Phd: Sex and gender differences in the working mechanisms of addiction

Research / Academic

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is one of the most prevalent psychiatric disorders in the Netherlands. While the prevalence of AUD is 2-3 times higher in men than in women, this gap is quickly closing. Moreover, the prevalence of AUD is suggested to be 3 times higher among gender minorities compared to cisgender individuals. Unfortunately, sex and gender differences in the development and treatment of AUD have been scarcely investigated. Therefore, the main aim of the current PhD project will be to investigate sex and gender differences in stress-related alcohol use in both clinical and non-clinical populations based on different datasets. In these datasets, we have data on subjective (craving) and physiological (heart rate variability, cortisol) alcohol cue and stress reactivity, sex hormone levels and as well as daily variations in stress, craving and alcohol use as measured over 28 days (SEGA 2.0 study) or 4 months (SEGA study).

The PhD on this project will focus primarily on setting up and performing statistical analyses of these complex longitudinal and physiological data, including dynamic structural equation modelling. In these analyses, you will not only focus on sex-based biological differences (including variations in sex hormone levels) but also sociocultural gender-related differences (including variations in gender expression). Results will be published in scientific articles, with the overall aim to gain insight into the sex- and gender differences in the working mechanisms underlying alcohol use disorder.

NOTE: Because data of this project are already collected, this project concerns a 3-year PhD project.

Your duties

  • Analyzing complex data including physiological (heart rate variability, cortisol, sex hormone levels) and ecological momentary assessment data (daily variations in stress, craving and drinking) using advanced statistical methods such as dynamic structural equation modelling.
  • Authoring and co-authoring manuscripts submitted to high-quality journals
  • In addition to research activities (90%) your work will also include teaching tasks (10%), such as the supervision of bachelor's and master's theses and tutor groups for courses related to psychology and neuroimaging.


  • A completed or upcoming research master's degree in psychology, cognitive neuroscience, cognitive sciences, or a related field. Because the vacancy concerns a 3-year PhD project, potential candidates are required to hold a research master's degree or equivalent (2-year master's with approximately 60 ECs in research courses)
  • Programming experience (Matlab, or Python, or R);
  • Advanced statistical skills, with experience in analyzing complex longitudinal datasets using (dynamic) structural equation modelling being a plus;
  • You have excellent proficiency in English in speaking and writing. Proficiency in Dutch is desirable;
  • You have good communication skills, take initiative, and have a strong interest in working in a multidisciplinary team.

As a university, we strive for equal opportunities for all, recognising that diversity takes many forms. We believe that diversity in all its complexity is invaluable for the quality of our teaching, research and service. We are always looking for talent with diverse backgrounds and experiences. This also means that we are committed to creating an inclusive community so that we can use diversity as an asset.

We realise that each individual brings a unique set of skills, expertise and mindset. Therefore we are happy to invite anyone who recognises themselves in the profile to apply, even if you do not meet all the requirements.

Salary Benefits:

A challenging position in a socially engaged organisation. At VU Amsterdam, you contribute to education, research and service for a better world. And that is valuable. So in return for your efforts, we offer you:

  • a salary of € 3.226,00 (PhD) and maximum € 3.539,00 (PhD) gross per month in the third year, for a full-time employment
  • an employment contract of initially one year. If there is sufficient perspective, this will be extended to a total of 3 years. Your dissertation at the end of the fourth year forms the end of your employment contract.

We also offer you attractive fringe benefits and arrangements. Some examples:

  • A full-time 38-hour working week comes with a holiday leave entitlement of 232 hours per year. If you choose to work 40 hours, you have 96 extra holiday leave hours on an annual basis. For part-timers, this is calculated pro rata.
  • 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus
  • space for personal development
  • discount on (and occasionally exclusive access to) theater performances and courses at the Griffioen Cultural Center
  • contribution to commuting expenses

Van der Boechorststraat 7