Postdoc in Genetic Determinants of Prosocial Behavior

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • Postdoc in Genetic Determinants of Prosocial Behavior
  • Doctorate
Are you experienced in genetic data analysis, working with large datasets and interested in what drives human helping and prosocial behavior? If so, we hope you will apply to become our new colleague in the Department of Sociology at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

FTE:         0.8 - 1

Job description

The postdoc will be part of the European Research Council (ERC) project “Who gives life? Understanding, explaining and predicting donor behavior (DONORS)”, a multidisciplinary scientific project on prosocial behavior, with an open eye for a societally pressing topic, namely blood and organ donation.

The project will take GWAS results for prosocial phenotypes to construct polygenic risc scores in our Dutch blood donor sample and use them (along with other determinants, e.g., demographics, values and social network characteristics) to explain variation in altruism and blood donor behavior. The candidate will work in an enthusiastic team of PhD students and postdocs, with diverse backgrounds, including sociology, economics, psychology and health sciences. Part of the research will be conducted at Sanquin Research (

We are seeking a highly motivated and talented researcher. You are required to handle large survey, genetic and genomic datasets. The successful candidate needs to be proficient in statistics and statistical programming, and preferably has practical experience in the analysis of genetic data.

Your tasks

  • to examine determinants of prosocial behavior using large-scale survey, biobank, registry and genetic data
  • to co-supervise MSc students and PhD candidates
  • to (co)author publications in high quality journals
  • to communicate about the research findings via social media and popular science communication
  • to present work to the international academic community
  • to develop an own research line on biological determinants of prosocial behavior


  • excellent training (PhD) in social sciences, biological psychology, economics, health sciences, demography, or a related quantitative/computational field
  • experience in genetic data analysis and in working with large datasets
  • support ‘open science’ and work in a reproducible way and share tools and data with the wider scientific community
  • outstanding organizational and analytical skills, flexibility (work at two locations), communication skills (including social media)
  • perseverance and ability to build and work in a team
  • excellence in written and spoken English
  • open eye for the societal relevance of the project

What are we offering?

A challenging position in a socially engaged organization. On full-time basis the remuneration amounts to a minimum gross monthly salary of €2,709 (scale 10) and a maximum of €4274 (scale 10), depending on your educational level and experience. The job profile is based on the university job ranking system and is vacant for at least 0.8 FTE. We offer the opportunity to teach courses in the curriculum of the Sociology department and faculty research master for 0.2 fte.

The appointment will initially be for 1 year. After a good evaluation, the contract will be extended with another 2 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
  • contribution to commuting expenses
  • optional model for designing a personalized benefits package
  • 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 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.

Faculty of Social Sciences
The Faculty of Social Sciences examines the major social problems of our time from multiple perspectives. From bullying at school to dealing with illegal immigration, from the rise of populist politicians to creating a self-reliant society. Only at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam you will find all the academic disciplines needed to understand these 'wicked problems': alongside the traditional disciplines such as sociology, anthropology and politics, we also research and teach the new social sciences such as communication science and management & organization science. We do not settle for easy answers in our teaching and research. Our researchers and students are critical thinkers and doers who work together to devise surprising solutions to the problems of today.

Working at the Faculty of Social Sciences means working with colleagues from a range of academic disciplines in an inspiring and personal work and study environment with excellent research facilities. We employ more than 250 staff members, and we are home to around 2,500 students.

About the department
The department of Sociology hosts over 50 fte of academic staff and organizes the bachelor and master education in sociology, as well as courses in methodology in the Faculty of Social Sciences ( The research of the department is organized in the research program Participation in Society (PARIS), that includes five theme groups: ‘Social Context of Aging’, ‘Social Inequality in the Life course’, ‘Identity, Diversity and Inclusion’, ‘Social Conflict and Change’ and ‘Philanthropic Studies’. (

About the project
Who gives life? Understanding, explaining and predicting blood donor behavior (DONORS)

Why do individuals repeatedly help strangers even when this incurs personal costs? Current evidence on prosocial behavior is contradictory, scattered across disciplines, does not take into account contextual influences, and fails to capture its dynamic nature. An integrated model is needed to increase understanding of prosociality as a societal core value. This postdoc project seeks to identify the genetic variants that associate with prosociality and donation. By controlling for their role in explaining variation in donor behavior, among other determinants, we hope to reveal the net effects of social and environmental factors, such as prosocial values, personality, and social norms over the life course.

This project is a collaboration between the Center for Philanthropic Studies at the department of Sociology of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU) and the Department of Donor Studies at Sanquin Research, Amsterdam. The Donor Studies department is internationally recognized for high-quality (blood) donor research. Staff consists of about 15 researchers, including 6 PhD candidates. The Center for Philanthropic Studies at VU conducts research on causes and consequences of philanthropy. It consists of 14 researchers, including 5 PhD candidates. Since 1995, the Center has been the leading unit for research on philanthropy in the Netherlands and in Europe. The postdoc will be employed at the department of Sociology at the VU, the research will be conducted at both VU and at Sanquin, both located in Amsterdam.


Are you interested in this position? Please apply via the application button and upload your curriculum vitae and cover letter. Applications are welcome until the position is filled.

Vacancy questions
If you have any questions regarding this vacancy you may contact:
Name: Eva-Maria Merz
Position: Associate Professor
Telephone: 06 12143879

Applications received by e-mail will not be processed.

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