The Integrative Neurophysiology (INF) division at the Center for Neurogenomics and Cognitive Research (CNCR) at VU offers a fully funded 4-year PhD project. The focus of the project is on elucidating molecular mechanisms of fast neuronal signaling. A critical requirement of fast neuronal computation and cognitive function is the ability of neurons to generate and maintain fast and stable output - action potentials. Because of difficult access to living human neurons, their function in supporting cognition remains largely unexplored. Our lab has extensive experience in studying the function of human neurons from neurosurgery patients. We recently showed that fast electrical signaling in human neurons directly links to cognitive ability in the same individuals (refs 1,2 below). In the current project, we aim to elucidate molecular mechanisms that underlie fast electrical signaling by manipulating expression of specific genes in human neurons, in organotypic slice cultures as well as human iPSC-derived neurons using CRISPRa/CRISPRi (3,4). We will target genes that have been associated with cognitive ability in human subjects (5). Thereby, we aim to reveal what molecular mechanisms enable human neurons to achieve fast cellular computation ultimately supporting human cognition. As a PhD candidate, your research will aim to uncover the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying fast electrical signaling in human cortical neurons.
The project is funded by an ERC advanced grant awarded to Prof.dr. Huib Mansvelder: https://inf.cncr.nl/research_teams/
During the research you use the following approach:
You culture human iPSC-derived neurons and organotypic slices of human brain tissue
You use CRISPRa/CRISPRi tools to manipulate target genes in human neurons, both iPSC-derived and in organotypic slice cultures of human brain tissue
you study electrophysiological recordings and analysis from human (iPSC-derived) neurons in cultures
you perform biochemical, transcriptomic and immunohistological analyses of expression in human neurons
Our lab is a part of an inspiring academic environment. In addition to your research, you have an opportunity to participate in teaching. You may also be involved in supervising Bachelor and Master students. You will become a member of the ONWAR graduate school (https://www.onwar.nl).
1. Large and fast human pyramidal neurons associate with intelligence. (2018) Goriounova NA, Heyer DB, Wilbers R, …, Mansvelder HD. Elife. 2018. doi: 10.7554/eLife.41714.
2. Human voltage-gated Na+ and K+ channel properties underlie sustained fast AP signaling (2023) René Wilbers, …, Huibert D. Mansvelder, Natalia A. Goriounova. BioRxiv 2022.11.29.518317; doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2022.11.29.518317
3. Cadherin-13 is a critical regulator of GABAergic modulation in human stem-cell-derived neuronal networks. (2022) Mossink B, …, Schubert D, Nadif Kasri N. Mol Psychiatry. 2022 Jan;27(1):1-18. doi: 10.1038/s41380-021-01117-x.
4. Electrophysiological measures from human iPSC-derived neurons are associated with schizophrenia clinical status and predict individual cognitive performance (2022) Page et al., Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2022 Jan 18;119(3):e2109395119. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2109395119.
5. Genes, Cells and Brain Areas of Intelligence. Goriounova NA, Mansvelder HD. Front Hum Neurosci (2019). doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2019.00044.
you have a MSc degree in Molecular/Cellular Neuroscience
you have prior experience with culturing human iPSC-derived neurons/organoids
you have prior experience using CRISPRa/CRISPRi or other RNAi tools
you have excellent communication and writing skills in English
prior experience in cellular electrophysiology (patch clamp) is an asset
programming and data analysis skills (Matlab, Python) are an asset
you have a strong motivation to pursue a research career
The project is planned to start in September/October 2023.
A challenging position in a socially involved organization. You will be part of a collaborative, enthusiastic team consisting of multiple PhD-students and experienced post-docs in which we collectively work on important research questions. The salary will be in accordance with Dutch university regulations for academic personnel and amounts € 2.541 per month during the first year and increases to € 3.247 per month during the fourth year, based on a full-time employment. The job profile (PhD candidate) is based on the university job ranking system and is vacant for 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 total duration of 4 years.
Additionally, the VU Amsterdam offers excellent fringe benefits and various schemes and regulations to promote a good work/life balance, such as:
8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus
contribution to commuting expenses
optional model for designing a personalized benefits package
Center for Neurogenomics and Cognitive Research (CNCR)
CNCR includes the Department of Neurosciences at the Faculty of Sciences. The CNCR is a vibrant scientific environment that generates integrated research programs from genes to behavior, each combining mouse and human studies (https://cncr.nl/). In our center, 150 people work closely together in defining how in essence simple molecular and cellular processes shape the emergent complexity of the brain.
We have the specific ambition to unravel the mechanisms by which brain cells and circuitry act both in health and disease. We aim to translate mechanistic knowledge into understanding of (dys)function of the human brain. Our neuroscience research area covers analysis over many spatial levels, from genes to the intact organism, and over a large temporal scale, from microsecond molecular events to the years of functioning of the human brain.
Are you interested in this position? Please apply using the application button before 15 June 2023. Please do not apply through mail, only applications through the VU application system will be considered.
Your application should include a single pdf file that contains the following:
• motivation letter (1 page)
• your CV (including your education history, short summary of Master thesis and other research experience, a list of your research output)
• at least 2 reference contactsVacancy questions