PhD position, Neurodegeneration in the Virtual Human


  • Stand­plaats Bilthoven
  • Contractduur 48 maanden
  • Uren per week 36
  • Niveau Master/doctoraal
  • Vakgebied Onderzoek / wetenschap
  • Reageren voor 10 augustus
  • Vacaturenummer V&Z-GZB-087
  • Plaatsingsdatum 16 juli 2021
  • Dienst­verband Arbeidsovereenkomst voor bepaalde tijd


We are looking for a motivated and enthusiastic PhD candidate for a recently funded project: the Virtual Human Platform for Safety Assessment (VHP4Safety), the world’s first platform to determine the safety of chemicals and pharmaceuticals for human health based solely on human biology.

By integrating innovations in data science, exposure models, knowledge on human physiology and specific vulnerable groups, human tissue culture models, and transition management, VHP4Safety will spearhead the transition to animal-free safety assessment. The VHP4Safety consortium consists of leading scientific groups from Dutch universities, university medical centers, public health institutes and applied research organizations, with expertise spanning the technological, biological, chemical, medical as well as the social sciences.

Your research will focus on charting the (patho-)biology of Parkinson’s disease and developing mechanism-based testing strategies for potential neurodegenerative effects of chemicals. In this PhD project you will use various approaches to develop quantitative Adverse Outcome Pathways (AOPs) and AOP networks, in relation to safety assessment. More specifically you will:

  • develop networks of human relevant AOPs involved in neurodegeneration
  • model (new and existing) data to quantify key event relationships of the abovementioned AOP networks, which will serve as a basis for the testing strategies to be developed
  • identify the in silico and in vitro methods that are needed to measure reliably effects that are predictive of neurodegeneration
  • use information on real-life human exposures for the design of these testing strategies to assure a quantitative outcome suitable for safety assessment of human exposure scenarios
  • define appropriate weight of evidence approaches, including decision criteria, for the developed testing strategies and their use for safety assessment
  • design and use in vitro models (based on e.g. (induced pluripotent) stem cells) to assess the effects on relevant cellular responses such as parameters of neuronal function and oxidative stress conduct data analyses and write manuscripts for peer-reviewed scientific journals
  • assess the use of the results from a regulatory-needs point of view

You will work in an interdisciplinary team with various types of expertise, e.g., data science, exposure science, toxicology and regulatory safety assessment.

As a PhD student, you will be based at the Centre for Health Protection within the Department of Innovative Testing Strategies of the RIVM. The department consists of a group of 25 enthousiastic scientific researchers, technicians and PhD students. You will work in very close cooperation with the colleagues of the Center for Substances and Product Safety at RIVM. For the experimental work, you will closely collaborate with the Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences (IRAS) at Utrecht University. IRAS provides education and research on the human and environmental health risks of exposure to potentially harmful agents in the environment. The experimental work will be performed within the Toxicology division which is aimed to improve the scientific basis of chemical risk assessment through fundamental and applied innovative research, teaching and training in mechanistic and predictive toxicology and exposure assessment. As PhD candidate, you will also regularly interact with other partners of the consortium


We are looking for a motivated researcher with the following requirements:

  • A Master’s degree in Cell or Molecular Biology, Biomedical Sciences, Toxicology or a related field
  • Affinity with the field of Neurotoxicology and the topic neurodegeneration
  • Experience in performing (in vitro) toxicity studies, molecular biology and biochemical assays is preferred
  • Ability to integrate knowledge from the different areas of expertise required for the project
  • Proactive attitude, excellent communicator and a team player
  • Good written and verbal communication skills in English at a level appropriate to scientific research. Verbal communication in Dutch is appreciated.


  • Salaris­omschrijving

    The salary (36 hour working week) is determined on the basis of Annex B of the Civil Servants' Pay Decree 1984 and increases in 4 steps from scale 8, salary number 0 (€ 2623,- gross per month) to scale 8, salary number 8, (€ 3279,- gross per month) in the fourth year.

