The MELiSSA Foundation is a non-profit organisation created by the MELiSSA consortium. The Foundation manages a fund dedicated to support MELiSSA PhD students and postdocs. The board of the Foundation consists of Dr. Bérangère Farges (Program Director), 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 15 partners and includes the European Space Agency (ESA), several universities, CRO's and private companies and is internationally recognized as the most advanced effort to develop closed regenerative life support to sustain astronauts during long term space missions. Our partners are from Belgium, Spain, France, Switzerland, Italy, The Netherlands and Canada, but we collaborate with a multitude of partners across Europe and the globe.





The acronym MELiSSA means 'Micro Ecological Life Support System Alternative'. It refers to a space research program aiming to develop a regenerative life support systems for long-term space missions to lunar bases or flights to Mars. The MELiSSA Project is managed by ESA. The project started in 1989 and is based on a collaborative development program between 15 partners and a large number of supporting subcontractors. The MELiSSA initiative is internationally recognized as the most advanced effort to develop closed life support systems



The MELiSSA consortium currently consists of 15 partners including ESA and the MELiSSA Foundation, several universities and companies.

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

If you wish to contact one of the MELiSSA partners please send a message to the addresses below:





Background and objectives

ESA, an international organization with 22 Member States (www.esa.int), 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 develop regenerative life support systems for long term space missions. The main objective of the project is to design and engineer a system allowing ideally 100% of recycling of waste to produce oxygen, water and food from a combination of physico-chemical and biological processes. Such an ambitious objective comes with challenges among them 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 researchers and their 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. The POMP program is set up to attract students belonging to the faculties of Sciences, Engineering and Agronomy (Bioengineering). The main objective is to organize an international competition for MELiSSA PhDs and Postdoctoral candidates. This 2021 call concerns hosting universities from: France, Italy, Spain and Switzerland.


Please note that candidates can be from any country in the world. The hosting university however 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 subject 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 enrol in the POMP program, candidates should submit their application following the information written in the call for applications.


What the foundation finances

  • Stipends or PhD / postdoc salary
  • Bench fees
  • Academic enrolment 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. Applications will start from May 20 and to July 1st, 2021.
  3. Pay € 20.00 (administration fee). This fee will be refunded to all applicants who are invited for an interview. Payments will be available from May 20th.
    • MELISSA Foundation PS
      IBAN      : BE50 3631 3283 9318
      BIC         : BBRUBEBB

  4. A reply of acceptance or refusal of the applications will be sent to the candidates before July 15, 2021


The following 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 main MELiSSA publications
  3. Document stating how to prepare a PhD / Postdoc proposal
  4. List of research themes proposed by the MELiSSA partners that could serve as guidelines with the hosting Universities
    1. Urine COD reduction in the MELiSSA loop
    2. Study of plants culture on substrate of Urine origin: Roots zone focus.
    3. MELiSSA loop Metabolome
    4. Metagenomic characterization of the MELiSSA waste degradation compartment (C1)
    5. A MELiSSA inspired metric for circular economy development
    6. Impact of MEC integration in the MELiSSA loop
    7. The Sulphur & Phosphorus cycles in the MELiSSA loop
    8. Improvement and validation of a mechanistic physical model for the prediction of mass transfer (gas/liquid, species) on/in higher plant growth in reduced gravity

For more details, please consult the download section.


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 collaboration between four parties:

  • Hosting University (laboratory / department)
  • Ph.D. student or postdoc
  • MELiSSA partner
  • MELiSSA Foundation


  • For Swiss and Spanish universities, the application shall be submitted by the hosting universities laboratories themselves. Based on the proposed research guidelines, the hosting universities shall develop their own research program knowing that the program of work shall include a year abroad within one of the Melissa partner premises. A proposal without an identified PhD student will not be evaluated. The complete application should be sent by email to berangere.farges@melissafoundation.org
  • For the PhD proposed in France (Clermont Auvergne University), the application must be prepared and submitted directly by the PhD student candidate. Based on the proposed research guidelines, the hosting universities shall develop their own research program knowing that the program of work shall include a year abroad within one of the MELiSSA partner premises. The complete application should be sent by email to: berangere.farges@melissafoundation.org
  • For the PhD proposed in Italy (Napoli University), all indications for application can be found on the link below. Please, click here.


For the research guidelines, 1 to 7, the Host University must be located in Spain or Switzerland.

For the research guidelines 8, the host university is Clermont Auvergne University located in France.

The MELiSSA partners are situated in the following countries: Belgium, Canada, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland. 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 writing and the defence of the thesis. During this period the Ph.D. student has 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:

  1. Name, date & place of birth of the candidate;

  2. Title of the Ph.D. / postdoc project;

  3. Name of the host University, the host laboratory and of the university mentor;

  4. 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);

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

  6. 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;

  7. 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;

  8. A description of the candidate’s motivations for the space research (max. 5000 characters);

  9. Two reference letters;

  10. A letter of acceptance of the candidate signed by the head of the Faculty/Department head (administrative responsible of the mentor);
  11. A letter of acceptance of the MELiSSA rules set forth in the standard PhD/postdoc cooperation agreement including but not limited to confidentiality, intellectual property, technology transfer and publications signed by the head of the University department and the Ph.D. candidate. The PhD/postdoc cooperation agreements are available in the download section. Please note: only a letter of acceptance is required at this stage. The PhD/Postdoc cooperation will be signed only upon successful application/selection;

  12. 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.



As far any European activity, the host university shall provide deliverables all along the PhD. Based on this delivery, the payments will be done according to the payment plan previously defined.




Regenerative Life Support Systems for Long Term Space Missions

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