PhD Position in Cellular Neuroscience
VU University of Amsterdam Centre for Neurogenomics and Cognitive Research

Are you keen to understand how mutations in SNARE genes lead to disease and how symptoms may be alleviated in the future? Would you like to work in an international team of top researchers?  Then the Vrije Universiteit (VU) would like to get to know you.

Location: Amsterdam

FTE: 1

Project: Cellular deficits in human cell models of severe neurodevelopmental  disorders and design of new therapeutic interventions.

Job description

We use induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) technology to create human neuronal networks in vitro that model severe mental disorders, such as the SNAREopathies[1], a group of disorders characterized by severe developmental delay, intellectual disability and often epilepsy. Currently we have no cure for these patients beyond seizure control. This project aims to characterize cellular deficits in these models, especially for the most prevalent group (mutations in STXBP1), and to design strategies to correct these deficits.
You will work together in a team of basic scientists, clinicians and the patient families to understand how mutations in SNARE genes lead to disease and how symptoms may be alleviated in the future. This project builds on previous studies in the department that have established genomic, proteomic and cellular changes in SNAREopathy cell models, in neurons from SNAREopathy patients and in animal models for the disease. These changes will be investigated further using state-of-the-art techniques including CRISPR/Cas-9 gene editing, life cell imaging, and other functional assays in order to establish the cellular basis of the disease. This will form the starting point to design intervention strategies. The project is part of two larger programs, the SUN2 consortium with partners in Sweden and the US, and a Lundbeck foundation program on SNAREopathies (with a Danish partner). You will participate in international meetings and exchange of data. The Department also performs collaborative research with large biotech/pharma companies on SNAREopathies and new therapeutic strategies will be developed together with these and our own spin out company Neurospector. All the methodology, cell models, equipment, analysis software and viral vectors are available from the start of the projects.

[1] Verhage and Sørensen (2020) Neuron 107(1): 22-37.
Your duties

Together with the SUN2 and Lundbeck teams you will
  • Characterize cellular disease models (cultured human neurons)
  • Perform genomic, proteomic and cellular analyses on these models
  • Perform bioinformatic analyses using your own data and large public data resources
  • Integrate your findings with clinical data (symptoms, EEG, etc)
  • Host patient-family days and provide information about your work to the families
  • Supervise BSc and /or MSc students during internships 
  • Present your work to the research community the consortia 
  • Contribute to teaching activities (10%)


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 iPSC technology and other cellular assays in neuroscience, and a strong motivation to pursue a career in science. Experience with Matlab, R, and/or other programming languages is an advantage.

What are we offering?

A challenging position in a socially involved organisation. 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 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. 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 endeavor – 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.

Centre for Neurogenomics and Cognitive Research

In CNCR (see, 150 people work closely together in defining how in essence simple molecular and cellular processes shape the emergent complexity of the brain.

We have the specific ambition to unravel the mechanisms by which brain cells and circuitry act both in health and disease. We aim to translate mechanistic knowledge into understanding of (dys)function of the human brain. Our neuroscience research area covers analysis over many spatial levels, from genes to the intact organism, and over a large temporal scale, from microsecond molecular events to the years of functioning of the human brain.

The Functional Genomics department studies the presynaptic nerve terminal in health and disease. We study presynaptic mechanisms that adjust synaptic transmission (presynaptic plasticity), the trafficking & fusion of neuropeptide vesicles (dense core vesicles) and presynaptic mechanisms of degeneration.

The CNCR in Amsterdam participates in the Graduate School ONWAR (


Are you interested in this position? Please apply via the application button and upload your curriculum vitae and cover letter until August 1st, 2021. Start date: a.s.a.p, but no later than January 1st 2022.

Applications received by e-mail will not be processed. 

Vacancy questions

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

Name: prof. Matthijs Verhage 

If you apply for this position please say you saw it on Medicinoxy


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