PhD-project: Trafficking and secretion neuromodulators/neuropeptides in human neurons

Research / Academic
The project exploits induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) technology to produce human neurons and create human neuronal networks in vitro. Fluorescence imaging is used as the main methodology to analyze the consequences of this editing in living neurons. You will be part of international research networks and exploit a variety of other analysis tools available here and in our partner labs, also using rodent models. You will be appointed in Amsterdam and work primarily in Amsterdam with regular visits to the other labs. The PhD-students will be trained on site. All the methodology, cell models, equipment, analysis software and viral vectors are available from the start of the projects. 

Many of the modulatory signals that change our brain state (arousal, sleep, euphoria) are secreted from dense cored vesicles (DCVs) in neurons. Dysregulation of DCV trafficking and release is at the basis of many disorders, like neuropsychiatric disorders. The aim of this project is to unravel the mechanisms of DCV trafficking and secretion in neurons at the single vesicle level from the initial biogenesis at the Golgi to the final fusion at synapses. This project uses life cell imaging (2-photon imaging and confocal microscopy) in human neurons in vitroand in intact rodent tissue (brain slices, in vivo) and genetically encoded reporters to detect DCV trafficking and fusion. We have previously established detection of DCV secretion in living neurons with single vesicle resolution using advanced microscopy and characterized several aspects of the secretory pathway (Persoon et al. Neuron 2019 Dec 18;104(6):1065; Persoon et al. EMBO J. 2018 Oct 15;37(20):e99672). In this project, we aim to establish new assays especially to analyze the first steps in this pathway, how neuromodulators/neuropeptides are sorted into DCVs and targeted to the correct cellular locations to be secreted as neuromodulatory signals. The project will be integrated in a large local DCV-biology research group at CNCR where 6-8 students investigate different aspects of DCV trafficking and secretion, and in the international SUN project group and the national BRAINSCAPES program.


We are looking for candidates that hold, or will soon hold, a master degree in (Medical) Biology, Biophysics or Physics, preferably with hands-on experience in the methods listed above, and a strong motivation to pursue a career in science. Experience with Matlab is an advantage.

Salary Benefits:

A challenging position in a socially involved organization. The salary will be in accordance with university regulations for academic personnel and amounts €2,395 (PhD) per month during the first year and increases to €3,061 (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 a duration of 4 years.
Additionally, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam offers excellent fringe benefits and various schemes and regulations to promote a good work/life balance, such as:
  • a maximum of 41 days of annual leave based on full-time employment
  • 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus

Work Hours:

40 hours per week


De Boelelaan 1105