PhD-candidate position - Stem Cell BioEngineering Genetic plasticity

PhD-candidate position - Stem Cell BioEngineering Genetic plasticity

Published Deadline Location
8 Jul 24 Jul Maastricht

Job description

PhD-position as part of the ‘ZonMw Open Competitie’ project ‘Genetic plasticity - How do human embryos cope with aneuploid cells?’

Job Description
Aneuploidy, characterized by an abnormal number of chromosomes in a cell, is highly prevalent in human embryos derived through in vitro fertilization (IVF) and is a major cause of early pregnancy loss. On the other hand, persistent aneuploidies can lead to offspring with genetic syndromes, such as Down syndrome (trisomy 21), Edwards syndrome (trisomy 13), or Turner syndrome (XO genotype). To address these issues, preimplantation genetic testing for aneuploidy (PGT-A) has been introduced into IVF clinical practice to exclude aneuploid embryos from transfer. However, there is growing evidence suggesting that preimplantation embryos with mixed ploidy, known as mosaic embryos, can result in the birth of healthy babies, questioning PGT-A efficacy.

The PhD-student will work on using novel stem cell-based embryo models as a proxy to study how human embryos cope with aneuploid cells. The PhD-student is expected to lead efforts in generating mosaic embryo models with a variety of aneuploidy signatures and establishing assessment methodologies related to cell fate mapping. There will be a strong emphasis on the use of advanced microengineered culture platforms, including high-throughput microwell-culture platforms and microfluidic endometrium-on-chip platforms. Each facilitating high-resolution fluorescence microscopy for time-lapse monitoring of cellular processes within embryo models. Discoveries will provide insight into how early human embryos develop and will assist clinical embryologists in making informed decisions when selecting embryos with varying aneuploid signatures for transfer to the uterus.

Research group and environment
This research position is placed under the joint wings of GROW institute (dr. Erik Vrij), the department of Gynaecology & Obstetrics (dr. Edith Coonen, MUMC+), and the IBE department (dr. Stefan Giselbrecht, MERLN institute). The project is in close collaboration with dr. Hendrik Marks (Radboud University Nijmegen) and is spearheaded by the complementary expertise within the Reproductive Success project at MUMC+, aligning aims towards improving the safety and efficiency of reproduction and reproductive techniques, including in vitro fertilization and diagnostics.

You will perform the research within the MERLN Institute for Technology-Inspired Regenerative Medicine, within a multi-disciplined and highly collaborative environment that welcomes researchers and engineers from all backgrounds. Working at MERLN means you will join an international network of researchers from ~25 nationalities. We are a collaborative and interdisciplinary group with diverse expertise, including biomaterials, chemistry, tissue engineering, microfabrication, and cell biology. We work in newly renovated laboratory facilities with state-of-the-art equipment. We have a history as leaders in the field of tissue engineering and synthetic embryology and are particularly well-known for our orientation towards translational research:

We are located in Maastricht, which is itself a warm and welcoming city. The founding city of the EU is an international hub with inhabitants from around the world. English is widely spoken, which has helped create a unique and vibrant international community. Thanks to Maastricht's central position in Europe, it is only a short drive or train trip away from Belgium, Germany, France and the rest of the Netherlands. The city is family-friendly and possesses an international school and several excellent primary schools.

We are looking for a creative thinker with a strong background in (stem) Biomedical Sciences or Biomedical Technology who is prepared to take on highly challenging aims. We anticipate this collaborative and interdisciplinary project will suit an ambitious candidate who likes a fast-paced environment.

We encourage applications from individuals who are passionate to investigate processes involved in early embryonic development, with a specific emphasis on clinical impact. Ideally, you are eager to use cutting-edge technologies including stem cell-based embryo models, micro-engineered platforms and time-lapse fluorescence microscopy.

  • Strong background in cell or developmental biology, preferably with experience in pluripotent stem cell culture
  • Creative and independent thinker who can deepen a research question and identify the tools needs/needed? to tackle it
  • Excellent communicator (oral and written English) and team worker
  • Careful planning and rigorous experimental design
  • Knowledge of Dutch is not required.

  • Generation and culture of stem cell-based embryo models (i.e., blastoids) with different signatures of aneuploidy;
  • Using advanced micro-engineered tools such as microfluidic chips and microwell platforms for the culture of stem cell-based embryo models;
  • Using advanced fluorescence microscopy and analysis tools on stem cell-based embryo models to answer questions related to cell fate;
  • Design and careful execution of experimental work and cell handling;
  • Data analysis and dissemination of results within group meetings and conferences.

