PhD-project: Trafficking and secretion neuromodulators/neuropeptides in human neurons

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • PhD-project: Trafficking and secretion neuromodulators/neuropeptides in human neurons
  • University Graduate
The CNCR in Amsterdam (see participates in the Graduate School ONWAR ( and is seeking applications for PhD-student in cellular neuroscience (cell biology, neurophysiology, life cell imaging). 
The project is part of EU-funded projects on comorbidity inmental disorders, COSYN, a collaboration between laboratories in 12 European cities, and SUN2 a consortium with partners in Sweden and the US.

FTE: 1 - 1

Job description

The project exploits induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) technology to produce human neurons and create human neuronal networks in vitro. Fluorescence imaging is used as the main methodology to analyze the consequences of this editing in living neurons. You will be part of international research networks and exploit a variety of other analysis tools available here and in our partner labs, also using rodent models. You will be appointed in Amsterdam and work primarily in Amsterdam with regular visits to the other labs. The PhD-students will be trained on site. All the methodology, cell models, equipment, analysis software and viral vectors are available from the start of the projects. 

Many of the modulatory signals that change our brain state (arousal, sleep, euphoria) are secreted from dense cored vesicles (DCVs) in neurons. Dysregulation of DCV trafficking and release is at the basis of many disorders, like neuropsychiatric disorders. The aim of this project is to unravel the mechanisms of DCV trafficking and secretion in neurons at the single vesicle level from the initial biogenesis at the Golgi to the final fusion at synapses. This project uses life cell imaging (2-photon imaging and confocal microscopy) in human neurons in vitroand in intact rodent tissue (brain slices, in vivo) and genetically encoded reporters to detect DCV trafficking and fusion. We have previously established detection of DCV secretion in living neurons with single vesicle resolution using advanced microscopy and characterized several aspects of the secretory pathway (Persoon et al. Neuron 2019 Dec 18;104(6):1065; Persoon et al. EMBO J. 2018 Oct 15;37(20):e99672). In this project, we aim to establish new assays especially to analyze the first steps in this pathway, how neuromodulators/neuropeptides are sorted into DCVs and targeted to the correct cellular locations to be secreted as neuromodulatory signals. The project will be integrated in a large local DCV-biology research group at CNCR where 6-8 students investigate different aspects of DCV trafficking and secretion, and in the international SUN project group and the national BRAINSCAPES program.


We are looking for candidates that hold, or will soon hold, a master degree in (Medical) Biology, Biophysics or Physics, preferably with hands-on experience in the methods listed above, and a strong motivation to pursue a career in science. Experience with Matlab is an advantage.

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 €2,395 (PhD) per month during the first year and increases to €3,061 (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

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. We strive to be a university where personal development and commitment to society play a leading role. A university where people from different disciplines and backgrounds collaborate to achieve innovations and to generate new knowledge. Our teaching and research encompass the entire spectrum of academic endeavour – from the humanities, the social sciences and the natural sciences through to the life sciences and the medical sciences.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is home to more than 26,000 students. We employ over 4,600 individuals. The VU campus is easily accessible and located in the heart of Amsterdam’s Zuidas district, a truly inspiring environment for teaching and research.

We are an inclusive university community. Diversity is one of our most important values. We believe that engaging in international activities and welcoming students and staff from a wide variety of backgrounds enhances the quality of our education and research. We are always looking for people who can enrich our world with their own unique perspectives and experiences.

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 and cover letter until August 21, 2020. 

Applications received by e-mail will not be processed.

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

Name: M. Verhage
Position: supervisor

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