PhD position in developmental biology (1.0 FTE)

PhD position in developmental biology (1.0 FTE)

Published Deadline Location
7 May 2 Jun Utrecht

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Help us investigate how epithelial cells become organized and function in the animal model C. elegans.

Job description

We are looking for a highly motivated PhD student who will join our research efforts to understand how epithelial cells become polarized, functionally specialize, and function. Cell polarity – the asymmetric distribution of components and functions within a cell along a directional axis – is a fundamental property of cells that is present across the kingdoms of life. Most cells need to distribute proteins, organelles, and functions along an axis of polarity in order to carry out their specialized functions and organize the 3D multicellular body.

The most abundant polarized cell type of the animal body is the epithelial cell. Epithelial cells need to establish functionally distinct apical, and basolateral domains to form the epithelial tissues that cover the exterior surfaces of our body and line the surfaces of our organs. Loss of epithelial polarity contributes to epithelial diseases like polycystic kidney disease and retinal dystrophies and contributes to the formation of invasive tumors.

In your studies, you will mainly use the nematode C. elegans as a model system. Despite its small number of cells, this multicellular animal develops several different epithelial tissues. The polarization and functioning of epithelial cells can be followed in a developing animal. Moreover, recent developments in inducible protein degradation and tissue-specific gene knockouts make it possible to inactivate proteins in a time- and tissue-controlled manner, and follow the effects on cell polarity, morphology, and tissue functioning over time.

Your project will involve the identification of novel regulators of intestinal epithelial polarity through protein interaction mapping approaches (proximity labelling) and genetic screens. In addition, you follow up on recent results in which we have identified candidate regulators of intestinal polarity and organization. You will investigate their mode of action, and role in intestinal functioning.


Utrecht University


To excel in this role, you have:

  • a Master’s degree (or equivalent) in Biology, or you are able to obtain such a degree before the starting date of the PhD project;
  • a strong background in at least one but preferentially two of the following areas: Developmental Biology, Cell Biology, or Molecular Biology;
  • a strong interest in performing in vivo studies in C. elegans;
  • excellent communicative skills in English, both in writing and speech.

Conditions of employment

  • a position for 4 years;
  • a full-time gross salary starting at €2,395 in the first year and increasing to €3,061 in the fourth year (scale P Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities (CAO));
  • benefits including 8% holiday bonus and 8.3% end-of-year bonus;
  • a pension scheme, partially paid parental leave, and flexible employment conditions based on the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities.

In addition to the employment conditions laid down in the CAO for Dutch Universities, Utrecht University has a number of its own arrangements. For example, there are agreements on professional development, leave arrangements and sports. We also give you the opportunity to expand your terms of employment yourself via the Employment Conditions Selection Model. This is how we like to encourage you to continue to grow.

More information about working at the Faculty of Science can be found here.


You will work in the group of Professor Mike Boxem in the Developmental Biology division. We work closely together and share lab space with the groups of Professor Sander van den Heuvel and Dr. Suzan Ruijtenberg, who also primarily use C. elegans as a model system. You will therefore be part of a dynamic team of researchers that share many common interests and approaches. For more information about the group, please visit our website by clicking here.

At the Faculty of Science, there are 6 departments to make a fundamental connection with: Biology, Chemistry, Information and Computing Sciences, Mathematics, Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Physics. Each of these is made up of distinct institutes that work together to focus on answering some of humanity’s most pressing problems. More fundamental still are the individual research groups – the building blocks of our ambitious scientific projects.

Utrecht University is a friendly and ambitious university at the heart of an ancient city. We love to welcome new scientists to our city – a thriving cultural hub that is consistently rated as one of the world’s happiest cities. We are renowned for our innovative interdisciplinary research and our emphasis on inspirational research and excellent education. We are equally well-known for our informal atmosphere and the can-do mentality of our people. This lively and inspiring academic environment attracts professors, researchers, and PhD candidates from all over the globe, making both the University and the Faculty of Science a vibrant international and wonderfully diverse community.


  • PhD
  • Natural sciences
  • 38—40 hours per week
  • €2395—€3061 per month
  • University graduate
  • 1151885



Domplein 29, 3512 JE, Utrecht

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