PhD candidate, Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, NUTRIM, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology

Updated: 4 months ago
Deadline: 04 Oct 2020

PhD candidate, Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, NUTRIM, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology
PhD candidate, Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, NUTRIM, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology
Published Deadline Location
15 Sep 4 Oct Maastricht

Comparison of burning and heating tobacco regarding emissions, exposure, biological effects and risks of associated chemicals.
Job description

This project aims to unravel whether heating tobacco (as used in novel heated tobacco products), compared to burning tobacco (in regular cigarettes), results in a reduction in the emission of harmful (carcinogenic) substances, a concomitant reduced exposure of the airways of users to these compounds and whether or not this is associated with a reduced risk of developing tobacco smoking-related diseases as well as an increased risk for developing novel diseases associated with the use of such a new type of product. 

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) as well as lung cancer are leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Cigarette smoking is the main risk factor for developing these diseases. Cigarette smoking, due to the pyrolysis and combustion of tobacco (and additives such as sugars), is an important source of exposure of the airways to different harmful chemicals. Within the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) of the World Health Organisation (WHO), one of the goals is the reduction of toxicity of tobacco products. Unfortunately, up to now, it is unclear whether a reduction in exposure of the airways to certain harmful chemicals found in cigarette smoke leads to a reduction in the risk of developing these diseases. In addition, currently, alternative tobacco products, such as heated tobacco products, where the tobacco is heated instead of burnt, are gaining popularity around the world. It is however unclear whether users of these novel tobacco products are exposed to lower levels of these harmful chemicals and whether or not this is associated with a lower risk for developing COPD or lung cancer.


Therefore, in the present project we will investigate and characterize the emissions of heated tobacco products. This will be done by using these products in smoking machines followed by chemical analyses of the emissions. The resulting data will subsequently be compared to emissions found in cigarette smoke by using the same methodology. In a next step, the biological effects of these emissions and relevant levels of specific compounds found in these emissions will be investigated in vitro using cultured human primary bronchial epithelial cells. In addition, human studies, using subjects that already use regular cigarettes or heated tobacco products, will be designed. In these studies, individual smoke behavior (smoke topography) and relevant biomarkers of chemical compounds of interest will be assessed in different bodily compartments including urine, blood and exhaled breath. In this project, relevant read-out parameters will be investigated by using state-of-the-art molecular biology and chemical analytical tools and in the end this should result in a PhD thesis. Furthermore, the results of these studies will be used to assess whether or not the implementation of novel guidelines related to these products by regulatory bodies will lead to a reduced exposure, reduced detrimental biological effects and a reduced burden of disease in the population.

  • 36—40 hours per week
  • €2395—€3061 per month
  • Maastricht View on Google Maps

Maastricht University (UM)


You have a Master’s degree in the chemical analytical field and you would like to further develop in this area. Molecular Biology/BioMedical Sciences field training/expertise or affinity are recommended. You have a real researcher’s mentality; open-minded, curious, enthusiastic, inquisitive and accurate. You are capable of working independently, but you are also a team player. You have good organization and communication skills and master the English language. As this project focusses on both chemical analytical aspects as well as biological aspects, the candidate is expected to have a great interest and affinity for both of these aspects.  Moreover, the candidate is expected to have excellent scientific English writing and presentation skills. As this project is in close collaboration with the Rijksinstituut voor Volksgezondheid en Milieu (RIVM; National Institute for Public Health and Environment) the candidate is expected to travel to the RIVM institute (Bilthoven) for experiments whenever this is required for the project which will be a substantial amount of time within the 4-year timeframe of this project.

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: 48 months.

The terms of employment of Maastricht University are set out in the Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities (CAO). Furthermore, local UM provisions also apply. For more information look at the website > Support > UM employees .

Before the end of the first year, an evaluation takes place and a go-no go decision will be taken for the other three years.
Each year an evaluation will take place.

Your salary would be € 2.395,- gross per month in the first year up to € 3.061,- gross per month in the fourth year according to the PhD-candidate salary scale. On top of this, there is an 8% holiday and an 8.3% year-end allowance.

Maastricht University

Maastricht University is renowned for its unique, innovative, problem-based learning system, which is characterized by a small-scale and student-oriented approach. Research at UM is characterized by a multidisciplinary and thematic approach, and is concentrated in research institutes and schools. Maastricht University has around 18,000 students and 4,400 employees. Reflecting the university's strong international profile, a fair amount of both students and staff are from abroad. The university hosts 6 faculties: Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, Faculty of Law, School of Business and Economics, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience.


NUTRIM - School of Nutrition and Translational Research in Metabolism

NUTRIM School of Nutrition and Translational Research in Metabolism initiates and catalyzes translational research into nutritional health benefits and risks focusing on metabolic and chronic inflammatory diseases. Through its research master and PhD program NUTRIM aims to educate scientists of high academic excellence and ambassadors to support and develop the field of nutrition, metabolism and toxicology within and outside the Netherlands. Sixteen biomedical, clinical, and behavioural-science departments are incorporated within NUTRIM

More information:

National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM)

The National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) has been promoting public health and safeguarding a healthy environment for more than 100 years. The RIVM has a central role in infectious disease control and national prevention and population screening programs. We conduct independent (scientific) research in the field of Public Health, Health Services, Environmental Safety and Security. In our role as trusted advisor, we support citizens, professionals and governments in the challenge of keeping the environment and ourselves healthy.

The Centre for Health Protection (Gezondheidsbescherming, GZB) focuses on human health effects of chemical substances, biological agents and particles, with a special focus on pharmaceuticals, medical devices, tobacco, consumer products and the interaction with life style factors. Within these topics, novel developments are followed and both laboratory and desk research is performed to better understand and explain health effects. GZB has a broad laboratory infrastructure, including chemical analysis, cell biology and imaging laboratories. Research results are translated into advice for policymakers, risk assessor and scientists within (inter)national bodies. In addition, within GZB, we offer a social environment with multidisciplinary teams and an informal structure. For PhD candidates, RIVM offers the promovendi network RIVM (Proneri) to connect with other PhD candidates at the institute.

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Department of Pharmacologie & Toxicology

This project is situated within the Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology where a multidisciplinary team of biologists, chemists and toxicologists is working together to address mechanisms by which chemicals and oxidative stress alter cellular processes to cause diseases and study the way in which intervention is possible. To reach these goals, the department's laboratory is well equipped with facilities for chemical analysis including mass spectrometry (MS) and electron spin resonance (ESR), the analysis of DNA damage and multiple state-of-the-art molecular biological techniques.

Additional information

For more information about this PhD-position, please contact:

Dr. Reinskje Talhout ( )

Prof. Dr. Frederik-Jan van Schooten ( )

Dr. Alexander Remels ( )

Application procedure

Maastricht University is committed to nurturing an inclusive culture and a welcoming atmosphere. This inclusiveness strategy has resulted in a very diverse representation of nationalities and cultures. We strongly believe that diversity (including, but not limited to nationality, age and gender) of the staff and student population will increase the quality of UM education & research. Fostering diversity and inclusivity creates an academic community where individual talents thrive, and values and differences are cherished. We strongly encourage you to apply if you are qualified for this position.

Accompany your reply with a motivation letter and your CV.

You can send your application to the following email address:

Apply via postal mail
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Don't forget to mention AcademicTransfer and the job number: AT2020.269 in your letter.

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