PhD Student in Neuroscience, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands

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The Faculty of Science, University of Amsterdam, occupies a leading position internationally in its fields of research and participates in a large number of cooperative programmes with universities, research institutes and businesses. The faculty has a student body of around 3,000 and 1,500 members of staff, spread over eight research institutes and a number of faculty-wide support services. A considerable part of the research is made possible by external funding from Dutch and international organisations and the private sector. The Faculty of Science offers thirteen Bachelor’s degree programmes and eighteen Master’s degree programmes in the fields of the exact sciences, computer science and information studies, and life and earth sciences.

Since September 2010, the whole faculty has been housed in a brand new building at the Science Park in Amsterdam. The instalment of the faculty has made the Science Park one of the largest centres of academic research in the Netherlands.

The Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences (SILS) is one of the Faculty’s largest institutes. Its approximately 200 scientists and staff members work in 13 research groups that perform excellent research centered on four themes: 1) The Living Cell, 2) Plant Signaling, 3) Neuroscience, and 4) Life Science Technologies.

Within the research group Cognitive and Systems Neuroscience (SILS Center for Neuroscience), a vacancy is available for a PhD student position, for a research project aiming at establishing causal links between the function of neural systems and cognition, by altering brain activity in rodents with optogenetic techniques, funded by a new collaborative project EU “Enlightenment”.

PhD Student in Neuroscience
1.0 FTE (38h per week)
vacancy number W11-205

Brain structures encode and exchange information through the synchronous activation of cell assemblies. Brain rhythms at multiple frequencies shape cell assembly dynamics, and coordinate their emergence across multiple brain areas. The dialogue between brain areas lies at the basis of most cognitive functions. Multi-channel electrophysiological recordings, capturing the activity of ensembles of neurons in conjunction with local-field potentials, provided a great deal of insight into these complex mechanisms. Experiments in awake, behaving animals allow us to directly correlate brain activity patterns with cognition, with a level of detail unattainable with non-invasive methods such as functional neuroimaging. To go beyond correlational evidence, however, and to elucidate causal relationships between neural and cognitive events, it is necessary to flexibly manipulate brain activity. Optogenetic methods provide novel ways to perturb neural activity in an unprecedentedly precise fashion. We are currently establishing optogenetic methodologies in the lab, and together with our “Enlightenment” partners we are developing a novel technological platform for detecting patterns of neural activity in real time, with dedicated hardware, and perturb brain circuits optogenetically upon detection of a target pattern. The PhD student will participate in developing this platform, and he/she will apply it to the study of the interaction between multiple brain structures. In particular, the project aims at studying cortico-hippocampal interactions in memory acquisition and, consolidation.

Benchenane K, Peyrache A, Khamassi M, Tierney PL, Gioanni Y, Battaglia FP, Wiener SI (2010) Coherent theta oscillations and reorganization of spike timing in the hippocampal- prefrontal network upon learning. Neuron 66:921-936. Peyrache A, Khamassi M, Benchenane K, Wiener SI, Battaglia FP (2009) Replay of rule learning related neural patterns in the prefrontal cortex during sleep. Nat Neurosci 12:919-926.

A Master of Science degree in Neuroscience, or Biophysics, or a Master of Science degree in Physics, (Bio)Engineering (or other quantitative discipline) and a strong motivation to pursue research in Neuroscience. Desired areas of expertise are systems neuroscience, and/or behavioral neurophysiology, quantitative skills, in particular in computer programming, and in electronics. Demonstrated ability to work in a team and an ability to work independently will be considered advantages.

Further information
Project information can be obtained from Dr. Francesco P. Battaglia, e-mail:; phone +31-20-5257968

The full-time appointment will be on a temporary basis for a maximum period of four years (18 months plus a further 30 months after a positive evaluation) and should lead to a dissertation (PhD thesis). Based on a full-time appointment the gross monthly salary will range from €2.042 in the first year to €2.612 in the final year, according to the Dutch salary scales for PhD students. The collective employment agreement (CAO) of Dutch universities is applicable.

The successful candidate will also participate in teaching in the Biomedical Neurosciences Master program and Psychobiology bachelor program at the University of Amsterdam.

Job application
Applications, quoting the vacancy number and marked strictly confidential (in the upper left-hand corner of the envelope) should include a curriculum vitae. Applications should be sent to:

Dienst Personeelszaken
Universiteit van Amsterdam
Faculteit der Natuurwetenschappen, Wiskunde en Informatica
Postbus 94216
1090 GE Amsterdam
the Netherlands.

Applications can also be emailed to, bearing the vacancy number in the subject line and relevant documents as attachments.

The closing date for application is January 1, 2012.

Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure the above information is current and correct. However, applicants should contact the appropriate administering body before making an application, as details do change frequently.

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