Phd in Diet, faecal microbiota and chemotherapy in patients with colon cancer

Research / Academic

The impact of nutrition on cancer treatment fascinates us. Are you interested in working with us on an exciting project focussing on the intersection between nutrition, microbiology and oncology? Are you passionate about complex biological mechanisms, interested in bioinformatics, and work in the clinic? Do you want to work within an ambitious and multidisciplinary research team? We at Wageningen University & Research, are looking for you!

Colorectal cancer patients often suffer from treatment-related side-effects impacting their quality of life. Current adjuvant care involves chemotherapeutic management with the drugs oxaliplatin and capecitabine. However, determinants of chemotherapy-induced toxicities are unclear. Emerging evidence suggests that gut microbiota disturbances may play a role. Although dietary fibre is a known determinant of gut health, the impact of dietary fibre on management of chemotherapy-induced side-effects remains unexplored. Therefore, we started the GEM-CARE project. GEM-CARE stands for: Gut Ecology Management for Cancer treatment and Recovery Enhancement. In this 4-year project, we will investigate the potential of dietary fibre in mitigating chemotherapy-induced side-effects in individuals with colorectal cancer.

What will you do?
Within the project, you will conduct several observational and intervention studies. You will work with data from an existing cohort study (the COLON study) by focusing on associations between dietary fibre intake and chemotherapy side-effects. This includes analysing patient-reported outcomes and toxicity-related treatment modifications. Data from ~500 patients who received (neo)adjuvant chemotherapy will be analysed. From a subset of the patients, faecal samples are collected in a longitudinal manner, which you will analyse to understand dynamics of faecal microbiota composition and function during chemotherapy. Next, you will start and conduct new clinical studies dedicated to collection of faecal samples throughout therapy, as well as clinical intervention studies with dietary fibre. You will process and analyse the collected data, and will present the results in scientific papers, in a PhD-thesis and at (inter)national conferences. Next to that, you will be involved in education, and will have the opportunity to develop your own skills and competences through courses and seminars.

Your duties and responsibilities include:

  • perform data analyses in a cohort study;
  • initiate, conduct and coordinate clinical studies in a hospital setting, including recruitment of patients. Please note, the patients are Dutch, meaning you have to be fluent in the Dutch language;
  • analyse multi-omics data (metagenomics, metatranscriptomics, metabolomics) ;
  • collaborate with health care professionals and stakeholders within the project as well as the other GEM-CARE PhD candidate who will be working at the Laboratory of Microbiology;
  • present your results within (non)-academic settings, scientific papers and a PhD thesis.


You have a background in the biomedical domain, excellent communication skills, are stress-resistant and capable of working in a multidisciplinary team. Since we will recruit patients from Dutch hospitals, excellent Dutch language proficiency is required. Given the nature of the work, with many patient and hospital visits to collect biospecimens, having a driver license is preferred.

You also possess:

  • a successfully completed MSc degree in (bio)medical sciences, biology, bioinformatics, nutrition & health, or a comparable academic degree;
  • excellent Dutch and English language proficiency (a minimum of CEFR C2 level). More information can be found here;
  • affinity with clinical research and willing to visit work in collaborating hospitals for patient recruitment;
  • experience with data analysis, and particular use of R, as well as experience or a keen interest in bioinformatics;

Salary Benefits:

Wageningen University & Research offers excellent terms of employment. A few highlights from our Collective Labour Agreement include:

  • partially paid parental leave;
  • working hours that can be discussed and arranged so that they allow for the best possible work-life balance;
  • the option to accrue additional compensation / holiday hours by working more, up to 40 hours per week;
  • there is a strong focus on vitality and you can make use of the sports facilities available on campus for a small fee;
  • a fixed December bonus of 8.3%;
  • excellent pension scheme.

In addition to these first-rate employee benefits, you will receive a fully funded PhD position and you will be offered a course program tailored to your needs and the research team.

The gross salary for the first year is € 2.770 - per month rising to € 3.539,- in the fourth year in according to the Collective Labour Agreements for Dutch Universities (CAO-NU) (scale P). This is based on a full-time working week of 38 hours. We offer a temporary contract for 18 months which will be extended for the duration of the project if you perform well.

There are plenty of options for personal initiative in a learning environment, and we provide excellent training opportunities. We are offering a unique position in an international environment with a pleasant and open working atmosphere.

You are going to work at the greenest and most innovative campus in Holland, and at a university that has been chosen as the “Best University” in the Netherlands for the 19th consecutive time.

Coming from abroad
Wageningen University & Research is the university and research centre for life sciences. The themes we deal with are relevant to everyone around the world and Wageningen, therefore, has a large international community and a lot to offer to international employees.

Because we expect you to work and live in the Netherlands our team of advisors on Dutch immigration procedures will help you with the visa application procedures for yourself and, if applicable, for your family.
Feeling welcome also has everything to do with being well informed. We can assist you with any additional advice and information about for example helping your partner to find a job, housing, or schooling.

Finally, certain categories of international staff may be eligible for a tax exemption on a part of their salary during the first five years in the Netherlands.

Work Hours:

38 hours per week