Are you fascinated by how our brain encodes and stores memories over a lifetime? Are you eager to shed light on the molecular and cellular framework of memory? Do you have experience in analysis of mouse models using molecular and/or imaging techniques? Do you aspire to obtain your PhD in Neurobiology and would you like to work in an internationally oriented top-team of neurobiologists in a stimulating academic environment? Then the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU) would like to get to know you.

FTE: 1

Job description

The Molecular Engrams research team is looking for an enthusiastic PhD candidate for a 4-year project that will be carried out at the Department of Molecular and Cellular Neurobiology (MCN) of the Center of Neurogenomics and Cognitive Research (CNCR). 

Understanding the fundamental neurobiological principles of memory formation and its persistence is a crucial challenge for neuroscience and of pivotal importance for insight into the pathophysiology of memory disorders. Memories are transformed into stable, highly-specific, long-term neural representations or engrams, by the temporal process of consolidation. This requires plasticity at synaptic and non-synaptic sites of sparsely distributed ‘engram neurons’ activated by learning. While considerable work has been done to causally map the circuitry of memory, the molecular architecture of neural plasticity signatures driving memory consolidation and its retention over time remain largely unknown. Identifying how these building blocks are regulated to enable information storage in neural circuits remains one of the most challenging questions of neuroscience that this project aims to answer. 

We will make use of a multi-faceted technical toolbox that combines rodent behavior with in vivo tagging and metabolic labeling of memory-encoding neurons and their input-specific synaptic connections, proteomic analysis, and cell-specific manipulations to systematically identify the molecular landscape of memory over time. In doing so, we will focus on identifying protein adaptations in both the somatic- and input-specific synaptic proteome that drive neural plasticity signatures of memory formation and its persistence. 

We are looking for someone with interest and skills in behavioral and molecular/cellular neuroscience. Experience with the techniques mentioned is an advantage.

Your tasks
  • Perform stereotaxic rodent brain surgery 
  • Perform rodent behavioral analysis (associative memory processes)
  • Perform molecular and cellular analysis of the rodent brain
  • Supervise BSc and /or MSc students during internships
  • Write and author manuscripts that will be submitted to high quality journals
  • Present your work to the research community (at conference calls, or (inter)national conferences)
  • Contribute to teaching activities 
  • Participate in ONWAR graduate school courses and retreats
  • Finish project with awarded thesis


  • 2-year MSc degree in (molecular) neuroscience (or equivalent)
  • Research experience in molecular and cellular biology, biochemistry or proteomics 
  • Experience with rodent behavioral analysis and rodent surgery is preferred
  • Fluent in English (spoken and written)
  • Pro-active, motivated and curiosity-driven attitude to pursue a career in Neuroscience
  • Capability to critically reflect upon experiments, willingness to step out of your comfort zone to initiate new collaborations using novel techniques 
  • Good communication and presentation skills to guarantee efficient information exchange

What are we offering?

A challenging position in a socially involved organization. The salary will be in accordance with university regulations for academic personnel and amounts €2,395 (PhD) per month during the first year and increases to €3,061 (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 1.0 FTE.

The appointment will initially be for 1 year. After a satisfactory evaluation of the initial appointment, the contract will be extended for another 3 years.

Additionally, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam offers excellent fringe benefits and various schemes and regulations to promote a good work/life balance, such as:
  • 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus
  • contribution to commuting expenses
  • optional model for designing a personalized benefits package

About 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 26,000 students. We employ over 4,600 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.

The Faculty of Science
The Faculty of Science inspires researchers and students to find sustainable solutions for complex societal issues. From forest fires to big data, from obesity to medicines and from molecules to the moon: our teaching and research programmes cover the full spectrum of the natural sciences. We share knowledge and experience with leading research institutes and industries, both here in the Netherlands and abroad.

Working at the Faculty of Science means working with students, PhD candidates and researchers, all with a clear focus on their field and a broad view of the world. We employ more than 1,250 staff members, and we are home to around 6,000 students.

The Molecular Engrams research team
The focus of our team is to elucidate the bio-molecular architecture of intrinsic- and synaptic- neuronal plasticity signatures that drive memory stability and flexibility over time (  
The Molecular Engrams research team is embedded in The Department of Molecular and Cellular Neurobiology (MCN) ( at the Center for Neurogenomics and Cognitive Research in Amsterdam ( This multidisciplinary department focusses its research on investigating the molecular and cellular mechanisms that underlie the formation and plasticity of synapses and circuitry in both animal models of brain disease as well as the human brain.


Are you interested in this position? Please apply via the application button and upload your curriculum vitae and cover letter until July 15, 2021

Applications received by e-mail will not be processed.

Vacancy questions
If you have any questions regarding this vacancy, you may contact:

Name: Priyanka Rao
Position: Assistant Professor

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Job area: PhD
Educational Level: MSc
VU unit: Faculty of Science
Contract type: Temporary with prospects to extension
Minimum FTE: 1
Minimum salary scale: €2,395 (PhD)
Maximum salary scale: €3,061 (PhD)
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