PhD scholarship on eating disorders, life meaning, and symptom networks

Updated: 3 months ago
Deadline: 02 Aug 2021


Since its foundation in 1614, the University of Groningen has enjoyed an international reputation as a dynamic and innovative university of higher education offering high-quality teaching and research. Balanced study and career paths in a wide variety of disciplines encourage the 36,000 students and researchers to develop their own individual talents. Belonging to the best research universities in Europe and joining forces with prestigious partner universities and networks, the University of Groningen is an international place of knowledge.

Job description

The expertise group of Clinical Psychology and Experimental Psychopathology of the Heijmans Institute of Psychological Research at the University of Groningen is seeking to recruit a talented student for research leading to a PhD. The student is expected to develop their research under the supervision of Prof. Peter de Jong, Dr. Marije aan het Rot, and Dr. Klaske Glashouwer (University of Groningen), and Prof. Reinout Wiers (University of Amsterdam). The student will conduct original research within the context of a multicenter research consortium involving the Erasmus University Rotterdam, University of Amsterdam, Leiden University, and Maastricht University focussing on the network approach of psychopathology. The PhD student will report results via peer-reviewed publications and conference presentations, and ultimately deliver a PhD thesis related to the topic indicated below. The PhD student will be offered a four-year scholarship and, thereby, enroll in the Graduate School of the Behavioural and Social Sciences of the University of Groningen with the opportunity to join the Dutch-Flemish Research School Experimental Psychopathology (EPP)

Research topic
There is increasing evidence that deficient cognitive (self) control is a risk factor for the development of common mental disorders. In addition, there is evidence that the presence of common mental disorders contributes to lowered cognitive control (CC). Individuals with low CC may thus enter a self-reinforcing loop of escalating symptoms. One line of research of the expertise group Clinical Psychology & Experimental Psychopathology therefore focusses on deficient CC as a transdiagnostic risk factor that may help explain overlapping and differentiating symptom networks in individuals with common mental disorders, including eating disorders. In addition, the expertise group examines if increasing CC might have clinical value as a means to interrupt escalating symptom connections, thereby promoting remittance and preventing recurrence.

Thus far interventions aiming at increasing CC have typically focused on stimulus control and longer-term rewards of behavioural change. However, impaired regulation of emotions and dysfunctional impulses (e.g., rumination, avoidance) occurs in the context of broader life goals. Individuals who lack an array of meaningful long-term goals may be more easily tempted by the motivational pull of unhealthy incentives (e.g., junk food) and by the motivational push of anticipated threats (e.g., social rejection) than people who do have meaningful life goals. Increasing the meaningfulness of personally relevant life-goals may help reduce seductive properties of unhealthy incentives and the punishing properties of anticipated threats, thereby enhancing self-control. In addition, high meaningfulness of personally relevant life-goals may provide the motivational heat to spur attempts to control the bottom-up elicited pursuit of dysfunctional behaviours and thus serve as a protective factor for self-destructing symptoms in mental disorders.

We are looking for candidates who want to take up the challenge with us to apply this life meaning perspective on network models of eating disorder problems, with the ultimate aim to provide a solid scientific foundation for more effective therapeutical interventions.


The PhD student is expected to:
• have a master or research master degree in (clinical) psychology
• develop a research proposal in collaboration with the promotors
• have affinity with eating disorder (and comorbid) problems
• have experience with experimental/intervention research
• have strong organizational and collaboration skills
• be eager to learn/develop relevant new statistical skills (e.g., related to symptom network modeling)
• have a good command of spoken and written English
• work in Groningen.

Conditions of employment

We offer you in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities:

The PhD Scholarship contract is offered for four years. A successful candidate will first be offered a temporary contract of one year with the option of renewal for another three years. Prolongation of the contract is contingent on sufficient progress in the first year to indicate that a successful completion of the PhD thesis within the contract period is to be expected.

A PhD training programme is part of the agreement and the successful candidate will be enrolled in the Graduate School of the Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences. As part of the programme, the PhD student will take part in the Career Perspectives Series, which provides a thorough preparation on the career after the PhD, inside or outside academia. During the course of the doctorate, the student will develop research and, if desired by the candidate, teaching competencies. For this, the PhD student will receive a tailor-made programme.


For information you can contact:

Prof. Peter de Jong (for information about this PhD project),

Dr Maike van der Vlugt (general information about PhD scholarships at the Faculty),

(please do not use the email addresses above for applications)

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