Job ID: 95389

PHD position: Mechanisms of fast action potential signaling in human neurons

Position: Ph.D. Student

Deadline: 1 November 2022

Employment Start Date: 1 March 2023

Contract Length: 4 years

City: Amsterdam

Country: The Netherlands

Institution: Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Department: Center for Neurogenomics and Cognitive Research (CNCR)


We are looking for an enthusiastic and motivated PhD candidate for a 4-year project in the field of cellular neurophysiology that will be carried out at the Integrative Neurophysiology (INF) division at the Center for Neurogenomics and Cognitive Research (CNCR) at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the team of Dr. Natalia Goriounova:

Job description

The focus of the project is on elucidating neuronal mechanisms of human cognition. A critical requirement of fast neuronal computation and better 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 action potential signaling in human neurons directly links to cognitive ability in the same individuals. In addition, human neocortex contains neuron types not found in other mammals and these types are selectively vulnerable in brain disorders with cognitive decline. Exactly these neuron types have surprisingly fast signaling. In this project we will address the question of how these human-specific neurons achieve fast cellular computation supporting human cognition?

As a PhD candidate, your research will aim to uncover the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying fast signaling and input-output computation in human cortical pyramidal neuron types.

Your duties

During the research you will use the following approach:

  • Electrophysiological recordings from human and rodent neurons in acute and cultured brain tissue
  • Perform immunohistology staining of human and rodent brain slices
  • Use genetic tools to manipulate target genes in organotypic cultures of human and rodent brain tissue
  • Apply computational modeling to understand the mechanisms of fast computation

Furthermore, our lab is a part of academic environment where you will have an opportunity to participate in teaching and supervise Bachelor and Master students.

Key requirements

  • Strong motivation to pursue a research career
  • MSc degree in neuroscience
  • Prior experience in cellular electrophysiology in acute slices (patch clamp)
  • Programming and data analysis skills (Matlab, Python)
  • Excellent communication and writing skills in English
  • Experience with neuronal or organotypic slice cultures would be very welcome

What are we offering?

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 (PhD) per month during the first year and increases to €3,247 (PhD) per month during the fourth year, based on a full-time employment.

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

About Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

The ambition of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is clear: to contribute to a better world through outstanding education and ground-breaking research. We strive to be a university where personal development and commitment to society play a leading role. A university where people from different disciplines and backgrounds collaborate to achieve innovations and to generate new knowledge. Our teaching and research encompass the entire spectrum of academic endeavor – from the humanities, the social sciences and the natural sciences through to the life sciences and the medical sciences.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is home to more than 30,000 students. We employ over 5,500 individuals. The VU campus is easily accessible and located in the heart of Amsterdam’s Zuidas district, a truly inspiring environment for teaching and research.


We are an inclusive university community. Diversity is one of our most important values. We believe that engaging in international activities and welcoming students and staff from a wide variety of backgrounds enhances the quality of our education and research. We are always looking for people who can enrich our world with their own unique perspectives and experiences.

The Faculty of Science

The Faculty of Science inspires researchers and students to find sustainable solutions for complex societal issues. From forest fires to big data, from obesity to medicines and from molecules to the moon: our teaching and research programmes cover the full spectrum of the natural sciences. We share knowledge and experience with leading research institutes and industries, both here in the Netherlands and abroad.

Working at the Faculty of Science means working with students, PhD candidates and researchers, all with a clear focus on their field and a broad view of the world. We employ more than 1,250 staff members, and we are home to more than 11,000 students.

Center for Neurogenomics and Cognitive Research (CNCR)

As of 2008, CNCR is the operational name of the Department of Neurosciences at the Faculty for Earth and Life Sciences (FALW, Vrije Universiteit). The CNCR is a vibrant scientific environment that generates integrated research programs from genes to behavior, each combining mouse and human studies ( 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 via the VU website application system:

Upload your documents including:

  • motivation letter
  • your CV (including your education history, short summary of Master thesis and other research experience, a list of peer-reviewed publications)
  • at least 2 reference contacts