PhD candidate ‘Gut bacteria and responsivity to antidepressant treatment'

PhD candidate ‘Gut bacteria and responsivity to antidepressant treatment'

Published Deadline Location
23 Jan 21 Feb Nijmegen

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Job description

Are you interested in learning how gut bacteria can influence the response to the treatment of depression? We are looking for a motivated PhD candidate who wants to integrate top-level animal behaviour work with gut microbiota research in humans. Does this sound interesting to you? Apply now!

You will carry out (i) Fecal Matter Transplant from depressed patients to specialized animal models, (ii) animal behavior testing in different settings and, (iii) statistical analysis linking gut microbiota, multiple behavioral and biological parameters and treatment response. Specifically, this project will investigate if differences in gut bacteria between human Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) responders and non-responders have an influence on the metabolism of tryptophan -the precursor of serotonin which mammals obtain via their diet and how they modify the response to SSRI treatment.

In this integrated preclinical-clinical project, rats will receive gut bacteria from depressed patients responding to SSRI treatment as well as depressed patients not responding to SSRI treatment. Using these ‘humanized’ rats we will examine anxiety- and depression-related behaviour, the response to SSRI treatment and tryptophan metabolism in the gut and in the brain. In addition, we will examine which ‘adjunctive’ targeting tryptophan metabolism in the gut will enhance SSRI responsivity.

The project, funded by the Dutch Research Council (NWO) will be carried out in the Cognitive Neuroscience Department at Radboudumc in Nijmegen. As a PhD student you will become part of this department and learn to develop, validate, and execute animal studies and you will also be responsible for data collection and analysis.

Parallel to this project, a second PhD student will be hired who will analyze the gut microbiota of the depressed patients (both responder and not responder groups) and the animal models. You will closely interact and collaborate with this person as well as other researchers and specialists at Radboudumc from the Departments of Psychiatry and Human Genetics, other academic institutions and/or industry. Your responsibilities may also include project management, mentoring (MSc and BSc students) and teaching-related tasks. At the end of the project, you are expected to participate in various (inter)national conferences, prepare manuscripts for publication and write a thesis.


Radboud University Medical Center (Radboudumc)


We are looking for a PhD candidate with a master's degree in (behavioural) neuroscience, (medical) biology or a related field. You have experience with animal work, or a strong desire to learn. Furthermore, you have technical insight and problem-solving skills. You are also pro-active in nature and have good social, communicational and organizational skills. A good command of oral and written English is required.

Our ideal colleague also has experience with statistical data analyses and software (i.e., SPSS, STATA, etc.) and with programming languages (R or MATLAB). It is also desirable if you have a Dutch (art. 9) or European (FELASA) certificate to work with animals. Other desirable skills are:
  • Experience with stereotactic brain surgery in rodents (e.g., implantation of cannula) preferred.
  • Experience with molecular and/or chemical techniques (e.g., PCR, ELISA, Western blotting, LC-MS, HPLC) preferred.

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: 4 years.

The salary depends on education. Scale 10 will be offered to MSc medical graduates; those holding degrees in other disciplines will be offered scale 10A. At Radboud university medical center, you build on your future. We are committed to providing the best care, education, and research. And we are true to our word, because we help you develop and seize opportunities and give you the room to grow. As an employer, we believe that employees should feel vital and happy at work in all stages of life. We are also committed to creating a healthy and safe working environment. Our employment conditions contribute to that. What we offer:
  • A gross monthly salary between € 2.901 and € 3.677 (scale 10A) or between € 3.359 and € 5.292 (scale 10) based on full-time employment. You will also receive an 8% holiday allowance, an 8.3% end-of-year bonus, and a 47% to 72% bonus for working unsocial hours.
  • Plenty of opportunities for personal development. You can take a variety of courses in our online learning environment. You can also share knowledge with colleagues through digital learning spaces – perfect for getting inspired and inspiring others.
  • Your well-being and vitality are a priority. For example, we have our own sports facilities and a Healthy Professionals program to help you manage your energy. And if you are going through a life-changing event, our Company Support Team and a personal coach are there to help you.
  • Support in achieving a good work-life balance at every stage of your life. This includes advice and training courses (from ‘Millennial Dilemmas’ to ‘Your Career After 57’), activities at our own mindfulness center, and informal caregiving consultations if you have questions about juggling work and caregiving responsibilities at home.
  • 168 holiday hours per year (23 days) based on a 36-hour working week.
  • 26 weeks of parental leave, nine of which are paid.
  • A good collective pension scheme with a 70% reimbursement of your pension premium.
  • Discounts on health insurance and ten other types of insurance, from home insurance to legal assistance.
  • An allowance for your travel expenses or a working-from-home allowance of €2 per day.



The Department of Cognitive Neuroscience at the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition, and Behaviour, is a highly dynamic Dutch research institute with a collaborative atmosphere, focusing on fundamental and applied neuroscience research at top level. As a PhD candidate in this project you will collaborate with members of the Behavioural Neurogenetics group led by Prof. Dr. J. Homberg, as well as members of the Bacteria, Brain & Behaviour group led by Dr. Alejandro Arias Vasquez.

Welcome to Radboud university medical center (Radboudumc), where scientific breakthroughs are born through the curiosity and passion of our collaborating researchers in a vibrant environment. We believe trust and excitement are crucial elements to achieving our goals, and we approach our research as teams and with the utmost rigor to make a significant impact on health and healthcare. Our researchers are driven by their fascination with the biological, psychological, and sociological mechanisms underlying health and healthcare. They collaborate with partners from all over the world to improve health outcomes for all. Radboudumc unites patient care, research, education, and corporate learning, which allows us to approach our mission to shape the health and healthcare of the future in an innovative and person-centered way.

Our ambition is to lead the way in the pursuit of prevention, sustainability, meaningful care. We believe that through our research, we can significantly improve the health and well-being of society. Join us on our mission to make a difference in healthcare. Become a part of our community of gifted researchers, professionals or patient partners who are dedicated to making a real impact on population health and healthcare.

Read what it is like to do a PhD at the Radboud University Medical Center.


  • PhD
  • Health
  • max. 36 hours per week
  • €2901—€5292 per month
  • University graduate
  • 190019-P1417004-1


Radboud University Medical Center (Radboudumc)

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Geert Grooteplein-Zuid 10, 6525 GA, Nijmegen

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