PhD in Microbiota and CRC treatment

Research / Academic

We are looking for an ambitious PhD candidate with a great interest in the ecology of intestinal microbes for a project that is on the intersection between microbiology, nutrition, and oncology. Are you a passionate about microbiology in the context of health and do you want to work within an ambitious and multidisciplinary research team? We are looking for you!

Colorectal cancer survivors 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 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 side-effects in individuals with colorectal cancer.

What will you do?
Within the GEM-CARE project you will:

  • conduct microbiological experiments in continuous culture systems to study how factors related to chemotherapy are impacting microbial composition and activity, and how these can be counteracted by dietary components. The UNLOCK infrastructure will be used for these incubations in which faeces collected from colon cancer patients will be used as inoculum;
  • conduct the microbiological experiments, and analyse and interpret the collected data, which you will subsequently present in scientific papers, in a PhD-thesis and at (inter)national conferences;
  • 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 continuous culture experiments;
  • collect, analyse and interpret multi-omics datasets (metagenomics, metatranscriptomics, metabolomics);
  • closely collaborate with the GEM-CARE PhD candidate working at the Division of Human Nutrition and Health;
  • present your results within (non-)academic settings;
  • write and defend your PhD thesis.

The research is embedded within the Laboratory of Microbiology. Your promotor will be Dr. Clara Belzer and Dr. Erwin Zoetendal will be your daily supervisor. Dr. Dieuwertje Kok from the Department of Human Nutrition and Health will be your co-supervisor.


You are an ambitious, enthusiastic team player and motivated scientist. You have a background in microbiology and are capable of working in a multidisciplinary team.

You also possess:

  • an excellent academic (MSc) record in microbiology;
  • expertise in anaerobic cultivation, continuous culturing, and working with DNA- and RNA-based technologies to study microbial communities;
  • excellent oral and written communication skills in English;
  • affinity with bioinformatics and statistical skills;
  • willingness to be involved in teaching activities.

In our international working environment there is an increasing amount of communication in English. For this position it is a minimum of CEFR C2 level (see language level).

You can see that there are plenty of challenges ahead of you. These challenges can also be seen as development opportunities. So if you do not yet have the track-record required in the vacancy, but do have solid work experience, we would also like to invite you to apply.

You will work here
You will work at the Molecular Ecology group of The Laboratory of Microbiology which consists of a dynamic international group of microbiologists; state of the art infrastructure to conduct your research; close national and international collaborations with other researchers; and last but not least, an excellent program to further develop your scientific education leading to a PhD degree, which include dedicated courses, training as well as conferences.

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