PhD Position in Computational Neuroscience

Radboud University Faculty of Science

PhD Candidate in Computational Neuroscience: Single Neuron Non-linearities in Somatosensory Processing

  • 32 - 40 hours per week
  • Maximum gross monthly salary: € 3,061
  • Faculty of Science
  • Required background: Research University Degree
  • Duration of the contract: 4 or 5 years
  • Application deadline: 31 December 2020

We are looking for

The Biophysics of Neural Computation group led by Fleur Zeldenrust is looking for a PhD candidate to investigate the relation between single neuron properties and neural network function using neural network models.

You will develop models of the barrel cortex, the part of the rodent brain that processes information from the whiskers. Rodents use their whiskers (more than other sensory systems) to solve real-world problems such as navigation, object localisation and texture discrimination. Neurons in the barrel cortex show strong threshold adaptation, which is influenced by neuromodulators like dopamine. Research by our department has recently shown that both this adaptation and the effects of dopamine are very different between excitatory and inhibitory neurons. The PhD candidate will investigate the functional role of this threshold adaptation: how does it affect how precise and efficient sensory information is represented in the activity of the neurons? And what is the effect of dopamine on this network processing? We will investigate this using different connectivity structures, using a biophysical model of the barrel cortex we recently developed, as well as various theoretical networks, including balanced random networks. Our conclusions will be validated against data from in vitro experiments. We will collaborate with Rena Bakhshi and Dafne van Kuppevelt from the Netherlands eScience Center ( for model validation techniques.

Please note that the EU Mobility Rule will be applied: PhD candidates must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the Netherlands for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately before the recruitment date. Compulsory national service, short stays such as holidays, and time spent as part of a procedure for obtaining refugee status under the Geneva Convention, are not taken into account.

We ask

  • A (research) MSc degree in a quantitative field (computer science, engineering, physics, mathematics, etc.).
  • Expertise in neuroscience or an interest in acquiring it.
  • Experience with scientific programming or an interest in learning it (Python, Matlab or other).
  • Enthusiasm and the ability to work in a multidisciplinary environment.
  • Excellent communication skills in spoken and written English.

We are

You will be appointed at the Department of Neurophysiology, Donders Centre for Neuroscience and you will be enrolled in the Donders Graduate School. This vibrant and multidisciplinary department studies the organisation and function of neural circuits across scales and techniques, from genes and proteins to behaviour and from in vitro and in vivo experiments to computational modelling. It is an open and international environment, where young scientists from different backgrounds share a fascination for the interaction between brain structure and function.

You will also be part of the International "SmartNets" consortium in which 13 PhD candidates from 5 universities work together to understand computation in biological networks. This means that you will have the opportunity to:
  • Follow several international training events and workshops together with other Smartnets PhD candidates.
  • Spend 3 months with Panayiota Poirazi at IMBB-FORTH in Crete, Greece, to compare your results with the effects on network computation of node non-linearities from dendrites. 
  • Spend 3 months with Matteo Cantarelli at MetaCell Ltd. to visualise and analyse both the experimental and simulated data using tools recently developed by MetaCell. 
  • Play an active role in the organisation of the yearly outreach events of the Dutch Brain Olympiad. 
  • Note that this will entitle you to mobility allowance and possibly family allowance. Moreover, certain research, training and network costs will be reimbursed.

Radboud University

We want to get the best out of science, others and ourselves. Why? Because this is what the world around us desperately needs. Leading research and education make an indispensable contribution to a healthy, free world with equal opportunities for all. This is what unites the more than 22,000 students and 5,000 employees at Radboud University. And this requires even more talent, collaboration and lifelong learning. You have a part to play!

We offer

  • Employment: 32 - 40 hours per week.
  • The gross starting salary amounts to €2,395 per month, and will increase to €3,061 in the fourth year (p scale).
  • In addition to the salary: an 8% holiday allowance and an 8.3% end-of-year bonus.
  • Duration of the contract: you will be appointed for an initial period of 18 months, after which your performance will be evaluated. If the evaluation is positive, the contract will be extended by 2.5 years (4 year contract) or 3.5 years (5 year contract).
  • The intended start date is 1 March 2021.
  • You will be able to use our Dual Career and Family Care Services. Our Dual Career and Family Care Officer can assist you with family-related support, help your partner or spouse prepare for the local labour market, provide customized support in their search for employment  and help your family settle in Nijmegen.
  • Have a look at our excellent employment conditions. They include a good work-life balance (among other things because of the excellent leave arrangements), opportunities for development and a great pension scheme.
  • Your education task may be up to 10% of your appointment.

Would you like more information?

For more information about this vacancy, please contact:
F. Zeldenrust, Coordinator SmartNets, Head Biophysics of Neural Computation group
Tel.: +31 24 365 3195

Tansu Celikel, Head Department of Neurophysiology and chair of Donders Institute
Tel.: +31 24 365 2360

Apply directly

Please address your application to Fleur Zeldenrust and submit it, using the application button, no later than 31 December 2020, 23:59 Amsterdam Time Zone.   

Your application should include the following attachments:

  • Letter of motivation.
  • CV.

We drafted this vacancy to find and hire our new colleague ourselves. Recruitment agencies are kindly requested to refrain from responding.