Two PhD Students for the project ‘Understanding Overweight and Obesity. The End of Average’, Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience, Department of Clinical Psychological Science

Updated: about 1 month ago
Deadline: 23 May 2022

The NWO VICI project ‘Understanding Overweight and Obesity’ is a 5-year research program, in which researchers from different fields (i.e., psychology, biology, and data science) collaborate. Overweight is the largest and most prevalent modifiable risk factor for health problems, and significantly contributes to healthcare costs. Researchers generally agree that overweight is multifactorially determined, including biomedical, behavioral, environmental, and psychological mechanisms. There is empirical support for each of these mechanisms, but often evidence is not consistent across studies, effect sizes are modest at best, and variability on outcome- measures across participants in a study is often large. This suggests that contributing factors to overweight likely differ across people. Similarly, treatments for overweight are, on average, only modestly effective and individual variability in weight-loss-response to treatment is large. This project therefore adopts an urgently needed comprehensive individualized approach. We characterize each participant in a large sample of individuals varying in bodyweight by their own baseline comprehensive profile, including person characteristics, biological, psychological, environmental, and behavioral variables. Next, we investigate how baseline comprehensive individual profiles cluster in a meaningful way, and relate to bodyweight at baseline, post-treatment, and follow-up. Moreover, we investigate how these individual profiles translate to behavior in daily life. To do so, we collect time-series data on (un)healthy eating and physical (in)activity, and predictors of these behaviors (e.g., emotions, stress) in daily life.

Challenges and tasks
The challenges and tasks of this NWO VICI project are diverse and include:

  • Adopt a multidisciplinary approach to understanding and treating overweight and obesity.
  • Collaborate with a research assistant for the recruitment and testing of a large number of participants, including biological, psychological, behavioral and environmental variables.
  • Collaborate with data scientists to perform state-of-the art statistical techniques for analyzing and clustering the individual comprehensive profiles.
  • Collaborate with healthcare professionals who deliver the intensive lifestyle intervention in this project.
  • Science communication, including writing of high-quality scientific papers, conference presentations, and societal outreach activities.
  • Embedding:
    This project is hosted by Maastricht University. You will be based at the Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience, and will join the research group Eating Disorders & Obesity, which includes approximately 25 members and provides a lively and supportive research environment. You will be supervised by a team of experienced researchers, who jointly have all relevant expertise (psychology, biology and data science). Your research will build on, and benefit from, previous successful collaborations between these researchers.

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