list of research themes where one topic has to be selected

    Please consult the download section to access the above information.


  • About the MELiSSA Foundation

    The MELiSSA foundation is a non-profit organisation created by the MELiSSA consortium for the purpose to manage a fund dedicated to finance a pool of MELiSSA PhD students and postdocs. The board of the the Foundation consists of Prof. Dr. Max Mergeay (Director) and Rob Suters LLM (Managing Director). The committee in charge of evaluating PhD applications consists of representatives of the MELiSSA community, ESA and independent scientists.

    The MELiSSA Foundation PS is a private foundation (private stichting) based in Brussels incorporated under Belgian law registered under nr. 0547759097

    For contact details please visit contact.


    The MELiSSA consortium consists of 14 partners including ESA, several universities and CRO's and private companies and is internationally recognized as the most advanced effort to develop artificial eco-systems. Our partners are from Belgium, Spain, France, Switzerland, Italy, The Netherlands and Canada.




MELiSSA Program

  • MELiSSA logo

    The MELiSSA Space Research Program

    The acronym MELiSSA means 'Micro Ecological Life Support System Alternative'. It refers to a space research program aiming to develop an artificial ecosystem for regenerative life support systems for long-term space missions to lunar bases or flights to Mars. The MELiSSA Project is managed by the ESA ESTEC Thermal and Environmental Control Section (TEC-MCT). The project started 25 years ago and is based on a collaborative development program between 14 partners and a number of supporting sub-contractors. 

    The MELiSSA initiative is internationally recognized as the most advanced effort to develop artificial life support systems. For more information please visit the ESA website.

  • The MELiSSA partners

    The MELiSSA consortium today consists of 14 partners including ESA and the MEliSSA Foundation, several universities and companies. Below is a list of MELiSSA partners.

    If you wish to contact one of the MELiSSA partners please send a message to the Foundation

    If you wish to review the keywords that summarize their contribution to the MELiSSA project which should be used as a guideline by PhD applications you can visit the download section.

    - European Space Agency

    - Université Blaise Pascal – Clermont-Ferrand

    - Ghent University

    - IPStar B.V.

    - SCK•CEN, Belgian Nuclear Research Center

    - University of Guelph

    - Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

    - Vlaamse Instelling voor Technologisch Onderzoek  N.V. (VITO)

    - Sherpa Engineering S.A.

    - University of Naples Federico II

    - University of Lausanne

    - University of Mons

    - EnginSoft S.p.A.

    - MELiSSA Foundation PS

How to apply

  • How to prepare a Ph.D. or postdoc proposal for the POMP program

    Each POMP Ph.D. or postdoc project has to be structured as a tight collaboration between four parties:

    - hosting University (laboratory / department)

    - Ph.D. student or postdoc

    - MELiSSA partner

    - MELiSSA Foundation.

    The application must be prepared by the University promoter. The topic should be chosen by the University promoter in collaboration with one of the MELiSSA partners. The complete application should be sent by email to the MELiSSA Foundation. Please note that there is a deadline for submissions. 

    The Host University must be located in Belgium, UK, Spain or Switzerland. The MELiSSA partners are situated in the following countries: Belgium, Canada, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland. More information on the MELiSSA partners can be found here. Contact details can be found in the download section.

    The duration of the Ph.D. will be ideally 4 years and includes the time required for the thesis. During this period the Ph.D.student is expected to spend 12 months at the premises of a MELiSSA partner situated in a different country than the country of the host University.

    Each successful Ph.D. / postdoc application contains:

    a) title of the Ph.D. / postdoc project;

    b) name of the host University, the host laboratory and of the university mentor;

    c) concise description of the research interests of the host laboratory (perhaps with a short list of publications representative of the main scientific interests of the host laboratory);

    d) the proposed MELiSSA partner with keywords and a short list (max. 5) of relevant publications

    e) description of the Ph.D. / postdoc subject not exceeding half-page and defining the objectives, the methodologies and the expected results. The main focus of the project (MELiSSA loop compartment, biological material, …) will be mapped on the MELiSSA loop that will be joined to the project description. This description will contain 3 key references from the MELiSSA literature list and will be followed by a calendar of the scientific activities and visits to the MELiSSA partner.

    f) the Curriculum Vitae of the candidate. The CV should detail the mentions obtained during the studies of the candidate and will contain a copy of the relevant diploma.

    g) a description of the candidate’s motivation for the space research (max. 5000 characters)

    h) two reference letters

    i) a letter of acceptance of the candidate signed by the head of the Faculty/Department head (administrative responsible of the mentor)

    j) a letter of acceptance of the MELiSSA rules set forth in the standard cooperation agreement concerning confidentiality, intellectual property, technology transfer and publications signed by the head of the University department and the Ph.D. candidate.

    k) written acceptance of the relevant contracts which will be made available after the application. Please note that the POMP PhD agreement is not negotiable.

    l) Possible co-funding by the host laboratory may be mentioned and documented: participation to the costs of missions, laboratory and computational expenses, small equipment. This may be mentioned in the acceptance letter.



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