PhD jobs

Two PhD positions

Developmental Psychobiology Lab

Prof.dr. Carolina de Weerth is looking for two highly capable, eager, and intrinsically motivated PhD candidates to join her Developmental Psychobiology Lab (DPBLab). This position is funded by a personal VICI grant awarded to Prof. 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.

PhD1: The aim of this project is to test a new psychobiological model of human development within an ongoing longitudinal study in healthy children. 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.

PhD2: The aim of this project is to study two potential causal mechanisms through which maternal psychological stress, as an early life stress-inducing factor, can negatively affect infant microbial colonization and development. The first mechanism that will be studied is the pathway from maternal prenatal stress to infant microbiota, mediated by maternal prenatal diet and her own microbiota. The second mechanism that will be studied is the pathway from maternal postnatal stress to infant microbiota mediated by breast milk composition (lactational programming). For this study, pregnant mothers and their infants will be followed from mid-pregnancy until the child reaches age 1.

Responsibilities

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; web page: dpblab.org), a multidisciplinary group of senior and junior researchers. You will help design and carry out fMRI, behavioral, psychological, and biological assessment rounds in adolescents (PhD1) and behavioral, psychological, and biological assessment rounds in pregnant women and infants (PhD2) within longitudinal studies. Data collection will be in the lab and/or the field. You will analyze the 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 analysis (PhD1);
  • (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;
  • good social and communication skills;
  • a collaborative nature, pleasure in team work;
  • an energetic and productive attitude to work hard;
  • flexibility, independence, perseverance, and resilience to stress;

The appointment is for five years (0.8 fte). An official announcement of these positions will be out shortly. If you are interested in these PhD positions please contact Carolina de Weerth, at c.deweerth@psych.ru.nl. She will then send you the official announcement and application instructions when available.

Tentative schedule for application procedure (dates subject to change)

Deadline for applications: 15 October. Selected applicants will be invited to an interview that will take place on November 5. The best candidates from the first round will be invited to a second interview on November 12, which will also include an assessment component. Starting date is January 1, 2019.

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