Two PhD Positions in Social Science Genetics at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Two PhD Positions in Social Science Genetics at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Published Deadline Location
9 Jan 19 Jan Amsterdam

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Applications are invited for 2 PhD studentships in Social Science Genetics at VU University Amsterdam (NL). We invite applications from eligible students for studentships that commence in Sept/Oct 2023.

Job description

The Doctoral Network: ESSGN brings together eight Universities with a shared interest in social science genetics, i.e., in incorporating genetic information to improve our understanding of age-old questions in the social sciences, such as the origins of inequality, the 'nature versus nurture' debate, and the extent to which the interplay between environments and genes is important in shaping life chances. The consortium consists of an interdisciplinary group of academics, spanning demography, economics, epidemiology, genetics, political science, psychology, sociology, and statistics, as well as seven non-academic partners experienced in and committed to using data science to better understand inequalities in life chances. The partners include government bodies (GO Science UK), the World Health Organization - International Agency for Research on Cancer (WHO-IARC), policy research institutes (RAND Europe, Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute [NIDI]), charities (the Health Foundation), data infrastructure networks (CentERdata-ODISSEI) as well as economics consulting (Prometeia).

The Doctoral Network will create, nurture, and maintain a stimulating and world-class training environment in the interdisciplinary study of social-science genetics and geno-economics.

Your duties
Training will be provided through: i) courses in the biological foundations of genetic inheritance; ii) practical training in cutting-edge, multidisciplinary methods in social science genetics, including state-of-the-art computational and bioinformatics methods for analysing big data and statistical techniques for empirical research; and iii) cutting-edge academic research as well as secondments with our partners, to prepare doctoral students to be successful research scientists, but also for the professional job market in industry, technology, and policy. A dedicated team will coordinate and support skill development as well as monitor well-being and progress toward the PhD. While based at one of the eight ESSGN universities, it is expected that doctoral students work across institutions and countries.

The PhD projects will jointly contribute to answering a key research question that has occupied social scientists for decades:

To what extent do inequalities in life chances arise from genetic variation, environmental factors, and their interplay, and what can we do about it?

The PhD projects will go beyond the state-of-the-art by (i) using Europe's largest and most comprehensive multi-generation databases to separate direct genetic effects from parental genetic and socio-economic factors that shape the rearing environment; and (ii) by exploiting the large toolbox of causal inference methods used in econometrics and statistics to estimate how environmental contexts causally protect individuals with genetic risk.
We will incorporate genetic information into the social sciences to explore how genetic and environmental characteristics jointly shape inequalities in life chances by (1) analysing to what extent genetic ('nature') and environmental ('nurture') factors contribute to inequality of opportunity and intergenerational mobility, and (2) establishing how nature and nurture jointly shape inequalities in life chances.

Specifically, at VU Amsterdam, this concerns ESSGN projects 4 and 7

Project 4: Causal G×E interplay for socio-economic status (SES) and health. This project seeks to explore what explains the large disparities in health between SES groups, using genetic, socioeconomic, & administrative microdata of the Dutch population on health and SES to estimate causal genetic and environmental effects in G×E interplay.

Project 7: Genetic variation as a driver of 'brain drain'. This project explores whether selective migration based on socio-economic potential can explain growing inequality, investigating whether selective migration (brain drain / gain) based on individual's genetic propensity to education contributes to growing socioeconomic inequalities in the UK.

Please indicate in your application whether you are interested in project 4 or 7, or both.


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU)


  • Applicants must have obtained (or be about to obtain), an MSc/MRes/MPhil (or equivalent) in an appropriate area of social science (e.g., demography, economics, epidemiology, political science, psychology, sociology, statistics) or medical science (e.g., genetics, epigenetics)
  • Strong quantitative skills
  • Excellent written and spoken English
  • Strong cooperative attitude, strong organizational skills, willingness to engage in international, interdisciplinary collaborative research and a willingness to travel for research, workshops conferences
  • Following the EU Marie Curie eligibility criteria, the researcher to be appointed must not have resided or carried out his/her main activity (work, studies, etc) in the Netherlands for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to his/her recruitment. Moreover, he/she shall at the date of recruitment be in the first four years (full-time equivalent research experience) of the research career and have not been awarded a doctoral degree.
  • Professional experience is a plus, but not a must

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: 1 year.

A challenging position in a socially involved organization. The salary will be in accordance with university regulations for academic personnel and amounts € 2.541,- per month during the first year and increases to € 3.098,- per month during the third year, based on a full-time employment. The job profile (promovendus) is based on the university job ranking system.

Funding: The EU studentships are funded through the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA). They consist of tuition fees (if applicable), as well as a Doctoral Stipend. Additional research, travel and support funding is also available. Studentships will be 3 years full-time, with the possibility for partially funded/unfunded extensions.

The appointment will initially be for 1 year. After a satisfactory evaluation of the initial appointment, the contract will be extended for a duration of 2 additional years.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam offers excellent fringe benefits and various schemes and regulations to promote a good work/life balance, such as:
  • a maximum of 41 days of annual leave based on full-time employment
  • 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus
  • contribution to commuting allowance based on public transport
  • optional model for designing a personalized benefits package
  • a wide range of sports facilities which staff may use at a modest charge


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.

School of Business and Economics
The School of Business and Economics (SBE) provides high-quality education and excellent research in business administration and economics with a focus on contributing to the social, economic and ecological challenges of our time. Whether it is the use of robots in society or big data, labour market participation or flexibility in the labour market, traffic jams or the housing market, flash crashes in the stock market or choice behaviour in gambling, leadership or change management: we believe in goal-oriented scientific research and understand that progress in academics, the business community and society is achieved through cooperation, openness and social responsibility.

At SBE, all of our highly-motivated colleagues work together closely in a stimulating, dynamic and international environment to achieve our collective goal of encouraging society to make informed choices. Approximately 7,000 Bachelor's and Master's students and 1,700 executive students are enrolled at the School, and employs roughly 600 people.


  • PhD
  • max. 38 hours per week
  • €2541—€3247 per month
  • University graduate
  • 13184


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU)

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De Boelelaan 1105, 1081HV, Amsterdam

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