Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • University Graduate
Are you fascinated by molecular and cellular mechanisms of the brain? Are you eager to shed light on disease processes, such as stress-related memory impairment? Do you have experience in analysis of mouse models using behavioral, molecular and/or imaging techniques? Do you aspire to obtain your PhD in Neurobiology and would you like to work in an internationally oriented top-team to build a bridge between genetics and neurobiology in the setting of the recently awarded Brainscapes project? Then the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam would like to get to know you.

Fte: 1.0

Job description

We are looking for a candidate for a 4-year PhD project that will be carried out at the Department of Molecular and Cellular Neurobiology (MCN) of the Center of Neurogenomics and Cognitive Research (CNCR). 
Stressful events lie at the root of fear, anxiety and mood disorders. Within the hippocampus, the excitatory and inhibitory neurons are essential for proper microcircuitry function and spatial memory. Specifically, fast-spiking Parvalbumin+ (PV) inhibitory neurons are susceptible to stress, and react initially by increasing their intrinsic activity, leading amongst others to an excitation-inhibition imbalance. To what extent, via which cell types and through which mechanisms the hippocampal circuitry reacts in adaptive molecular responses is not clear. 
In this project we will investigate the state of PV-activity, its relation with extracellular matrix proteins and how this translates in spatial memory performance. Hence, read-outs will be at the electrophysiological, molecular and behavioral level, with specific interest into the PV-interneuron proteome. Perturbation of inhibitory neuron activity will be used to examine whether different PV activity states can rescue memory impairments resulting from social defeat-induced persistent stress. As such, we are looking for a candidate with interest and skills in molecular and cellular neuroscience. Experience with the techniques mentioned is an advantage.

Your duties
  • Performing rodent surgery to manipulate cell activity and label subtypes of neurons 
  • Performing molecular and cellular analysis in the mouse brain
  • Performing mouse behavioral analysis (spatial memory)
  • Performing electrophysiology on acute hippocampal slices
  • Supervising BSc and /or MSc students during internships
  • Writing and authoring manuscripts that will be submitted to high quality journals
  • Presenting your work to the research community (at conference calls, or (inter)national conferences)
  • Some contribution to teaching activities is expected
  • Finish project with awarded thesis


  • MSc degree in (molecular) neuroscience (or equivalent)
  • Research experience in molecular and cellular biology, biochemistry or proteomics
  • Fluent in English (spoken and written)
  • Affinity with experimental animal work
  • Pro-active, motivated and curiosity-driven attitude to pursue a career in Neuroscience,
  • Capability to critically reflect upon experiments, willingness to step out of the comfort zone to initiate new collaborations using novel techniques, 
  • Good communication and presentation skills to guarantee efficient information exchange. 

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 1.0 FTE.
The appointment will initially be for 1 year. After a satisfactory evaluation of the initial appointment, the contract will be extended for another 3 years.
Additionally, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam offers excellent fringe benefits and various schemes and regulations to promote a good work/life balance, such as:
  • 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus
  • contribution to commuting expenses
  • optional model for designing a personalized benefits package

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 26,500 students. We employ more than 4,600 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.


Are you interested in this position? Please apply via the application button and upload your curriculum vitae (including courses and grades obtained) and a cover letter until 15 March 2020.

Applications received by e-mail will not be processed.

Vacancy questions
If you have any questions regarding this vacancy, you may contact:
Name: Prof. dr Sabine Spijker
Position: Team leader

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