PhD position in Statistical Modelling of Gene-Environment Interplay in Children’s Educational Development

PhD position in Statistical Modelling of Gene-Environment Interplay in Children’s Educational Development

Published Deadline Location
29 Mar 5 May Amsterdam

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This methodological PhD vacancy, funded by the interdisciplinary ERC project InterGen , seeks to investigate the causal impact of children's homes on their academ...

Job description

We are seeking a highly motivated and skilled PhD student to join our team on the InterGen project.
As a PhD student on the project, you will work closely with the project leader (Dr Elsje van Bergen), a professor in statistical genetics (Prof Conor V. Dolan), and other team members. You will develop and apply advanced statistical models (i.e., structural equation models, such as twin models) to study the transmission of academic skills from parents to children via genetic and environmental pathways, using both simulated and empirical data. You will use simulated data to test and empirical data to apply intergenerational models. You will have the opportunity to analyse both available and newly collected data on parents and children. The data collection will be conducted online as a team effort. To maximize efficiency, you might develop your programming skills to automatize part of the process, like sending personalised emails to participants.
The project provides an exciting research environment at the forefront of interdisciplinary research in statistical genetics and developmental science. The successful candidate will have the opportunity to develop their teaching skills through limited teaching duties, allowing them to primarily focus on their research and training in advanced statistical models of academic skills transmission. Depending on the candidate's skill and interests, training opportunities include participating in a course from the research master Genes in Behaviour and Health, in the International Statistical Genetics Workshop, and a research stay (secondment) at one of our expert international collaborators. The PhD candidate will have a personal budget for training and travelling. The intended starting date is the 1st of September 2023 or soon after.


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU)


  • A research master's (MSc) degree in behavioural genetics, psychology, data science, educational sciences, sociology, economy, statistics, or a related discipline. Candidates close to graduating are also encouraged to apply.
  • Proficiency with R or a similar programming language.
  • Theoretical and practical knowledge of statistical methods, such as structural equation modelling and (generalized) linear mixed modelling.
  • Experience handling and analysing large datasets is preferred, but not required.
  • Strong academic record and strong motivation for scientific research.
  • Good command of both written and spoken English.
  • Willing to contribute to the team effort of collecting empirical data online.
  • Interested in developmental psychology and gene-environment interplay.
  • Interested in simulating data and analysing simulated and empirical data.

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 €2,541 (PhD) per month during the first year and increases to €3,247 (PhD) 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 appointment will initially be for 1 year. After a satisfactory evaluation of the initial appointment, the contract will be extended for a duration of 4 years.
Additionally, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam offers excellent fringe benefits and various schemes and regulations to promote a good work/life balance, such as:
  • a maximum of 41 days of annual leave based on full-time employment,
  • 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus,
  • solid pension scheme (ABP), contribution to commuting expenses,
  • hybrid working enables a good work-life balance


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

The ambition of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is clear: to contribute to a better world through outstanding education and ground-breaking research. We strive to be a university where personal development and commitment to society play a leading role. A university where people from different disciplines and backgrounds collaborate to achieve innovations and to generate new knowledge. Our teaching and research encompass the entire spectrum of academic endeavor - from the humanities, the social sciences and the natural sciences through to the life sciences and the medical sciences.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is home to more than 30,000 students. We employ over 5,500 individuals. The VU campus is easily accessible and located in the heart of Amsterdam's Zuidas district, a truly inspiring environment for teaching and research.

We are an inclusive university community. Diversity is one of our most important values. We believe that engaging in international activities and welcoming students and staff from a wide variety of backgrounds enhances the quality of our education and research. We are always looking for people who can enrich our world with their own unique perspectives and experiences.

Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences
The Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences focuses on the broad domain of behaviour and health. Our teaching and research programmes are devoted to current developments in society, from healthy aging to e-health, from juvenile crime to dealing with depression, from training for top athletes to social media as a teaching tool. We are unique in that we combine three academic disciplines: psychology, movement sciences and education.

Working at Behavioural and Movement Sciences means working in an ambitious organization that is characterized by an informal atmosphere and short lines of communication. Our faculty offers tremendous scope for personal development. We employ more than 600 staff members, and we are home to around 3,400 students.

About the department
The department of Biological Psychology at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is a world-renowned research and education centre focused on understanding the genetic and biological underpinnings of individual differences in cognition, behaviour, and health. We maintain the Netherlands Twin Register, a unique resource for research on the interplay of genes and environment on brain development, cognitive abilities, personality, behavioural problems, psychiatric disorders, and health and well-being. Our researchers have established a large national and international network of collaborators from various disciplines. As a PhD student in our department, you will have access to training and professional development opportunities, as well as the chance to work with leading experts in the field of cognitive and educational research.

About the project
Parental involvement in a child's education, including talking and reading to them, has been linked to better academic performance. However, it is unclear whether this association is causal or due to other factors such as genetics. To identify the causal effects of the home learning environment, we need to control for genetics. The InterGen project aims to discover which aspects of the home learning environment causally impact children's language, reading, and math development. In the InterGen project, we will use a variety of innovative observational and experimental designs to study gene-environment interplay in children's educational development, like the children-of-twin design and a randomized controlled study. The InterGen project is funded by an ERC Starting Grant.


  • PhD
  • Behaviour and society
  • 30.4—38 hours per week
  • €2541—€3247 per month
  • University graduate
  • 15081


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU)

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De Boelelaan 1105, 1081HV, Amsterdam

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