PhD student data science/artificial intelligence for protein transition | RIVM

PhD student data science/artificial intelligence for protein transition | RIVM

Published Deadline Location
28 Feb 28 Mar Bilthoven

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Do you want to have societal impact with your data science skills? You can make a valuable contribution to the protein transition which is needed to make food production and consumption more sustainable, healthier and safer. Within the BIGFOOD project, you will develop innovative data-driven approaches and artificial intelligence techniques and tools for the integration and analysis of data on nutrition and food. You will study the effects of the protein transition and identify and analyse promising measures in the field of public health, food safety and environmental impact. You will be part of multidisciplinary team. Your peer reviewed papers will result in a PhD thesis.

Job description

Purpose of the position

Innovative data-driven approaches are essential for addressing urgent societal challenges such as a sustainable food production and sustainable diets, i.e. healthy, safe and with a low(er) environmental impact. The protein transition, to a diet and food production system with more vegetable and fewer animal protein sources, is important for the climate change and biodiversity crises. The protein transition is the focus of the project BIGFOOD: Farm to fork transitions and their impact – big data approaches.

Your data science skills help you to make available, combine and analyse data from various parts of the food chain, to identify promising strategies and calculate (potential) effects of interventions. For example, you will work on an ontology and knowledge graphs for the application domain, enabling FAIR data sharing across systems and applications. You also develop and apply evolutionary algorithms, natural language processing, semantic technologies and machine learning techniques and apply them to different databases and datasets, creating new techniques e.g. for decision making.

Activities and tasks

  • You will participate in the BIGFOOD project, and work with data from the food chain to elaborate technical data-driven solutions for protein transition.
  • Together with colleagues, you refine research questions and make research plans.
  • You create and apply data science and artificial intelligence techniques, such as for semantic web, linked data, interoperability and interlinking, knowledge graphs construction and embedding, data enrichment, reasoning and decision making, and FAIR data management.
  • You write scientific publications for international peer-reviewed journals and a dissertation that lead to a PhD.
  • You create prototypes (in programming languages such as Python, Java or R) for data linking and analysis facilitating data reuse by other researchers.
  • You present your research within RIVM and the Wageningen University, and at (inter)national conferences and other forums.

Your PhD work is supervised by Prof Dr Anna Fensel of Wageningen University and Dr Marga Ocké of the RIVM. Other colleagues with expertise in data science and food and nutrition will assist in the supervisory team. You will be stationed at RIVM, and can work part-time at Wageningen University. We are set up for hybrid working, so you can also carry out part of the work from home.

Unique to this job

  • You have the opportunity to obtain an interdisciplinary PhD and create impact on a societal relevant and topical theme.
  • You develop solid technical solutions within a rich data infrastructure with many different data sources.
  • You work in a multidisciplinary team with colleagues from data science and artificial intelligence and with experts on healthy, safe and sustainable diets.
  • You work in an enthusiastic and collegial network of external partners within the BIGFOOD consortium.
  • You take courses that contribute to your development as a researcher.


Ministerie van Volksgezondheid, Welzijn en Sport (VWS)


Who are you?

  • You have a(-n almost) completed Master degree in computer science, data science or another related field, with knowledge and experience of relevant artificial intelligence and data science technologies.
  • You are curious, investigative and dare to make mistakes in order to come to the right conclusion. You are enthusiastic and motivated to contribute to a sustainable diet.
  • You are flexible in your working method, which is reflected in a perseverance to achieve your results. You dare to enter into a conversation to get the goal sharp and you are a critical counter thinker.

You also take this with you:

  • You are enthusiastic, flexible and motivated to advance and contribute to the objectives of the BIGFOOD project.
  • You can cooperate well with other disciplines and partners and you are willing to take initiative.
  • You come up with new solutions, ideas and perspectives. You enjoy approaching complex issues from different angles.
  • You are proficient in English both orally and in writing and you know how to write scientific publications in English. Speaking the Dutch language is an advantage and if you cannot, you are willing to learn it.

These are your strengths:

  • Analysing
  • Creativity
  • To collaborate
  • Judgment formation
  • Self-development

RIVM Committed to health and sustainability

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: 4 years.

  • Salarisomschrijving: The salary corresponds to the OIO salary scale according to the working conditions.
  • You will be employed on the basis of a 36-hour week. The appointment is temporary for the duration of 4 years. Your salary: € 2.817,- (per April 1st 2023; 2.902,-) gross per month (based on 36 hours a week) in the first year, ascending to € 3.503,- (per April 1st 2023; € 3.608,-) gross per month in the fourth year .
  • In addition the RIVM has many attractive employee-conditions, such as personal development, study facilities, an individual employee conditions choice system (IKB) and a commuter’s allowance (based on public transport).
  • Dienstverband: Arbeidsovereenkomst voor bepaalde tijd
  • Contractduur: 48 months
  • Minimaal aantal uren per week: 36
  • Maximaal aantal uren per week: 36

Overige arbeidsvoorwaarden

In addition to the salary, you will receive an Individual Choice Budget (IKB). The IKB consists of money (16.37% of your gross annual salary) and time. With the IKB you make the choices that suit you and you can put together part of your employment conditions yourself. For example, you can choose to have part of your monthly income paid out whenever you wish. You can also convert this budget into leave and vice versa or spend it on tax-friendly goals. The Dutch government is strongly committed to personal growth and career development and offers numerous opportunities for this. The secondary employment conditions include various study facilities, company fitness, full reimbursement of your public transport travel expenses commuting and partially paid parental leave.


The BIGFOOD project team

Description of the team / work culture

The BIGFOOD project team consists of about fifteen colleagues from different RIVM departments.

The Nutrition and Health department is your home base and has over thirty colleagues. The atmosphere in this department is cosy, relaxed, cooperative and helpful. In the department we research a range of policy interventions for sustainable(er) and healthier food supply and food consumption. We make a major contribution to the successful design, introduction and monitoring of product improvement, Nutri-Score and determining the “Carbon footprint” of foods. With a variety of data and techniques, we make 'everything you always wanted to know' about food and food consumption transparent for everyone. With up-to-date data on food consumption, we can respond flexibly to policy questions in the field of food safety, health and sustainability. The Food Consumption Surveys enjoy national and international prestige.

Your PhD study project will be conducted at Wageningen University. The mission of Wageningen University & Research (WUR) is “To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life”. Under the banner Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen University and the specialised research institutes of the Wageningen Research Foundation have joined forces in contributing to finding solutions to important questions in the domain of healthy food and living environment. WUR has the greenest and most innovative campus in Holland, and the university has been chosen as the “ Best University ” in the Netherlands for the 18th consecutive time.


  • PhD; Research, development, innovation
  • Engineering
  • max. 36 hours per week
  • max. €3608 per month
  • University graduate
  • AT VWS 20230228


Ministerie van Volksgezondheid, Welzijn en Sport (VWS)

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Antonie van Leeuwenhoeklaan 9, 3721 MA, Bilthoven

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