PhD candidate, Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, NUTRIM, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology

Research / Academic

This project aims to unravel whether heating tobacco (as used in novel heated tobacco products), compared to burning tobacco (in regular cigarettes), results in a reduction in the emission of harmful (carcinogenic) substances, a concomitant reduced exposure of the airways of users to these compounds and whether or not this is associated with a reduced risk of developing tobacco smoking-related diseases as well as an increased risk for developing novel diseases associated with the use of such a new type of product. 

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) as well as lung cancer are leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Cigarette smoking is the main risk factor for developing these diseases. Cigarette smoking, due to the pyrolysis and combustion of tobacco (and additives such as sugars), is an important source of exposure of the airways to different harmful chemicals. Within the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) of the World Health Organisation (WHO), one of the goals is the reduction of toxicity of tobacco products. Unfortunately, up to now, it is unclear whether a reduction in exposure of the airways to certain harmful chemicals found in cigarette smoke leads to a reduction in the risk of developing these diseases. In addition, currently, alternative tobacco products, such as heated tobacco products, where the tobacco is heated instead of burnt, are gaining popularity around the world. It is however unclear whether users of these novel tobacco products are exposed to lower levels of these harmful chemicals and whether or not this is associated with a lower risk for developing COPD or lung cancer.


Therefore, in the present project we will investigate and characterize the emissions of heated tobacco products. This will be done by using these products in smoking machines followed by chemical analyses of the emissions. The resulting data will subsequently be compared to emissions found in cigarette smoke by using the same methodology. In a next step, the biological effects of these emissions and relevant levels of specific compounds found in these emissions will be investigated in vitro using cultured human primary bronchial epithelial cells. In addition, human studies, using subjects that already use regular cigarettes or heated tobacco products, will be designed. In these studies, individual smoke behavior (smoke topography) and relevant biomarkers of chemical compounds of interest will be assessed in different bodily compartments including urine, blood and exhaled breath. In this project, relevant read-out parameters will be investigated by using state-of-the-art molecular biology and chemical analytical tools and in the end this should result in a PhD thesis. Furthermore, the results of these studies will be used to assess whether or not the implementation of novel guidelines related to these products by regulatory bodies will lead to a reduced exposure, reduced detrimental biological effects and a reduced burden of disease in the population.


You have a Master’s degree in the chemical analytical field and you would like to further develop in this area. Molecular Biology/BioMedical Sciences field training/expertise or affinity are recommended. You have a real researcher’s mentality; open-minded, curious, enthusiastic, inquisitive and accurate. You are capable of working independently, but you are also a team player. You have good organization and communication skills and master the English language. As this project focusses on both chemical analytical aspects as well as biological aspects, the candidate is expected to have a great interest and affinity for both of these aspects.  Moreover, the candidate is expected to have excellent scientific English writing and presentation skills. As this project is in close collaboration with the Rijksinstituut voor Volksgezondheid en Milieu (RIVM; National Institute for Public Health and Environment) the candidate is expected to travel to the RIVM institute (Bilthoven) for experiments whenever this is required for the project which will be a substantial amount of time within the 4-year timeframe of this project.

Salary Benefits:

The terms of employment of Maastricht University are set out in the Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities (CAO). Furthermore, local UM provisions also apply. For more information look at the website > Support > UM employees.

Before the end of the first year, an evaluation takes place and a go-no go decision will be taken for the other three years.
Each year an evaluation will take place.

Your salary would be € 2.395,- gross per month in the first year up to € 3.061,- gross per month in the fourth year according to the PhD-candidate salary scale. On top of this, there is an 8% holiday and an 8.3% year-end allowance.

Work Hours:

36 - 40 hours per week


Universiteitssingel 50