PhD Position in Computational Neuroscience

Radboud University Faculty of Science

PhD Candidate in Computational Neuroscience: Network Plasticity 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 use simulation experiments to investigate synaptic plasticity in the mouse somatosensory cortex upon sensory deprivation. You will also look whether the changes in the underlying network affect the accuracy and efficiency of information processing.

Cortical networks are not static, but change constantly in response to experience. Particularly in response to strong interventions, networks re-organise themselves so that neurons representing sensory stimuli that are no longer available get 'taken over' by neighbouring areas. Whisker deprivation experiments, in which rodent whiskers are plucked or trimmed, show that the part of the rodent brain that processes information from the whiskers ('the barrel cortex') is extensively reorganised as a result of the sensory deprivation of the parts of the barrel cortex that normally respond to the plucked or trimmed whiskers. The exact changes in network connectivity are now being unravelled, but it is likely that different connectivity patterns could explain the same experimental results. Moreover, because the underlying network changes are not known, it remains unclear whether these changes improve the information processing: are the representations of the sensory stimuli in the new situation more accurate and/or more efficient? In this project, you will simulate the whisker deprivation experiments, using a biophysical model of the barrel cortex. You will investigate what connectivity changes, both within and between columns (representing single whiskers), can explain the experimental findings. You will cooperate with Rena Bakhshi and Dafne van Kuppevelt from the Netherlands eScience Center for model validation techniques. Next, you will analyse which of these connectivity patterns show an increase, decrease or no change in the mutual information between input and neural activity.

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 the other Smartnets PhD candidates.
  • Spend 3 months with Joni Dambre at Ghent University, Belgium, to use graph topology to analyse and visualize the simulated networks and implement the results in a virtual mouse (available through the Human Brain Project, Neurorobotics Platform).
  • Spend 3 months with Rena Bakhshi and Dafne van Kuppevelt from the Netherlands eScience Center to validate the developed network analysis and modelling tools and develop tools to compare models.
  • 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.
  • Your education task may be up to 10% of your appointment.
  • 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.

Would you like more information?

For more information about this vacancy, please contact:
Fleur 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.