  • Dienst­verband Arbeidsovereenkomst voor bepaalde tijd
  • Contract­duur 48 maanden
  • Minimaal aantal uren per week 36
  • Maximaal aantal uren per week 36

Overige arbeids­voorwaarden

In addition to the salary you will receive an Individual Choice Budget (IKB). The IKB consists of money (16.37% of your gross annual salary) and time. You can use the IKB to make the choices that suit you and compile some of your terms and conditions of employment yourself. For example you can choose to have part of your monthly income paid out whenever you wish. You can also convert this budget into leave and vice versa, or spend it on tax-friendly purposes. The central government is keen to promote personal growth and career development and offers plenty of opportunities to do so. The fringe benefits include various study facilities, company fitness, full reimbursement of your public transport commuting expenses and partially paid parental leave.


You can adress your application to Janine Ezendam, Head of the Department for Innovative Testing Strategies within the Centre for Health Protection of the RIVM.

Meer over jouw toekomstige afdeling

The Centre for Health Protection (Gezondheidsbescherming, GZB) is one of the 12 research centers at RIVM and focuses on human adverse health effects of chemical substances, biological agents and particles, with a special focus on pharmaceuticals, medical devices, tobacco, consumer products and the interaction with life style factors. Within these topics, novel developments are monitored, and both laboratory and desk research is performed to better understand and explain adverse health effects. GZB has a broad laboratory infrastructure, including chemical analysis, cell biology and imaging laboratories. Research results are translated into advice for policymakers, risk assessors and scientists within (inter)national bodies. In addition, within GZB, we offer a social environment with multidisciplinary teams and an informal structure. For PhD candidates, RIVM offers the promovendi network RIVM (Proneri) to connect with other PhD candidates at the institute.

The Department for Innovative Testing Strategies (Vernieuwing Test Strategieën, VTS) gives advice to policymakers from different Ministries (VWS, I&W, LNV) on the risks of exposure to chemical substances, nanomaterials and medical devices and on alternatives to animal testing. The department generates novel scientific knowledge and insights on these topics and translates this knowledges into advice for (inter)national governments and regulatory institutes. The main aim of the research performed at VTS is to use scientific knowledge on molecular and cellular mechanisms of toxicity to improve the risk assessment of substances in an innovative way. Within VTS there is special focus on carcinogenesis, reproductive toxicology, genetic toxicology, neurotoxicology, immunotoxicology, inhalation toxicology, and endocrine disruption.


As the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), we are a professional, reliable and independent advisor to the government, professionals and private citizens. Our goal is a healthy population in a sustainable, safe and healthy living environment. We monitor health, diseases, the quality of nature and the living environment. To this end, we conduct research and gather knowledge for accessible information and usable advice. RIVM provides good birth screening, combats infectious diseases and plays a central role in the National Immunisation Programme and population screening. We investigate what is needed for good care, a healthy lifestyle, safe products and a safe and healthy living environment. We also contribute to preventing, combating and managing incidents and crises.

All our advice, reports, fact sheets and publications are produced by our 2100 or so staff from our head office in Bilthoven and - as from 2023 - from a beautiful new building at the Utrecht Science Park . Our work is guided by the issues of today and tomorrow – from our position at the heart of society. We are proud of our organisation, which offers a warm welcome to everyone. As a governmental knowledge institute we want to be a reflection of society. In addition to talent, experience and motivation, aspects of identity such as age, orientation, cultural background or disability also make our organisation richer, more innovative and more fun. With such diverse backgrounds, perspectives and insights, we are all working to achieve even better results!

Also curious about how others experience working at the RIVM? Watch it on RIVM-ers aan het woord | RIVM


Voor meer informatie over deze vacature:

Harm Heusinkveld, senior scientist, Department for Innovative Testing Strategies


Voor meer informatie over de sollicitatieprocedure:

Terrence Stolp

Frank Alders


Digitaal solliciteren

RIVM nodigt je uit op hun site te solliciteren. Via onderstaande knop verlaat je deze site ga je direct naar het sollicitatieformulier. Het Rijk hecht waarde aan een diverse en inclusieve organisatie. Werken in divers samengestelde teams maakt ons effectiever, innovatiever en het werk leuker. Eenieder wordt daarom uitgenodigd te solliciteren.

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