Two PhD positions in Metabolomics (1.0 FTE)

Updated: about 1 month ago

Two PhD positions in Metabolomics (1.0 FTE)

Job description

The Biomolecular Mass Spectrometry and Proteomics group of the department of Chemistry currently offers two PhD positions for two different research projects in Metabolomics.

Position 1: T-cell immuno-metabolism
Regulatory T cells inhibit the response of conventional T cells to self-and foreign antigens. Regulatory T cells thereby prevent autoimmune reactions, but can also impede anti-tumour immunity. The activation of regulatory and conventional T cells requires that these cells undergo changes in their metabolism. The exact mechanisms underlying such metabolic switches differ between various T cell types and are largely unknown. By mapping metabolic differences between T cells types, novel targets for therapeutic intervention can be identified, which could benefit patients suffering from for example autoimmune diseases or cancer. 
In this collaborative project between Utrecht University and the Leiden University Medical Centre, you will combine mass spectrometry and metabolomics with immunology to study the metabolism of regulatory and conventional T cells. You will develop mass spectrometry methods to measure metabolic activities in human T cells and use these to identify targetable metabolic pathways in T cells. You will also become part of the ‘Institute for Chemical Immunology’, which brings together Chemists and Immunologists working across the Netherlands. Ideally, you have a background in metabolism or immunology. Hands-on MS experience is preferred, but not essential at the start.
Position 2: cancer metabolism
Changes in metabolism are increasingly regarded as one of the hallmarks of cancer cells. Malignant cells rewire multiple aspects of their metabolism to fulfill the higher demand for energy, to produce building blocks for proliferation, and to maintain their redox balance. Recent studies show that metabolism is further adjusted when cells become resistant to anti-cancer therapies. Metabolism thereby offers novel entry points that can potentially be exploited to overcome drug resistance in cancer.
In this interdisciplinary project, you will bridge mass spectrometry and metabolomics with cancer biology to study how metabolic changes contribute to drug resistance in cancer. You will develop innovative metabolomics methods to study metabolism in complex in-vitro model systems such as organoids, and apply these to identify novel targetable metabolic pathways in drug-resistant tumours. Ideally, you have a background in metabolism or experience in working with complex in-vitro models. Hands-on MS experience is preferred, but not essential at the start.

Qualifications We are looking for enthusiastic, highly motivated candidates, who are interested in undertaking an interdisciplinary project at the interface of Metabolomics, Metabolism and Immunology and/or Cancer Biology. You have a hands-on attitude, you are independent, and you have a passion for science.
You also have:
  • a Master’s degree (or equivalent) in an appropriate discipline (e.g. Biochemistry, Biomolecular/Biomedical Sciences, Analytical Chemistry, Pharmacy/Pharmaceutical Sciences);
  • a keen interest in metabolism and metabolic reprogramming in cancer or immunology;
  • preferably a demonstrated knowledge and experience in mass spectrometric techniques like LC-MS/MS or metabolomics;
  • good technical skills;
  • self-initiative and you are eager to learn;
  • a high level of verbal and written communication skills in English.

  • a position for 4 years;
  • a full-time gross salary that starts at €2,395 and increases to €3,061 per month in the fourth year (scale P of the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities (cao));
  • benefits including 8% holiday bonus and 8.3% end-of-year bonus;
  • a pension scheme, partially paid parental leave, and flexible employment conditions based on the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities.

In addition to the employment conditions laid down in the cao for Dutch Universities, Utrecht University has a number of its own arrangements. For example, there are agreements on professional development, leave arrangements, and sports. We also give you the opportunity to expand your terms of employment yourself via the Employment Conditions Selection Model. This is how we like to encourage you to continue to grow.
More information about working at the Faculty of Science can be found here .

About the organization

At the Faculty of Science there are six departments to make a fundamental connection with: Biology, Chemistry, Information and Computing Sciences, Mathematics, Pharmaceutical Sciences and Physics. Each of these is made up of distinct institutes that work together to focus on answering some of humanity’s most pressing problems. More fundamental still are the individual research groups – the building blocks of our ambitious scientific projects.
Utrecht University is a friendly and ambitious university at the heart of an ancient city. We love to welcome new scientists to our city – a thriving cultural hub that is consistently rated as one of the world’s happiest cities. We are renowned for our innovative interdisciplinary research and our emphasis on inspirational research and excellent education. We are equally well-known for our familiar atmosphere and the can-do attitude of our people. This fundamental connection attracts Researchers, Professors, and PhD candidates from all over the globe, making both the university and the Faculty of Science a vibrant international and wonderfully diverse community.
Metabolomics is an exciting upcoming field that studies the small molecule metabolites of the cell: the metabolome. The Metabolomics group of Professor Celia Berkers uses state-of-the-art mass spectrometers to identify and quantify metabolites (amino acids, sugars, lipids, nucleotides) and translate these measurements into meaningful insights in several biological systems. For example, the group unraveled drug resistance mechanisms in multiple myeloma and discovered novel metabolic drivers of regulatory T cells. The laboratory is housed at the division of Cell Biology, Metabolism & Cancer (Faculty of Veterinary Medicine) with close affiliations with the Biomolecular Mass Spectrometry and Proteomics group (Faculty of Science).

Additional information

If you have any questions, please contact Professor Celia Berkers , .
Do you have a question about the application procedure? Please send an email to .


Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives. If you have the expertise and the experience to excel in this role, then simply respond via the “Apply now” button! Please enclose:

  • your letter of motivation;
  • your curriculum vitae;
  • the names, telephone numbers, and email addresses of at least two references.

If this specific opportunity isn’t for you, but you know someone who may be interested, please forward this vacancy to them.
Please note: Due to the current situation regarding the Coronavirus (COVID-19) the process of selection and interviews is subject to change. Initial interviews will most likely be conducted online.
Some connections are fundamental – Be one of them

The application deadline is 28/02/2021
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