PhD position: Modelling the energetics of muscle contraction

PhD position: Modelling the energetics of muscle contraction

Published Deadline Location
22 Jan 18 Feb Amsterdam

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Are you interested in the fundamental process that allows humans and other animals to move? Does it motivate you to conduct scientific research with an important current social relevance? Then this PhD research might be something for you.

Job description

Conversion of chemical energy into mechanical energy in muscle tissue is the fundamental process that allows humans and other animals to move. Metabolic energy expenditure is hypothesized to play a key role in motor control, and is a critical variable in evaluating the design of assistive devices in sports and pathology. The aim of this project is to advance our understanding of the relationship between metabolic energy expenditure and mechanical behavior, in order to address questions related to the role of metabolic energy expenditure in the design and control of the motor system. We will use a blended experimental and simulation approach to study this relationship and address these questions. In doing so, this project will bridge the gap between fundamental research at the single muscle level and more applied research in whole organisms.

Your duties
You will work in the department of human movement sciences and will collaborate with several PhD students, postdocs and staff members within the department, from both the biomechanics group and the physiology group. You will be working on a combination of modelling and experimentation, and your project will inform and strengthen other projects, and vice versa. During your PhD you will combine an experimental approach – measuring both biomechanical and physiological measures obtained by a wide array of methodologies – with a modelling approach in which you will do forward dynamics simulations and/or optimal control to model human muscles and movements. Your studies should result in scientific publications, and will be presented at international conferences. In addition, there will be the opportunity to gain educational experience (optional) and take courses for professional and personal development. At the end of this four-year program you will write your research findings in a PhD thesis and defend it. The project will be supervised by Dr. Koen Lemaire, Dr. Richie Goulding and Prof. dr. Jaap van Dieen. Other collaborators include Dr. Dinant Kistemaker and Dr. Maarten Afschrift.


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU)


  • MSc. in movement sciences or related field, such as kinesiology, biology, or biomedical/(bio)mechanical engineering
  • you have affinity with both empirical science and computer simulations
  • you have affinity with both mechanics and physiology/biology
  • you have good communication skills and are fluent in English, both verbally and in writing
  • comfortable with programming in Matlab and/or Python

As a university, we strive for equal opportunities for all, recognising that diversity takes many forms. We believe that diversity in all its complexity is invaluable for the quality of our teaching, research and service. We are always looking for talent with diverse backgrounds and experiences. This also means that we are committed to creating an inclusive community so that we can use diversity as an asset.

We realise that each individual brings a unique set of skills, expertise and mindset. Therefore we are happy to invite anyone who recognises themselves in the profile to apply, even if you do not meet all the requirements.

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 € 2.770,00 (gross) per month during the first year and increases to € 3.539,00 per month during the fourth year, based on a full-time employment. The job profile is based on the university job ranking system and is vacant for at least 0.8 FTE. The intended start date is 1st of April 2024.

The appointment will initially be for 1 year. After a satisfactory evaluation of the initial appointment, the contract will be extended to a total duration of 4 years (or 5 years 0.8 FTE part time).

Additionally, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam offers excellent fringe benefits and various schemes and regulations to promote a good work/life balance, for example:
  • A full-time 38-hour working week comes with a holiday leave entitlement of 232 hours per year. If you choose to work 40 hours, you have 96 extra holiday leave hours on an annual basis.
  • 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus
  • Opportunities for further professional development (e.g., by taking additional courses, participating in workshops, seminars and conferences)
  • Free access to the universities sports facilities and discount for courses and shows at the universities cultural centre


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Department of Human Movement Sciences
The department of Human Movement Sciences performs research on the human musculoskeletal system, on the way people move, and on how human movement can be influenced in the context of sports, health, physical education and rehabilitation. Our research is multi-disciplinary: we combine anatomy, physiology, psychology and biomechanics to understand and improve human movement. We provide educational programs at the BSc and MSc levels in the same domain, with a strong emphasis on scientific training. In addition, we have a research-based PhD program. The department has a strong commitment to theory development, and innovative research, but we also prioritize the societal value of our research and devote ample time and attention to translation of our research findings to promote their application in practice.

The department provides a vibrant climate with high quality teaching and research staff and PhD-students who are supported by excellent facilities (e.g., multiple labs for experimental research, equipment for movement analysis and physiological measurements, as well as high-quality engineering support to develop custom-made equipment and set-ups). We have a world-class reputation for our research and teaching, as indicated by for example a 5th place in the Shanghai ranking for sports science, high quality publications, and frequent international collaboration and exchange. Research and teaching have a strong interdisciplinary nature. The research program of the department is integrated in the research institutes Amsterdam Movement Sciences ( and Institute for Brain and Behavior Amsterdam (

Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences
Developing knowledge for an active, healthy and meaningful life: that is our mission at the Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences at VU Amsterdam. We maintain a broad focus on the fields of behaviour and health. Our teaching and research programmes are devoted to current developments in society. From healthy aging to e-health, and from training top athletes to social media as a teaching tool. We combine three academic disciplines: psychology, movement sciences and education. A multidisciplinary approach allows us to arrive at a better understanding of human behaviour and movement. Our aims are to help people live healthier lives, learn better and function better.

Are you interested in joining Behavioural and Movement Sciences? You are the kind of person who feels at home working in an ambitious faculty, with an informal atmosphere and short lines of communication. We offer you all the space you need for personal development. Together with your 630 colleagues, you will take care of about 4,200 students.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam stands for values-driven education and research. We are open-minded experts with the ability to think freely. - a broader mind. Maintaining an entrepreneurial perspective and concentrating on diversity, significance and humanity, we work on sustainable solutions with social impact. By joining forces, across the boundaries of disciplines, we work towards a better world for people and planet. Together we create a safe and respectful working and study climate, and an inspiring environment for education and research. Learn more about our codes of conduct

We are located on one physical campus, in the heart of Amsterdam's Zuidas business district, with excellent location and accessibility. Over 5,500 staff work at the VU and over 30,000 students attend academic education.

Diversity is the driving force of the VU. The VU wants to be accessible and receptive to diversity in disciplines, cultures, ideas, nationalities, beliefs, preferences and worldviews. We believe that trust, respect, interest and differences lead to new insights and innovation, to sharpness and clarity, to excellence and a broader understanding.

We stand for an inclusive community and believe that diversity and internationalisation contribute to the quality of education, research and our services.

Therefore, we are always searching for people whose backgrounds and experience contribute to the diversity of the VU community.


  • PhD
  • Health
  • €2770—€3539 per month
  • University graduate
  • 3661


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU)

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Van der Boechorststraat 7, 1081BT, Amsterdam

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