Fully-Funded 4-Year PhD Fellowship: the causes and consequences of individual differences in language learning in early childhood.

Fully-Funded 4-Year PhD Fellowship: the causes and consequences of individual differences in language learning in early childhood.

Published Deadline Location
30 Jan 22 Feb Nijmegen

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We invite applications for a 4-year fully-funded PhD fellowship based at the Language Development Department of the MPI for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen, the Netherlands.

Job description

You will conduct a project on sociogenomics (behavioral genetics) and language development. The project seeks to understand the causes and consequences of individual differences in language learning in early childhood. This is done by applying concepts derived from the Familial Control Method (van Bergen et al., 2017Hart, Little, van Bergen, 2021) applied to a population of Dutch-acquiring children and respective family members.

The project team are: Prof Caroline Rowland (MPI for Psycholinguistics), Dr Sergio Miguel Pereira Soares (MPI for Psycholinguistics), Dr Elsje van Bergen (Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam) and Dr. Hans Fredrik Sunde (Norwegian Institute of Public Health).

You will also be encouraged to set up collaborations with members of the Language and Genetics Department here at MPI and/or work on data from existing cohorts to which we have access, such as that from The Netherlands Twin Register, and the YOUth Cohort Study.


Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics



  • A Masters’ degree in a relevant discipline (e.g., genetics, psychology, biology, (cognitive) neuroscience, cognitive & behavioural science). Students who expect to have received their Master’s degree by summer 2024 are welcome to apply.
  • A keen interest in the role of genetics and the environment in human development.
  • Some experience in, and aptitude for, complex statistical modelling.
  • Excellent written and spoken English. Knowledge of Dutch is not required but is an advantage.


  • Some experiences in conducting analyses with developmental data.
  • An explicit interest in, and commitment to, Open Science.

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: full-time position (39 hours per week) for 4 years.

  • The position is intended to begin in Sep-Oct 2024; start date is negotiable but the candidate should be in place by end of 2024.
  • Full-time position (39 hours per week) for 4 years.
  • Starting gross monthly salary is approx. €3,008 based on full-time employment, as determined according to the German TVöD (Tarifvertrag für den öffentlichen Dienst).
  • 30 holidays per year, based on full-time employment; in addition, we honour both Dutch and German public holidays.
  • Enrolment in a personal pension scheme to which both employer and employee pay a monthly contribution.
  • Access to state-of-the art research and training facilities and a generous conference and travel budget. 
  • Educational training programme provided by the International Max Planck Research School for Language Sciences.
  • Doctoral degree conferred by Radboud University, our partner university.


About our institute

The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is a world-leading research institute devoted to interdisciplinary studies of the science of language and communication, including departments on genetics, psychology, development, neurobiology and multimodality of these fundamental human abilities.
We investigate how children and adults acquire their language(s), how speaking and listening happen in real time, how the brain processes language, how the human genome contributes to building a language-ready brain, how multiple modalities (as in speech, gesture and sign) shape language and its use in diverse languages and how language is related to cognition and culture, and shaped by evolution.
We are part of the Max Planck Society, an independent non-governmental association of German-funded research institutes dedicated to fundamental research in the natural sciences, life sciences, social sciences, and the humanities.

The Max Planck Society is an equal opportunities employer. We recognise the positive value of diversity and inclusion, promote equity and challenge discrimination. We aim to provide a working environment with room for differences, where everyone feels a sense of belonging. Therefore, we welcome applications from all suitably qualified candidates.

Our institute is situated on the campus of the Radboud University and has close collaborative links with the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour and the Centre for Language Studies at Radboud University. We also work closely with other child development researchers as part of the Baby & Child Research Center.
Staff and students at the MPI have access to state-of-the art research and training facilities.


About the Language Development Department

The research of the Language Development Department focuses on how children learn to communicate with language, how the developing brain supports this process, and how it is affected by cross-linguistic, cultural and individual variation. Research broadly falls into three themes, though many projects address multiple themes:

  • Language in the brain: studies focus on the nature and function of the brain’s learning and processing mechanisms.
  • Languages across the world: studies focus on the role of the multimodal environment and its effects on acquisition across languages and cultures.
  • Language over development: studies focus on mapping and explaining the trajectory of language development, acknowledging that developmental systems are characterised by constant and dynamic change.

In addition, the department’s Innovations team produces methodological primers, web- and app-based assessment tools, and pipelines for the semi-automatic analysis of day-long recordings.

About our graduate school

The International Max Planck Research School for Language Sciences is a joint initiative of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics and two research institutes based at Radboud University - the Centre for Language Studies and the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour. The graduate school serves to bring together outstanding doctoral students from diverse disciplines in the language sciences on campus, and offer them high-quality training in an environment that both broadens their interdisciplinary experience and prepares them for fulfilling careers in the language sciences. Our education and training programme involves both core and individually chosen coursework to complement the PhD research, and training in soft skills such as writing and presentation.


  • PhD; Research, development, innovation
  • Behaviour and society; Health; Natural sciences
  • max. 39 hours per week
  • University graduate
  • AT MAX 20240130


Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics

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Wundtlaan 1, 6525 XD, Nijmegen

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