Interdisciplinary PhD Scholarship Young Academy Groningen (3.0 FTE)

Updated: about 1 month ago
Deadline: 19 Mar 2021

Scholarship opportunities

We are looking for talented students who wish to design their own PhD research project on an interdisciplinary topic within the scope of Young Academy Groningen members (please visit ). Three PhD Scholarship positions are available within the scope of four projects themes and their qualifications which are listed below. As a PhD scholarship student, you will develop your own research project in consultation with the associated supervisor(s). You will conduct independent and original scientific research, report results via peer-reviewed publications, conference presentations, and ultimately a PhD thesis. The PhD thesis has to be completed within four years. Being part of a cutting-edge research programme, you will receive research training as well as a varied educational training program including transferable skills and future (academic or non-academic) career training for after the PhD trajectory, in the context of our Career Perspective Series.
Prospective applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the supervisors mentioned for each project for further details on the research project and can provide assistance for preparing your application.

Project 1. Towards a ladder of cosmic habitability
Supervisors: Dr Pratika Dayal (Astrophysics and Cosmology - Faculty of Science and Engineering) and Prof. Irene Tieleman (Evolutionary Biology and Ecology - Faculty of Science and Engineering)

Earth is a part of the solar system located on the fringes of the Milky Way, one of the (roughly) 200 billion galaxies that exist in the Universe. Given the existence of life here on Earth, some inevitable questions are, “Are we alone in the vastness of the cosmos? Is the habitability of Earth run-of-the-mill or a cosmic anomaly? When and how did the earth become habitable?” These questions lie at the very heart of the field of astrobiology. The requirements for habitability are generally summed up in three main quantities: (i) the presence of metals (elements heavier than hydrogen) required to assemble "terrestrial" (earth-like) planets; (ii) the presence of a nearby star for light and energy and; (iii) the lack of any "deleterious" radiation from nearby sources such as exploding massive stars (supernovae), black holes or explosions producing enormous amounts of gamma rays (gamma ray bursts). The YAG interdisciplinary PhD offers a unique opportunity to really synergise astrophysics and biology to make progress in this field. The idea would be to build a ladder of habitability (from stellar to galactic to cosmological scales) accounting for crucial "missing" ingredients such as:

● reformulating the notion of "habitability" accounting for evolutionary biology. This requires defining what “life” is, inspired by but not restricted to life as we know it from evolutionary history and current biology on Earth, before detailing critical environmental conditions for “habitability”
● accounting for the (currently ignored) different timescales involved in galaxy formation, planet formation, planetary cooling, formation of an atmosphere (if this is deemed relevant), cell formation and formation of other prerequisites for life including mechanisms of self replication and deleterious radiation source formation/explosion.

Project 2. Eat, sleep, play, repeat: Genetic and environmental origins of health habits in early childhood
Supervisors: Dr Tina Kretschmer (Department of Pedagogical and Educational Sciences, Faculty of Behavioral and Social Sciences), Dr Catharina Hartman (Interdisciplinary Center Psychopathology and Emotion Regulation, UMCG)

A growing proportion of children consume food that is high in sugar and fat and do not engage in enough physical activity and outside play. Childhood overweight – the consequence of this lifestyle – has a lifelong health impact and is incredibly difficult to overcome. Instead of waiting to intervene when children come to the attention of gym teachers and school nurses, prevention efforts need to begin very early in childhood and focus on the family home. Unfortunately, we lack detailed knowledge of the origins of children’s health-related habits (i.e., eating, activity) to properly understand what interventions could make a significant difference. To counter this, this PhD project aims to integrate genetic (“nature”) and environmental (“nurture”) pathways through which children’s health-related habits are shaped. The project can make use of multigenerational data which facilitates determining which nutritional and lifestyle habits are strongly ingrained across generations and which are easier to modify.

Project 3. Knowledge is Power: Reliable Communicating Software by Epistemic Logics
Supervisors: Prof. Jorge A. Pérez (Bernoulli Institute, Faculty of Science and Engineering) and Prof. Barteld Kooi (Faculty of Philosophy)

Philosophers and computer scientists share a fundamental link. They both rely on logic, the study of reasoning: how to infer new propositions from existing ones. This interdisciplinary PhD project is enabled by the Curry-Howard correspondence, which connects logical reasoning and computer programs. This correspondence decrees that propositions in logic correspond to types, compact descriptions of what programs should do; proofs of logical propositions correspond to programs; principles for simplifying such proofs correspond to mechanisms for executing programs.

The Curry-Howard correspondence explains how we can leverage logic to ensure that programs that are reliable and have no errors. Well-understood for sequential programs, the Curry-Howard correspondence has been extended to the case of communicating programs, which may exchange messages with multiple other programs. These communicating programs are commonplace nowadays; developing techniques for ensuring their correctness is an important problem.

