PhD Position on Genetic Determinants of Physical Activity in European Youths

Updated: 2 months ago
Deadline: 07 Jun 2024

17 May 2024
Job Information

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU)
Research Field

Cultural studies
Researcher Profile

First Stage Researcher (R1)

Application Deadline

7 Jun 2024 - 21:59 (UTC)
Type of Contract

Job Status

Not Applicable
Is the job funded through the EU Research Framework Programme?

Not funded by an EU programme
Is the Job related to staff position within a Research Infrastructure?


Offer Description

Determinants of physical activity behaviours (PABs) include both modifiable and nonmodifiable factors. Modifiable factors relate to e.g. policy, the built environment, and social support in school, work and family settings, while non-modifiable factors include age, sex and variation at the DNA level. Across all determinants, the largest effect sizes have been observed for genetic factors. However, there can be many complex interactions between genetic factors and other non-modifiable as well as a host of modifiable factors, for example because PABs themselves can influence the expression of genetic variation for example by influencing epigenetic modifications. This means that studying modifiable behaviours in isolation will not address the complexity and synergistic nature of the determinants of PABs. INDEEP will train 10 doctoral candidates to provide researchers and practitioners across Europe with an evidence-based best practice approach to develop new intervention strategies to increase PAB, taking into full consideration the many possible interactions between the various determinants
The department of Biological Psychology of the Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam has a vacancy for a PhD position for the INDEEP project that focuses on the genetic determinants of PABs and seeks to advance the state-of-the-art by addressing the complex gene-environmental interplay head on.
What will you be doing?
You will be stationed at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam to with a 3 months secondment to a molecular genetics lab in the USA (South Dakota). You begin by developing a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the DNA collection and DNA data processing into a polygenetic score for PABs in European youth to be used by other INDEEP PhD projects. Next, you examine the genetic and shared environmental factors influencing PABs in youth, and their interaction with various non-modifiable and modifiable determinants using existing data from (1) monozygotic and dizygotic twins and their family members in the Netherlands Twin register and (2) parent-offspring and sibling designs in the ongoing INDEEP and DEPASS projects. Finally, you employ DNA-based techniques to increase understanding of the determinants of PABs. These include Mendelian Randomization using publicly available GWAS summary statistics to test the causality of alleged modifiable determinants of PABs and an evaluation of the predictive power of polygenetic risk scores for device-based PABs in the NTR and INDEEP participants that have provided DNA and device-based assessments. By providing the field with valid methodology to assess polygenetic risk scores for PABs, future observational studies on modifiable PAB determinants, as well as active interventions on PABs can explicitly take confounding or moderation by genetic factors into account.
You will defend your doctoral thesis at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

Specific Requirements
  • You must have a professionally relevant background in behaviour or molecular genetics, genetic epidemiology, (bio)statistics or a closely related discipline.
  • Must not already hold a doctoral degree
  • Must comply with the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action mobility rule: not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the Netherlands for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately before the recruitment date
  • Your education must correspond to a four- to five-year undergraduate degree program, successfully concluded by a master degree
  • You are eligible for a visa to visit the US
  • You must have a strong academic background from your previous studies and an average grade of a first- or second-class honours degree (or equivalent compared with the institutional grading scale). If you have a weaker grade background, you may be assessed if you can document that you are particularly suitable for a PhD education.
  • Good communication and collaboration skills and fluent in English.
  • Previous experience in advanced statistics (e.g. structural equation modelling, and/or big data processing) and programming in R, Python or similar are considered an advantage.
  • Past experience in a European academic environment is considered an advantage.

As a university, we strive for equal opportunities for all, recognising that diversity takes many forms. We believe that diversity in all its complexity is invaluable for the quality of our teaching, research and service. We are always looking for talent with diverse backgrounds and experiences. This also means that we are committed to creating an inclusive community so that we can use diversity as an asset.

Additional Information

A challenging position in a socially engaged organisation. At VU Amsterdam, you contribute to education, research and service for a better world. And that is valuable. So in return for your efforts, we offer you:

  • a salary of minimum € 2.770,00 (PhD) and maximum € 3.539,00 (PhD) gross per month, on a full-time basis. This is based on UFO profile PhD candidate. The exact salary depends on your education and experience.
  • a position for at least 1 FTE. Your employment contract will initially last 1 year.

We also offer you attractive fringe benefits and regulations. Some examples:

  • A full-time 38-hour working week comes with a holiday leave entitlement of 232 hours per year. If you choose to work 40 hours, you have 96 extra holiday leave hours on an annual basis. For part-timers, this is calculated pro rata.
  • 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus
  • contribution to commuting expenses
  • optional model for designing a personalized benefits package
  • a wide range of sports facilities which staff may use at a modest charge

Additional comments

Are you interested in this position and do you believe that your experience will contribute to the further development of our university? In that case, we encourage you to submit your application.
Submitting a diploma is part of the application process.
Applications received by e-mail will not be considered.
Acquisition in response to this advertisement is not appreciated.

Website for additional job details

Work Location(s)
Number of offers available
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Postal Code
Van der Boechorststraat 7

Where to apply



De Boelelaan 1105
Postal Code

1081 HV


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