PhD position in Bioinformatics and Oncology

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • PhD position in Bioinformatics and Oncology
  • University Graduate
Are you  about to graduate from a MSc Bioinformatics degree and are you interested unravel which genomic breakpoints have impact on colorectal cancer?
Please apply at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

FTE: 1.0

Job description

We are looking for a PhD student in the field of translational bioinformatics. The project aims to detect chromosomal breakpoints with impact on colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer (CRC) is caused by genomic alterations such as point mutations, DNA copy number aberrations and structural variants, the latter comprising deletions, insertions, inversions, and intra- and inter- chromosomal translocations, all of which involve chromosomal breaks. The impact of recurrent chromosomal breaks in CRC has been poorly characterized (van den Broek et al, 2015). This project will use advanced bioinformatics analyses and machine learning techniques to characterize recurrent breakpoint genes in more detail, in order to improve molecular DNA-based classification and thereby stratification of CRC patients for early diagnosis, prognosis and therapy prediction.

The computational challenge is to detect relevant breakpoints while filtering the experimental and biological background signal. The aim of this project is to use advanced machine learning techniques to characterize recurrent breakpoint genes in more detail, in order to detect those events with a direct impact on the tumor. By learning over multiple molecular and clinical data sources, we hope to improve molecular DNA-based classification and thereby stratification of CRC patients for early diagnosis, prognosis and therapy prediction. Our long-term goal is to implement detection of SVs with diagnostic, prognostic and/or predictive value into clinical care to improve disease management of CRC patients.

This is a collaborative project lead by Remond Fijneman (NKI, Translational Gastrointestinal Oncology group; head Gerrit Meijer) and Sanne Abeln (VU University, dept. of Computer Sciences, bioinformatics section; head, Jaap Heringa). 
Your duties
  • Analyzing large omics data sets
  • Applying machine learning methods to heterogeneous datasets
  • Developing methods to detect high resolution breakpoints
  • Perform complex statistical analysis
  • Communicate your work with both biomedical researchers and computer scientists
  • Teaching computer practicals to MSc students (<5% fte)


  • An MSc degree in Bioinformatics, computational biology or an MSc degree in the Life Sciences, with a specialization in Bioinformatics
  • A strong interest in biomedical research and oncology
  • Able to write bioinformatics workflows using Python and R
  • Good communication and academic writing skills

What are we offering?

A challenging position in a socially involved organization. The salary will be in accordance with university regulations for academic personnel and amounts €2,325 (PhD) per month during the first year and increases to €2,972 (PhD) per month during the fourth year, based on a full-time employment. The job profile: is based on the university job ranking system and is vacant for at least 1 FTE.

The appointment will initially be for 1 year. After a satisfactory evaluation of the initial appointment, the contract will be extended for a duration of 4 years.
Additionally, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam offers excellent fringe benefits and various schemes and regulations to promote a good work/life balance, such as:
  • a maximum of 41 days of annual leave based on full-time employment
  • 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus
  • solid pension scheme (ABP)
  • a wide range of sports facilities which staff may use at a modest charge

About Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

The ambition of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is clear: to contribute to a better world through outstanding education and ground-breaking research. And to be a university where personal education and societal involvement play a leading role. Where people from different disciplines and backgrounds work together on innovations and on generating new knowledge. Our teaching and research embrace the whole spectrum of science – from the humanities, the social sciences and the pure sciences through to the life sciences and the medical sciences.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is home to more than 23,000 students. We employ more than 4,500 individuals. The VU campus is easily accessible, located in the heart of Amsterdam’s Zuidas district, a truly inspiring environment for teaching and research.

Diversity is one of our university’s core values. We are an inclusive community, and we believe that diversity and international activities enhance the quality of education and research. We are always looking for people who can enhance diversity on our campus thanks to their background and experience.

The Faculty of Science
The Faculty of Science inspires researchers and students to find sustainable solutions for complex societal issues. From forest fires to big data, from obesity to medicines and from molecules to the moon: our teaching and research programmes cover the full spectrum of the natural sciences. We share knowledge and experience with leading research institutes and industries, both here in the Netherlands and abroad.

Working at the Faculty of Science means working with students, PhD candidates and researchers, all with a clear focus on their field and a broad view of the world. We employ more than 1,250 staff members, and we are home to around 6,000 students.

About the VU department Computer Science
The VU Department of Computer Science has approximately 170 members, including 35 tenured staff members and 40-50 PhD students. Within the Department there is a strong focus on data science applied to the biomedical field.

About the Netherlands Cancer Institute
The Netherlands Cancer Institute accommodates approximately 650 scientists and scientific support personnel. The Antoni van Leeuwenhoek Hospital has 185 medical specialists, 180 beds, an out-patients clinic with around 106,000 visits, 12 operating theaters and 11 irradiation units for radiotherapy. It is the only dedicated cancer center in The Netherlands and maintains an important role as a national and international center of scientific and clinical expertise, development and training.


Are you interested in this position? Please apply via the application button and upload your:
  • curriculum vitae (CV)
    • highlighting research experience
    • including two references we may contact 
  • cover letter (CL)
    • including a motivation for this PhD position
    • explaining ho you fulfil the requirements for this position
  • BSc and MSc academic transcripts
    • containing all your grades at university level

The application deadline is 31 January 2020. The job interviews are planned for the middle of February, when possible please take them into account when applying for the position.

Applications received by e-mail will not be processed.

Vacancy questions
If you have any questions regarding this vacancy, you may contact:

Name: Caroline Waij

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