This PhD project will improve analysis techniques for message-passing programs by extending the Curry-Howard correspondence with forms of knowledge and belief. By embedding principles from epistemic logic directly into the protocols that specify communication, accurate and expressive techniques for establishing correctness of communicating programs can be developed.

Project 4. A PhD Project that crosses the disciplines of two Young Academy Groningen members
If you have your own project idea that you would like to submit that is not mentioned above, please contact YAG members ( ) to discuss your ideas and the possibilities of submitting a joint proposal. (Note: This cross-disciplinary project must list at least two supervisors, of whom two are Young Academy Groningen members).


Project 1: Towards a ladder of cosmic habitability
Ideally you have a background in physics/astrophysics and willing to be trained in the biology perspective during the doctorate. You have a masters level education and have taken courses in cosmology, structure formation and galaxy formation. You should have reasonable experience with programming languages such as fortran. This will be critical for you to be able to work with the astrophysical simulations. You will be a member of both the NOVA (Dutch research school for Astronomy) and the Dutch “origins centre” ( ) that focuses on questions of the origin and evolution of life.

Project 2: Eat, sleep, play, repeat: Genetic and environmental origins of health habits in early childhood
You have a background in either the social sciences (preferably pedagogy or psychology) or epidemiology (clinical, genetic) and affinity for the respective other and should be familiar with theories pertaining to child development. At the same time, a strong interest in genetics is important. You are highly familiar with quantitative methods used in the social sciences and experienced in the use of at least one software package beyond SPSS. Experience in working in a research setting would be an advantage.

You will have the opportunity to participate in national and international networks and consortia (Consortium on Individual Development (; Eat2beNICE ), including the opportunity to contribute scientific knowledge to initiatives at the interface between science and society in national (e.g. Aletta Jacobs School of Public Health) and international ( ) contexts.
Within the project you may be required to collect some data or work with raw data collected from Dutch-speaking children. For this reason, a candidate who speaks Dutch fluently or will reach a level of fluency within a short time will be preferred.

Project 3: Knowledge is Power: Reliable Communicating Software by Epistemic Logics
You have a MSc degree (or equivalent) in Computer Science, (Philosophical) Logic, Mathematics, or Artificial Intelligence, with proven experience in at least two of the following:

● Semantics of programming languages
● Modal logics and (their) proof theory
● Program verification and type systems
● Concurrency theory and/or process calculi
● The Curry-Howard correspondence

Project 4: A PhD Project that crosses the disciplines of two Young Academy Groningen members
You are ambitious, highly motivated and wish to make a career in research. You have thorough training in research skills, speak and write English fluently, and have considerable experience in the project area being proposed (ideally at Masters level.)

For more information about each project, it is highly recommended to contact the Young Academy members stated above for each project.


The University of Groningen is a comprehensive research university with a global outlook, deeply rooted in Groningen, City of Talent. Quality has been our top priority for over four hundred years, and with success: the University is currently in or around the top 100 on several influential ranking lists.

The Young Academy Groningen (YAG), established in 2016, is an organization that brings together the most enthusiastic, positive and ambitious young researchers from diverse academic backgrounds. Our aim is to support the development of interdisciplinary research initiatives. To facilitate this, each year we have three PhD Scholarship positions available to help foster interdisciplinary collaborations amongst YAG members.


The positions are offered within the UG PhD Scholarship Programme. This programme is issued by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science (OCW) within the framework of the national PhD Scholarship Experiment. PhD scholarship students receive a scholarship (stipend) of € 2,207 per month (gross) from the University of Groningen for a period of four years. PhD scholarship students are not employed by the university. PhD scholarship students have therefore different rights, obligations, and a different income than employed PhD candidates. Please consider the terms and conditions of the PhD Scholarship Programme on the following website:

Starting date: September 2021
Deadline to apply: 19 March 2021


Applications should include:

1. A brief letter of motivation mentioning which Project (Project 1-4) you are applying for
2. A CV, including contact details of two academic referees
3. A research proposal of max. 1.500 words
4. A certified transcript of records
5. Scan of Diploma/transcripts.

You can submit your application until 18 March 11:59pm / before 19 March 2021 Dutch local time (CET) by means of the application form (click on "Apply" below on the advertisement on the university website).

We are an equal opportunity employer and value diversity at our University. We are committed to building a diverse faculty so you are encouraged to apply. Our selection procedure follows the guidelines of the Recruitment code (NVP), and European Commission's European Code of Conduct for recruitment of researchers,

Unsolicited marketing is not appreciated.


For information you can contact:

  • Young Academy Groningen (for practical information),

Please do not use the e-mail address(es) above for applications.


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