PhD 2x - Comorbidities of serious mental illness

PhD 2x - Comorbidities of serious mental illness

Published Deadline Location
13 Jan 5 Feb Amsterdam

You cannot apply for this job anymore (deadline was 5 Feb 2023).

Browse the current job offers or choose an item in the top navigation above.

As part of an ERC funded project, we are looking for two enthusiastic and ambitious PhD students to conduct cutting edge research and help answer important health questions!

Job description

Serious mental illness - depression, bipolar, and psychotic disorder - is among the leading causes of disability worldwide. On top of the burden posed by its symptoms, mental illness is also associated with comorbid health problems. The two most important 'comorbidities' of mental illness, given their driving role in decreasing quality and duration of life, are substance (mis)use and cardiovascular disease. Whether these comorbidities arise due to causal relationships is surprisingly unclear. The causal direction is also uncertain: does mental illness lead to comorbidities, and / or do these comorbidities increase the risk of (more severe) mental illness? In this ERC funded project, innovative epidemiological and genetic approaches will be combined to unravel the relationships of mental illness with substance (mis)use and cardiovascular disease.

The research methods include epidemiological analyses of large longitudinal cohort studies and advanced genetic methods that use summary-level data of genome-wide association studies (GWAS). The project has an important focus on 'triangulation' of evidence - combining insights from across different methods and data samples to come to robust evidence. Another important focal point is diversity - while women (compared to men) and people of non-European ethnicity (compared to those of European ethnicity) are affected by a greater disease burden, gender and ethnic differences are understudied. This project attempts to fill this gap by including diverse (genetic) samples.

About your role
The two PhD students will start at the same time and will work closely together. Both PhD students will be conducting epidemiological and genetic analyses using existing databases and biobanks (the project does not include new data collection), mostly using software platform R. You will be involved in planning the exact analyses of each study, analyzing the data, and writing up the manuscripts. An important part of each of the PhD projects will be to carefully compare outcomes from the different applied methodologies ('triangulation') to come to strong evidence about the causal nature of the relationship between mental illness and its comorbidities.

We will offer ample opportunity for you to deepen and broaden your knowledge through specialized courses offered by our group or collaborators. We will also offer extensive support and training to master the innovative analysis techniques involved in the project (such as structural equation modelling and Mendelian randomization).

PhD student 1 will focus on unravelling the comorbidity between mental illness and substance use (cigarette smoking, cannabis use, alcohol). A secondary focus of this PhD student will be to translate the resulting knowledge to recommendations to inform prevention policy and health communication.

PhD student 2 will focus on unravelling the comorbidity between mental illness and cardiovascular disease. A secondary focus of this PhD student will be to translate the resulting knowledge to recommendations to inform clinical practice (in psychiatry and cardiology).


Amsterdam UMC


  • A MSc degree in the field of epidemiology, (biomedical) health sciences, neurosciences, bioinformatics, or a related and relevant discipline (candidates close to graduating are also encouraged to apply!)
  • Strong interest in the project's topic
  • Affinity with statistics and advanced data analytics
  • Prior experience in data analysis using R is desirable (support will be available)
  • Excellent English conversation and writing skills
  • Strong communication and social skills

Conditions of employment

  • A jump start to your career in research!
  • The opportunity to work on large-scale international data-sets and receive training in the most cutting edge epidemiological and (population) genetic methods
  • The position is for 4 years. We first offer a fixed term contract for 1 year, which under normal circumstances will be prolonged with 3 years.
  • In addition to a good basic salary, we offer 8.3% end-of-year bonus and 8% holiday allowance.
  • Pension is accrued at Be Frank.
  • In addition to excellent accessibility by public transport, AMR also has a sufficient number of parking spaces for employees.
  • An active personnel association and the Young Amsterdam UMC association, both of which organize fun (sports) activities and events.
For an overview of all our other terms of employment, Read all working agreements at Amsterdam UMC


Amsterdam UMC

You will become part of the Genetic Epidemiology research group which is embedded in the department of psychiatry. Our group consist of one Professor (Karin Verweij), four Assistant Professors, three post-doctoral researchers, and four PhD students. We conduct genetic research on a wide range of complex traits, including mental illness, substance use, brain structure and function, socio-economic outcomes, cardiovascular disease, and musicality. Within our group we have a very open and accessible culture and we encourage everyone to bring in their own ideas. We are also well connected with the larger genetics community, for instance through our organizing role in the Genetics Network Amsterdam (GENE Amsterdam;

In this PhD position you will work on a larger project (UNRAVEL-CAUSALITY) which is funded by an ERC Starting grant and led by dr. Jorien Treur. The aim of the ERC project is to advance our understanding of the complex relation of mental illness with other health problems and thereby set the stage for more effective prevention and treatment.


  • PhD
  • Health
  • max. 32 hours per week
  • €2789—€3536 per month
  • University graduate
  • 7752



Meibergdreef 9, 1105AZ, Amsterdam

View on Google Maps

Interesting for you