PhD position in the field of Environmental Health Research

Updated: about 2 months ago
Deadline: 13 Sep 2020

PhD position in the field of Environmental Health Research
PhD position in the field of Environmental Health Research
Published Deadline Location
28 Aug 13 Sep Maastricht

Air quality is one of the most important environmental health risk factors in Europe and associated with pulmonary and cardiovascular diseases. Exposure to air pollution starts already in the very first stages of early life in utero, via placental exchange of air pollutants. However, the mechanisms that link in utero exposure to adverse health outcome are still poorly understood. The main objective of the PhD project is to explore the potential value of circulating microRNAs to improve our understanding of the mechanisms involved, and to establish their potential role as markers of effect in clinical and population studies. MicroRNAs are small non-coding single-stranded RNA molecules that can suppress mRNA functionalities. Some microRNAs are highly tissue-specific, and are found in blood and urine upon the induction of tissue damage or disease development. Circulating miRNAs are very stable and may serve as potential biomarkers of exposure-induced organ injury.
Several studies have shown the relevance of microRNAs in various lung diseases and suggest associations between microRNA profiles, air pollution exposure and pulmonary function. Recent studies have demonstrated that short-term exposure to traffic-related air pollution induces a compound-specific circulating microRNA profile in adults. The signatures relate to biological processes that are implicated in the development of several air pollution-induced diseases including pulmonary and cardiovascular diseases.
The ultimate goal of the research is to identify circulating miRNAs that reflect pulmonary and cardiovascular responses to environmental exposures in early life and to demonstrate their potential use as biomarkers for risk assessment and identification of newborns and children at increased risk of pulmonary and cardiovascular diseases following exposure to air pollution. Eventually, the outcome will enable the improvement of disease prevention strategies, both at individual and general population level.

Job description

Air quality is one of the most important environmental health risk factors in Europe and associated with pulmonary and cardiovascular diseases. Exposure to air pollution starts already in the very first stages of early life in utero, via placental exchange of air pollutants. However, the mechanisms that link in utero exposure to adverse health outcome are still poorly understood. The main objective of the PhD project is to explore the potential value of circulating microRNAs to improve our understanding of the mechanisms involved, and to establish their potential role as markers of effect in clinical and population studies. MicroRNAs are small non-coding single-stranded RNA molecules that can suppress mRNA functionalities. Some microRNAs are highly tissue-specific, and are found in blood and urine upon the induction of tissue damage or disease development. Circulating miRNAs are very stable and may serve as potential biomarkers of exposure-induced organ injury.

Several studies have shown the relevance of microRNAs in various lung diseases and suggest associations between microRNA profiles, air pollution exposure and pulmonary function. Recent studies have demonstrated that short-term exposure to traffic-related air pollution induces a compound-specific circulating microRNA profile in adults. The signatures relate to biological processes that are implicated in the development of several air pollution-induced diseases including pulmonary and cardiovascular diseases.

The ultimate goal of the research is to identify circulating miRNAs that reflect pulmonary and cardiovascular responses to environmental exposures in early life and to demonstrate their potential use as biomarkers for risk assessment and identification of newborns and children at increased risk of pulmonary and cardiovascular diseases following exposure to air pollution. Eventually, the outcome will enable the improvement of disease prevention strategies, both at individual and general population level.


Specifications
  • 38—40 hours per week
  • €2395—€3061 per month
  • Maastricht View on Google Maps

Maastricht University (UM)


Requirements

We are looking for an enthusiastic PhD-candidate with the following required and preferred qualifications:

Required:

  • Relevant Biology, Biomedical Sciences or equivalent MSc;
  • Excellent organizational skills and the ability to work in a team context;
  • Interest in the biomarker development and elucidating molecular mechanisms;
  • Excellent communication skills and fluency in English;
  • A project and result-oriented way of working with a planned and pro-active approach;
  • Ability to work independent, but also to collaborate with different parties in the project;

Preferred:

  • Experience in molecular biological techniques, including gene-expression analysis using high-throughput techniques and RNA sequencing;
  • Experience with gene expression data analysis;
  • Advanced skills in bio-statistics and –informatics.

