PhD position: Developing a systems approach to promote a healthy lifestyle in youth

PhD position: Developing a systems approach to promote a healthy lifestyle in youth

Published Deadline Location
23 Jun 14 Aug Rotterdam

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Job description

Promoting a healthy lifestyle among youth is a major challenge. Youth are exposed to a multitude of factors that influence their choices and behaviours in daily life. These factors can include psychological (e.g., motivation to be healthy), social (e.g., peer-influence), cultural (e.g., norms), environmental (e.g., neighbourhood), economic (e.g., cost of healthy options) and political (e.g., policies in place) factors. Moreover, the interdependencies, interactions, and feedback loops among these factors make it challenging to effectively promote a healthy lifestyle in youth. It is therefore vital to address this challenge from a systems perspective, which recognizes that youth’s healthy lifestyle is influenced by a complex web of interconnected factors and feedback loops.

This project aims to develop a framework for designing effective interventions that will promote healthy lifestyle in youth using systems thinking, complex systems approaches, and Artificial Intelligence (AI). This approach involves collaboration with various stakeholders, such as parents, schools—and crucially, youth themselves. The framework will enable us to understand the complex interactions between factors from different domains of a system. By doing so, we will be able to gain insights into the unique individual and environmental characteristics that influence a healthy lifestyle. Using these insights, we will co-create interventions to promote a healthy lifestyle.

Your role will be to apply systems approaches to design and test interventions to promote a healthy lifestyle in youth. More specifically, you will use systems thinking to gain understanding on potential opportunities and barriers in the system, co-creation to design interventions, and systems modelling to test these interventions. In addition, you will explore the potential of AI to contribute to designing interventions. You will employ multiple methods in your research, such as group model building, co-creation, machine learning, and agent-based modelling. Therefore, we expect you to have affinity with both quantitative and qualitative research methods. 

As a PhD student, you will get the opportunity to be part of a multidisciplinary research group. In our team, we work closely together in reaching the overall objective: empower the next generation to become smart, healthy, and happy media users. In our research projects, we collaborate with relevant stakeholders, including professionals, and most importantly, the target audience.

The PhD position is embedded in the transdisciplinary Movez Lab. For more information about the Movez Lab see “additional information”.


Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR)


We expect you to have:

  • A clear research interest in the topic of the project.
  • Experience with various methodological skills, preferably including quantitative and qualitative methods (e.g., statistical, machine learning, systems modelling, focus groups, co-creation).
  • A good written and spoken command of English (a basic command of Dutch is preferred, given the interaction with the target audience).
  • The ability, willingness, and commitment to do autonomous work in a multidisciplinary team that includes social science, communication scholars, and data scientists.
  • A spirit of team science and open science.

If the vacancy appeals to you, but you are doubting whether you might be THE person we are looking for, please do apply. We encourage all qualified applicants, including minorities, women, people with disabilities, and members of other groups underrepresented in academia.

Conditions of employment

As PhD candidate you will:

  • Get the opportunity to develop your PhD project, in collaboration with top talent peers and senior scholars from various disciplines.
  • Follow training in the Erasmus Graduate School of Social Sciences and the Humanities.
  • Be supervised and advised by top scholars.
  • Get access to a societal stakeholder network.
  • Give guest-lectures in the area of your expertise at Bachelor’s and Master’s level.
  • Help co-supervising research projects of undergraduate students working on related topics.
  • Work in a supportive, inspiring, collaborative, and flexible working environment.
  • Work in a dynamic and inspiring urban environment in the bustling hyperdiverse city of Rotterdam.
  • Have an internationally oriented and varied job in an enthusiastic team, with good working conditions in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities (CAO-NU).

The start date of this position is Fall 2023 or start of 2024 and you will be based at the Erasmus Movez Lab at Woudestein campus, Rotterdam. The position is for 0.8-1.0 FTE. We offer an appointment as PhD student for a period of 1.5 year, which will be extended with a second term of 2.5 years if the candidate performs well. The salary will range from € 2.541 in the first year to € 3.247 in the fourth year gross per month on a fulltime basis, in accordance with scale P of the CAO-NU. In addition, we offer an 8% holiday allowance, an end-of-year payment of 8.3%, and a very generous paid leave scheme. Furthermore, EUR is affiliated with ABP for the pension provision, and we offer partially paid parental leave, fully paid extended birth leave for partners, a personal career budget, work-life balance coaches, discounted collective health insurance, and more. As an employee, you can also use EUR facilities such as the University library and receive a discount on subscriptions for the Erasmus sports centre.

Erasmus University Rotterdam offers a Dual Career Programme (DCP) to assist the life partners of new academic staff (on payroll) in finding employment in The Netherlands. The programme is offered in close cooperation with the nearby universities of Delft and Leiden.

Erasmus University Rotterdam aspires to be an equitable and inclusive community. We nurture an open culture, where everyone is supported to fulfil their full potential. We see inclusivity of talent as the basis of our successes, and the diversity of perspectives and people as a highly valued outcome. EUR provides equal opportunities to all employees and applicants regardless of gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, age, neurodiversity, functional impairment, citizenship, or any other aspect which makes them unique. We look forward to welcoming you to our community.


Erasmus University Rotterdam

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) is an internationally oriented university with a strong social orientation in its education and research, as expressed in our mission ‘Creating positive societal impact’. EUR is home to 3.700 academics and professionals and almost 33.000 students from more than 140 countries. Everything we do, we do under the credo The Erasmian Way – Making Minds Matter. We’re global citizens, connecting, entrepreneurial, open-minded, and socially involved. These Erasmian Values function as our internal compass and create EUR’s distinctive and recognizable profile. From these values, with a broad perspective and with an eye for diversity, different backgrounds and opinions, our employees work closely together to solve societal challenges from the dynamic and cosmopolitan city of Rotterdam. Thanks to the high quality and positive societal impact of our research and education, EUR can compete with the top European universities.


The project is embedded in the Erasmus Movez Lab and the Movez Network, which are part of the positive social impact strategy of Erasmus School of Behavioural Sciences (ESSB) and Erasmus University Rotterdam. The Movez Lab includes several lines of research, including AiMovez. Within AiMovez, research is conducted on how artificial intelligence can be deployed on large data sets to predict human communication and behaviour. The goal is to develop digital interventions driven by artificial intelligence. AiMovez is linked to Professor Moniek Buijzen’s Erasmus Chair ‘AI in Society’ and the Erasmus Initiative Societal Impact of AI (AiPact).

The engaged Movez team bring together research, education, and society in a 'blended stakeholder science' approach. Our aim is to find answers to society's questions from different perspectives. To do this, we seek broad collaboration with all relevant parties, with youth at the top of the list. The focus of the Movez network is youth’s well-being and their happy and healthy digital media use. Our strong and extensive academic and societal networks offer an excellent perspective to your future career path in academia, societal practice, or both.


  • PhD
  • Behaviour and society
  • University graduate
  • ESSB/DPECS/PhD/22062023


Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR)

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