Postdoctoral Researcher, Genomics of Language Skills

Updated: 9 months ago
Job Type: FullTime
Deadline: 15 Dec 2021

Postdoctoral Researcher, Genomics of Language Skills

Max Planck Institute, Nijmegen

Language & Genetics Department

A *postdoctoral position* (2 years, potential extension to 3 years) on *Genomics of Language Skills* is available at the Language and Genetics Department of the Max Planck Institute, Nijmegen, the Netherlands. The department is led by Simon Fisher, co-discoverer of FOXP2, the first gene to be implicated in a speech and language disorder. Our work identifies genetic loci that are important for language, literacy and social communication, using them as windows into neural pathways and evolutionary foundations. We carry out interdisciplinary research at multiple levels, including next-generation DNA sequencing of relevant disorders, genome-wide association screens of language-related skills, molecular biology investigations in neuronal cell models and brain tissue; and neuroimaging genetic studies of brain structure/function. We work closely with leading researchers at the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Radboud University, Nijmegen, and with extensive international networks of expert collaborators.

Job description
The successful candidate will join an innovative research program that is characterizing individual variation in language skills at behavioural, neurobiological, and genetic levels, an initiative of the Language in Interaction (LiI) consortium, sponsored by a major grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research. The LiI consortium has developed a computer-based test battery to assess core skills underlying speaking and listening across a broad spectrum of abilities, and has already applied this to hundreds of young adults from the general population, a subset of whom are also tested with functional MRI. In parallel, saliva sampling has been used to collect DNA. The postdoctoral scientist will take the lead on the genetic aspects of the project. Specifically, they will process and analyse genome-wide genotype data from this unique resource, and use methods for analyzing polygenic contributions to human traits in order to trace genetic links to cognitive skills, childhood learning disorders, and MRI-based measures of brain structure/function, integrating with independent datasets available at the Language and Genetics department. The project will be further scaled up by applying online versions of the LiI battery to large pre-existing population-based cohorts with available genome-wide genotypes. The postdoctoral scientist will also foster connections to ongoing work by GenLang, an international network of researchers carrying out genetic association meta-analyses of multiple speech/language/reading-related cohorts across the world.

You are a research scientist who holds, or shortly expects to obtain, a PhD in a field with direct relevance for studying genomics of complex (human) traits in large-scale datasets. You are proficient in coding/scripting and statistics, and sufficiently experienced that you can readily use bioinformatics and statistical genetics methods, such as genome-wide association screening, genetic correlations, polygenic score analysis, pathway enrichment, and interrogation of diverse ‘omics’ resources. You have a critical and careful approach to science, and you strive for robustness and reproducibility of results. You are highly organized and adept in communicating project plans and outcomes to others, in both spoken and written form. You are interested in working together with researchers from a wide range of backgrounds, and in helping to drive projects of large consortia. The successful candidate will be involved in supervising junior scientists, including students and research assistants, and in writing up findings for publication, as well as giving presentations about the work at international conferences.

Conditions of employment
The position is available from February 2022, though the start date is negotiable. The term of appointment is full-time (39 hours per week) for 2 years, with potential extension to 3 years. The salary is according to the German TVöD (Tarifvertrag für den öffentlichen Dienst) and is classified in salary group E13, between EUR 53,309 and EUR 62,527 gross per year depending on the experience of the applicant (including 8% holiday bonus), based on full-time employment. Research staff have access to cutting-edge research and training facilities and technical infrastructure (including high-performance computing), and to funding for conferences/travel.

The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is a world-leading research institute devoted to interdisciplinary studies of the science of language and communication, including departments on genetics, psychology, development and neurobiology of these fundamental human abilities. The Institute is part of the Max Planck Society, an independent non-governmental association of German-funded research institutes dedicated to fundamental research in the natural sciences, life sciences, social sciences, and the humanities. Situated on the campus of the Radboud University in Nijmegen, we are the only Max Planck Institute to be located in the Netherlands. Scientists in the Netherlands report among the highest job satisfaction ratings of any in the world. Our Institute places a strong emphasis on supporting career development and achieving a manageable work-life balance for all employees.

The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics recognizes the positive value of diversity, promotes equality and challenges discrimination. We are committed to redressing systemic problems with diversity in science, and therefore welcome applications from individuals from minority groups and from groups that are otherwise under-represented.

More information about the research of the Language & Genetics department can be found here: ">

The Language in Interaction consortium brings together leading research teams with complementary expertise from eight different research institutions in the Netherlands to carry out ground-breaking research on the foundations of human language, at a scale not easily found anywhere else in the world. Further background: ">

How to apply
Applications should include:
(i) 2-page statement of interest, including motivation behind applying and specific explanation of how the applicant’s skills fit the requirements of the position
(ii) CV
(iii) List of publications
(iv) Names, email addresses and contact numbers of at least two referees who would be willing to provide letters of recommendation

The closing date for applications is 15th December 2021.

Please apply via the vacancies page on our website: ">

Direct link to application form: ">

Send enquiries to Martina Bernhard (secretary), e-mail:

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