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: 4 years.

This PhD position is enabled in the context of the collaboration framework between Maastricht University and Hasselt University and is a joint degree project. As a consequence, the applicant will be based half of the time in Hasselt and half of the time in Maastricht. Both universities offer you a stimulating scientific environment with excellent facilities for professional and personal development. 

The full-time position is offered for four years (1+3), with a yearly evaluation. 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.


Employer
Maastricht University and Hasselt University

EMPLOYERS

This PhD position is enabled in the context of the collaboration framework between Maastricht University and Hasselt University and is a joint degree project. As a consequence, the applicant will be based half of the time in Hasselt and half of the time in Maastricht. Both universities offer you a stimulating scientific environment with excellent facilities for professional and personal development.  

At Maastricht University the project will be embedded within the Faculty FHML, in the school of oncology (GROW). Within the school there is a clear focus on disease prevention and the department of Toxicogenomics has a long tradition in population-based toxicogenomics studies. Furthermore, the interfaculty institute MaCSBio (Maastricht Centre for Systems Biology) will be involved for the further advancement of data analysis and development of deep-learning techniques that are new in the field of systems toxicology.

At Hasselt University the project is embedded within the Centre for Environmental Sciences. Within the research centre, the ENVIRONAGE birth cohort was initiated in the framework of an ERC starting grant and is now the largest Belgian birth cohort with prospective follow-up.

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 high proportion of students and staff from is coming 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. http://www.maastrichtuniversity.nl/

 

Hasselt University  Hasselt University has chosen to concentrate a large proportion of its research resources in a number of research institutes. The institutes aim to cover the entire research spectrum, from fundamental research via strategic basic research to the building of concrete applications. Innovative research and the valorisation of it are therefore important components of the university’s research policy. In order to respond to social and economic challenges, the university chooses to focus research on a number of priority areas. These priority areas are chosen from opportunities that present themselves at regional, national and international level. Through this organisation of research in well-chosen spearhead fields, the university can achieve the scale required to participate successfully in inter-university and international networks. http://www.uhasselt.be/


Department

DEPARTMENTS

At the Department of Toxicogenomics (TGX), a multidisciplinary team of biologists, chemists, toxicologists and bioinformaticians is working in close collaboration to establish the biological impact of exposures to potentially toxic compounds. The rapid development of the new, so called omics-technologies, has enabled us to establish responses at different molecular levels with higher sensitivity than most classical effect markers, and providing information on the involved molecular mechanisms of action. As such, toxicogenomics research combines toxicology with genomics approaches in order to obtain more accurate understanding of toxicological processes. The application of these innovative omics-technologies in in vitro toxicology and human health risk analysis can be regarded as the central research paradigm of the department Toxicogenomics https://www.maastrichtuniversity.nl/research/toxicogenomics  

The environmental epidemiology research within the Centre for Environmental Sciences at Hasselt University focuses on the early part of the life course: effective preventative strategies during early life can give substantial lifelong social and economic returns on investment. Our focus on early signs of health damage before the onset of disease is of main relevance for prevention by the identification and validation of the biological pathways of ageing-related markers that mediate the influence of the exposome on health and development in early life.


Additional information

For further information you can contact Prof. Dr. Theo de Kok (t.dekok@maastrichtuniversity.nl ); telephone: +31 43 3881091 or Prof. dr. Tim Nawrot (tim.nawrot@uhasselt.be ); telephone: +32 490 57 70 13

If interested, please use the 'apply now'-button on this page. You should upload:

  • a cover letter explaining your motivation and suitability for the position;
  • a detailed Curriculum Vitae (including a list of publications and key achievements in research projects);
  • contact information of two references;
  • copies of diplomas with course grades


Application procedure

You can send your application to: hrm-rw-vacatures@maastrichtuniversity.nl

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.


Apply via postal mail
Apply via postal mail

hrm-rw-vacatures@maastrichtuniversity.nl

Don't forget to mention AcademicTransfer and the job number: AT2020.257 in your letter.


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