What we offer
As a PhD-canidate at the Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, you will be employed by the most international university in the Netherlands, located in the beautiful city of Maastricht. In addition, we offer you:
  • Good employment conditions. The position is graded in scale PhD according to UFO profile PhD, with corresponding salary based on experience ranging from €2770,00 in the first year and €3539,00 gross per month in the fourth year (based on a full-time employment of 38 hours per week). In addition to the monthly salary, an 8.0% holiday allowance and an 8.3% year-end bonus apply.
  • An employment contract for a period of 12 months with a scope of 1.0 FTE. Upon a positive evaluation, an extension of 3 years will follow.
  • At Maastricht University, the well-being of our employees is of utmost importance, we offer flexible working hours and the possibility to work partly from home if the nature of your position allows it. You will receive a monthly commuting and internet allowance for this. If you work full-time, you will be entitled to 29 vacation days and 4 additional public holidays per year, namely carnival Monday, carnival Tuesday, Good Friday, and Liberation Day. If you choose to accumulate compensation hours, an additional 12 days will be added. Furthermore, you can personalize your employment conditions through a collective labor agreement (CAO) choice model.
  • As Maastricht University, we offer various other excellent secondary employment conditions. These include a good pension scheme with the ABP and the opportunity for UM employees to participate in company fitness and make use of the extensive sports facilities that we also offer to our students.
  • Last but certainly not least, we provide the space and facilities for your personal and professional development. We facilitate this by offering a wide range of training programs and supporting various well-established initiatives such as 'acknowledge and appreciate'.

The terms of employment at Maastricht University are largely set out in the collective labor agreement of Dutch Universities. In addition, local provisions specific to UM apply. For more information, click here.

Maastricht University
Why work at Maastricht University?

At Maastricht University (UM), everything revolves around the future. The future of our students, as we work to equip them with a solid, broad-based foundation for the rest of their lives. And the future of society, as we seek solutions through our research to issues from all around the world. Our six faculties combined provide a comprehensive package of study programmes and research.

In our teaching, we use the Problem-Based Learning (PBL) method. Students work in small groups, looking for solutions to problems themselves. By discussing issues and working together to draw conclusions, formulate answers and present them to their peers, students develop essential skills for their future careers.

With over 22,300 students and more than 5,000 employees from all over the world, UM is home to a vibrant and inspiring international community.

Are you drawn to an international setting focused on education, science and scholarship? Are you keen to contribute however your skills and qualities allow? Our door is open to you! As a young European university, we value your talent and look forward to creating the future together.

Click here for more information about UM.

Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences
At the Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences (FHML), everything revolves around healthy living. Our research and education are not solely focused on recovery, but place a strong emphasis on prevention, health preservation, and health promotion. Our aim is to use our knowledge and expertise to genuinely contribute to the well-being of individual people as well as society in total.

In, research, and healthcare, FHML is closely collaborating with the academic hospital in Maastricht, together forming the Maastricht University Medical Center (MUMC+). FHML is strongly connected in education, research, and care with the Maastricht academic hospital, together with which it forms the Maastricht University Medical Centre (MUMC+).

FHML, which is the largest faculty of Maastricht University, is formed by an (inter)national community of employees and students. The faculty offers a wide range of Dutch and English-taught bachelor's and master's programs in innovative educational concepts in which the emphasis is always on building bridges to practice.

The multidisciplinary research of the FHML focuses on a number of carefully chosen topical current themes. In addition to research aimed at gaining new insights, it also concerns research whose results can be directly translated into concrete applications and innovations. The implementation of the various research programs is organized in our six graduate schools and two institutes.

Are you interested in this position working at the forefront of science but still have questions? Feel free to contact Erik Vrij via for more information.

Or are you already convinced and ready to become our new PhD-candidate? Apply now, no later than 24 July 2024, for this position.

If you apply for this position, please include:
  • A letter of motivation;
  • A curriculum vitae, including name(s) of one or two people who can provide a recommendation;
  • A “Project Assessment” (1 page maximum) that describes your understanding of the project (i.e.key objectives, tasks, your additional ideas), how you would apply your existing knowledge to the project, and what new skills or knowledge you hope to learn to complete the project successfully;
  • Higher education certificates (incl. courses taken and marks achieved).

The vacancy is open for internal and external candidates. In case of equal qualifications, internal candidates will be prioritized.

Maastricht University is committed to promoting and nurturing a diverse and inclusive community. We believe that diversity in our staff and student population contributes to the quality of research and education at UM, and strive to enable this through inclusive policies and innovative projects led by teams of staff and students. We encourage you to apply for this position.


Maastricht University (UM)


  • PhD
  • Health
  • max. 38 hours per week
  • €2770—€3539 per month
  • University graduate
  • 1160


Maastricht University (UM)

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P. Debyelaan 25, 6229HX, Maastricht

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Application procedure

Application procedure

Make sure to apply no later than 24 Jul 2024 23:59 (Europe/Amsterdam).