PhD-student in Synapse function in human neuron network models for psychiatric disorders

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • PhD-student in Synapse function in human neuron network models for psychiatric disorders
  • University Graduate
The CNCR in Amsterdam (see participates in the Graduate School ONWAR ( and is seeking applications for a

PhD-student in cellular neuroscience (cell biology, neurophysiology, live cell imaging)
Department of Functional Genomics, VU/VUmc Amsterdam

FTE: 1 - 1

Job description

Several exon variants and single gene CNVs are now firmly associated with schizophrenia, autism and mental retardation. We have previously identified synaptic gene networks where many such risk factors accumulate. Using two reduced and highly standardized model systems, single human neurons on glia islands and standardized small networks, we aim to systematically analyze the synaptic effects of different exonic variants and CNVs. Point mutations in STXBP1 and a small CNV in 22q11 will be the starting points of the project. Other mutations and cell models will be generated during the course of the project to generate additional models for human disease. In this project, we will analyze synaptic transmission using patch clamp physiology and life cell imaging in these cell models and a variety of other approaches to elucidate disease mechanisms. Studies will be embedded in the SUN consortium and the local STXBP1 research team, composed of scientists with several difference disciplines (clinicians, EEG-experts, cell biologists, see We will also test candidate drugs and candidate genetic therapies to normalize cellular abnormalities observed in these model systems and link promising candidate therapies back to the clinicians in our team and collaborators worldwide.


We are looking for candidates that hold, or will soon hold, a master degree in (Medical) Biology, Biophysics or Physics, with hands-on experience in molecular neuroscience, preferably patch clamp and/or live cell imaging, and a strong motivation to pursue a career in science. Experience with Matlab or Python is also 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 total 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.

About the project
Project:Synapse function in human neuron network models for psychiatric disorders
The project is part of an international project on comorbidity inmental disorders (SUN, a consortium with partners in Sweden and the US).

Description of work
The project exploits induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) technology to produce human neurons and create human neuronal networks in vitro. Genome editing is used to alter candidate genes or introduce disease-relevant variation and reporters. In addition, neurons obtained from mouse models for human disease will be used in parallel. You will be part of an international research network and exploit a variety of other analysis tools available here and in our partner labs. 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 project. 


Are you interested in this position? Please apply via the application button and upload your curriculum vitae and cover letter until November 20, 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 project

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