PhD candidate on mRNA trafficking and local translation at the synapse

Updated: about 2 months ago
Deadline: ;

Do you want to pursue a PhD in cellular neuroscience? Please apply at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU). 

FTE: 1

Job description

You will be working as a PhD candidate on "mRNA trafficking and local translation at the synapse", at the department of Functional Genomics at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU).

Project description:
Neurons are highly polarized and interactive cells that require precise spatiotemporal regulation of their proteome for proper functioning. mRNA localization and local protein synthesis are crucial in this process and play key roles in the development and maintenance of neurons. Importantly, dysregulation of this process is increasingly implicated in neurodegenerative diseases, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), spinal muscular atrophy and Alzheimer’s disease.
However, how a neuron regulates the localization of mRNAs and its translation remains poorly understood. Moreover, we know very little about the function of mRNA localization and local protein synthesis at presynaptic nerve terminals.The main focus of our research group is to understand the molecular mechanisms and functional relevance of mRNA trafficking and local translation in neuronal subcellular compartments. In particular, we are interested in the role of the endoplasmic reticulum in regulating mRNA localization and local translation. In this project, the aim is to understand the molecular mechanisms behind axonal ER-based translation and its role in presynaptic function in health and disease.
In this project, you will use live-cell and super-resolution imaging to assess the dynamics of mRNA and organelles at high spatio-temporal resolution. In addition, you will have the opportunity to work with proximity labelling techniques (for both imaging and proteomics) to understand the molecular mechanism behind axonal ER-based translation.
The work will be carried out in rodent neurons in culture and human iPSC-derived neurons.
You will be part of international research networks and exploit a variety of techniques and analysis tools available. All the methodology, cell models, equipment, analysis software and viral vectors are available from the start of the project. You will be trained on site and in specialized courses on campus.

Your duties: 
As a PhD candidate your main tasks and responsibilities are:

  • investigate the dynamics of the endoplasmic reticulum and mRNA/ribosomes, using live-cell and superresolution imaging in cultured rodent neurons and human iPSC-derived neurons
  • perform proximity labelling techniques to visualize protein interactions and identify proteins involved in ER-based translation
  • publishing analyses in peer-reviewed journals and provide progress reports to funding sources
  • contributing to teaching activities (~10% of your time), including supervision of BSc and/or MSc students during internships 
  • presenting your work to the international research community  


We are looking for candidates with:

  • a Master degree in life sciences, biomedical sciences or biophysics with neuroscience specialization 
  • hands-on experience with molecular and cellular neuroscience, especially the methods and/or models listed above
  • hands-on experience with bioinformatics is an advantage
  • you are fluent in English (written and spoken) and have good communication skills​​

What are we offering?

A challenging position in a socially involved organization. The salary will be in accordance with university regulations for academic personnel and amounts €2,541 (PhD) per month during the first year and increases to €3,247 (PhD) per month during the fourth year, based on a full-time employment. The job profile: is based on the university job ranking system and is vacant for at least 1 FTE.

The appointment will initially be for 1 year. After a satisfactory evaluation of the initial appointment, the contract will be extended for another 3 years (4 years in total).
Additionally, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam offers excellent fringe benefits and various schemes and regulations to promote a good work/life balance, such as:

  • 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus
  • contribution to commuting expenses
  • a maximum of 41 days of annual leave based on full-time employment
  • optional model for designing a personalized benefits package

About Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

The ambition of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is clear: to contribute to a better world through outstanding education and ground-breaking research. We strive to be a university where personal development and commitment to society play a leading role. A university where people from different disciplines and backgrounds collaborate to achieve innovations and to generate new knowledge. Our teaching and research encompass the entire spectrum of academic endeavor – from the humanities, the social sciences and the natural sciences through to the life sciences and the medical sciences.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is home to more than 30,000 students. We employ over 5,500 individuals. The VU campus is easily accessible and located in the heart of Amsterdam’s Zuidas district, a truly inspiring environment for teaching and research.

We are an inclusive university community. Diversity is one of our most important values. We believe that engaging in international activities and welcoming students and staff from a wide variety of backgrounds enhances the quality of our education and research. We are always looking for people who can enrich our world with their own unique perspectives and experiences.

The Faculty of Science
The Faculty of Science inspires researchers and students to find sustainable solutions for complex societal issues. From forest fires to big data, from obesity to medicines and from molecules to the moon: our teaching and research programmes cover the full spectrum of the natural sciences. We share knowledge and experience with leading research institutes and industries, both here in the Netherlands and abroad.

Working at the Faculty of Science means working with students, PhD candidates and researchers, all with a clear focus on their field and a broad view of the world. We employ more than 1,250 staff members, and we are home to more than 11,000 students.

About the department, institute, project
The CNCR in Amsterdam (see ) participates in the Graduate School ONWAR ( ). This position will be in the Department of Functional Genomics and the project is: mRNA trafficking and local translation at the synapse.


Are you interested in this position? Please apply via the application button and upload your curriculum vitae and cover letter until


Applications received by e-mail will not be processed.

Vacancy questions
If you have any questions regarding this vacancy, you may contact:

Name: dr. Max Koppers
Position: Supervisor, team leader at CNCR
E-mail: (management assistant)

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