PhD-student in Synapse function in human neurons with epilepsy-causing mutations in synaptic vesicle proteins

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • PhD-student in Synapse function in human neurons with epilepsy-causing mutations in synaptic vesicle proteins
  • University Graduate
The CNCR in Amsterdam (see participates in the Graduate School ONWAR ( and is seeking applications for a

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

FTE: 1 - 1

Job description

Epileptic seizures are important symptoms of several major brain disorders. Synaptic dysfunction is a central aspect of these diseases leading to dysfunction of neuronal networks. SV2 synaptic vesicle glycoproteins are unique for vertebrates, share sequence homology with transporters and are receptors for neurotoxins. The absence or dysfunction of SV2 is linked to epilepsy and SV2 is the target of anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs). However, how SV2 proteins control synaptic transmission and how AED interaction suppresses epilepsy is unknown. In this project we will investigate these questions using human neurons in standardized small human neuron networks. We aim to systematically analyze the synaptic effects of epilepsy-causing mutations in SV2 family members using patch clamp physiology and live cell imaging to elucidate disease mechanisms. Mutations and cell models will be generated prior and during the project using gene-editing. In collaboration with big pharma, new candidate drugs will be tested.  


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 or Python 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 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 neurons with epilepsy-causing mutations in synaptic vesicle proteins. The project is part of an international collaboration on mechanisms of neuropsychiatric diseases

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 introduce disease-relevant variations and reporters. Patch clamp physiology and fluorescence imaging are the main methodologies. You will be part of (inter-) national research networks and exploit a variety of other analysis tools available, also using rodent models. 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: R.F.G. Toonen
Position: supervisor project

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