Radboudumc – PhD candidate in Developmental Psychobiology

Job description
We are looking for a highly capable, eager, and intrinsically motivated PhD candidate. The project is embedded in the Developmental Psychobiology Lab (DPBLab; PI: Prof.dr. Carolina de Weerth) at the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour in Nijmegen (the Netherlands). This position is funded by a personal VICI grant awarded to de Weerth and funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). The grant is on healthy children’s gut microbial colonization in relation to stress early in life and later brain functioning, behavior, and cognition.

The aim of this PhD project is to test a new psychobiological model of human development within an ongoing longitudinal study in healthy children (BIBO study). In this model, early life gut microbiota mediates the associations between stress early in life and adolescent brain, behavior, and cognition. As previously shown in mice, adolescence may constitute an additional sensitive period in development, next to early life, in which dysregulation of the microbiota-gut-brain axis may contribute to what are often first manifestations of psychopathology. In this study, we will hence study the independent and potentially combined contributions of stress and microbiota in early life and in adolescence on brain structure, brain function, behavior problems, and cognitive capacities.

You will be part of the 2018 VICI grant ‘How gut bacteria and stress shape child development’. You will join the very dynamic and highly collaborative Developmental Psychobiology Lab (DPBlab), a multidisciplinary group of senior and junior researchers. You will help design and carry out fMRI, behavioral, psychological, and biological assessment rounds in adolescents. Data collection will be in the lab and/or the field. You will analyse the data in relation to the children’s early life data and report the results in scientific journals and conferences, and in a doctoral dissertation.

We expect:

  • A Master’s degree in psychology (e.g., developmental psychology, developmental psychopathology, clinical psychology, neuroscience/neuropsychology) or related discipline;
  • A Research Master’s degree is an advantage;
  • A profound interest in fundamental and developmental psychobiological research;
  • Advanced statistical skills and experience in scientific writing, or at least a keen interest and motivation to acquire such skills;
  • Expertise in relevant computer packages (e.g. SPSS, R, Limesurvey, etc.);
  • Experience with MRI data collection and analyses, Matlab and SPM or FSL;
  • (research) Expertise in testing children/adolescents, and in longitudinal studies, is an advantage;
  • Good organizational skills; data-management skills are an advantage;
  • Advanced proficiency in spoken and written English (please write your application in English);
  • Good command of the Dutch language (or willingness to learn it);
  • Good social and communication skills;
  • A collaborative nature, pleasure in team work;
  • An energetic and productive attitude; eager to work hard;
  • Flexibility, independence, perseverance, and resilience to stress;
  • Candidates who only partially meet this profile are nonetheless strongly encouraged to apply.

The project is embedded in the unique and excellent infrastructure of the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behavior. The Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging offers three 3 Tesla MRI systems, MR-compatible systems for recording EEG and peripheral psychophysiological measures, a 275-channel MEG system, an EEG-TMS laboratory, and state-of-the-art computational facilities. The Ernst Hahn Institute in Essen (Germany), a partner of the Donders Institute, provides access to a 7 Tesla system. All facilities are fully research-dedicated laboratories with excellent technical support. The Donders Institute furthermore provides a unique and stimulating learning environment for young researchers, including a high-profile graduate school and in-house methodological expert courses.

Research into stress and stress-related disorders is an important focus area at Radboud university medical center. Researchers working on this theme jointly organize regular discussion meetings and lectures to promote integration of research conducted within molecular, cellular, systems, behavioral, and clinical neurosciences across camp.

Radboudumc strives to be a leading developer of sustainable, innovative and affordable healthcare to improve the health and wellbeing of people and society in the Netherlands and beyond. This is the core of our mission: To have a significant impact on healthcare. To get a better picture of what this entails, check out our strategy.

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