PhD Position in Computational Single-Cell Cancer Biology

VU University of Amsterdam Faculty of Science


Are you about to graduate from a quantitative MSc degree? Do you want to use your skills to develop novel computational methods to understand cancer cells at the single cell level? Do you want to work in a diverse team of scientists at the VU and The Netherlands Cancer Institute? Please apply at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.


FTE: 1 

Job description

Technologies to measure the activity of many different signaling proteins at single cell resolution are revolutionizing cancer research. They give us new insights in cellular signal transduction, how this is aberrated in cancer, affected by anti-cancer drugs, and reveals the role of cell-to-cell variation. However, computational methods to analyze these data are lagging behind the technological developments. In this project, we will develop and apply computational methods to identify how differences between cells affect how they respond to drug treatment. To this end we will combine “snapshot” quantifications of many proteins simultaneously with live cell imaging data, and use these to build single cell statistical and mechanistic models of drug response. These models will be used to understand how cells respond and become resistant to anti-cancer drugs, which will help in designing more effective drug combinations.

Your duties

  • Develop computational methods to analyze high-dimensional single-cell protein activity data
  • Integrate such data with live-cell imaging data
  • Apply these methods to understand drug response and resistance in cancer cells
  • Communicate your work with both experimental biomedical researchers and bioinformaticians
  • Write a PhD thesis consisting of peer-reviewed scientific papers
  • Supervise computer practical’s to MSc students (<10% fte)


We are seeking a highly motivated PhD candidate with:

  • A degree in a quantitative discipline such as bioinformatics, computer science, physics or a related field
  • Experience in statistics, machine learning and/or pattern recognition
  • Proficiency in bioinformatics programming languages (e.g. R, Python)
  • Good cross-disciplinary collaborative and communication skills
  • Experience in analysing high-throughput molecular data is a plus
  • Experience in (cancer) biology and is a plus

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: PhD student, is based on the university job ranking system and is vacant for 1 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 3 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
  • a wide range of sports facilities which staff may use at a modest charge

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 endeavour – 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 VU Department of Computer Science has approximately 170 staff members, including 35 tenured staff and 40-50 PhD students. Lecturers form a critical and essential basis for the functioning of the department, providing foundational education that helps determine the future of our students.

Our research and our students are diverse, covering disciplines such as Social sciences, Humanities, Economics, and Bioinformatics. Currently, we offer programs in Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence and Information Sciences (BSc and MSc), and Bioinformatics and Systems Biology (MSc), with a total of around 1000 new students each year.


Are you interested in this position? Please apply via the application button until January 24th, 2021 and upload the following:

  • Your CV including at least two references
  • A cover letter (CL) including a motivation for this PhD position and explaining how you fulfill the requirements for this position
  • BSc and MSc academic transcripts containing all your grades at university level

Applications received by e-mail will not be processed.

Vacancy questions

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

Name: Evert Bosdriesz
Position: UD

No agencies

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