PhD Candidate: Two-photon Microscopy of Inhibitory Synapse Removal

1.0 FTE
Gross monthly salary
€ 2,770 - € 3,539
Required background
Research University Degree
Organizational unit
Faculty of Science
Application deadline
Are you an enthusiastic young scientist with a Master's degree in a neuroscience-related field? And would you like to figure out how synaptic plasticity is coordinated between inhibitory and excitatory synapses? Then you have a part to play as a PhD candidate in our research team. Put your ideas to the test at our green campus and push your boundaries in an internationally friendly environment.

One of the most fascinating features of the brain is its capacity to adapt and learn from previous experience. This occurs via changes in specific synaptic connections. It is important to realise that synaptic changes occur in excitatory as well as in inhibitory synapses and that these changes need to be coordinated. For instance, studies have demonstrated that inhibitory synapses are (transiently) removed to allow turnover of dendritic spines in response to injury or during learning. However, the molecular pathways that regulate local removal of inhibitory synapses remain unknown. We are looking for a PhD candidate who is eager to figure this out.

Research in the Wierenga lab focuses on the formation and plasticity of inhibitory synapses. We discovered that inhibitory synapses are very dynamic: they can appear and disappear according to the needs of the local network. Over the past years we have characterised the molecular steps and identified several pathways that regulate the formation of inhibitory synapses. In this project, you will use two-photon microscopy to monitor the removal of inhibitory synapses in cultured brain slices. You will make use of several molecular biology approaches to label and manipulate candidate molecular pathways to assess their role in context-dependent removal of inhibitory synapses.


  • You are a highly motivated, enthusiastic, critical, creative and team-oriented young scientist with a particular interest in neuroscience.
  • You take initiative and are eager to learn.
  • You can work independently, but you also enjoy interacting within a group. 
  • You have a Master's degree in life sciences, biology, biomedical sciences or a related discipline, and an interest in intracellular signalling and synaptic plasticity.
  • Ideally, you have some experience in microscopy or electrophysiology in living brain tissue and in programming (in Matlab or a similar environment), but if not you will learn.
  • You are fluent in English (written and spoken) and have good communication skills.
  • You demonstrate integrity and positivity and motivate others to do the same.

We are

Our research team is a diverse team of international scientists interested in the role of inhibitory synapses in the brain at the molecular, cellular and systems levels. We use a combination of two-photon microscopy, electrophysiology and molecular techniques to study the formation and plasticity of inhibitory synapses in organotypic and acute brain slices from mice. We are particularly interested in the interactions between excitatory and inhibitory synapses within dendrites during synaptic plasticity, in brain development and in neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative diseases.

The Wierenga lab is embedded within the Donders Centre for Neuroscience (DCN), at the Faculty of Science of Radboud University (Nijmegen, Netherlands). DCN is part of the world-renowned Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, a world-class interfaculty neuroscience institute with a lively and interactive culture housing more than 800 researchers devoted to understanding the mechanistic underpinnings of the brain.

Excellent, state-of-the-art research facilities are available for the broad range of neuroscience research that is being conducted at the Donders Institute. The Donders Institute has been assessed by an international evaluation committee as 'excellent' and recognised as a 'very stimulating environment for top researchers, as well as for young talent'. The Donders Institute fosters a collaborative, multidisciplinary, supportive research environment with a diverse international staff. English is the lingua franca at the Institute.

Radboud University

We are keen to meet critical thinkers who want to look closer at what really matters. People who, from their expertise, wish to contribute to a healthy, free world with equal opportunities for all. This ambition unites more than 24,000 students and 5,600 employees at Radboud University and requires even more talent, collaboration and lifelong learning. You have a part to play!

We offer

  • It concerns an employment for 1.0 FTE.
  • The gross starting salary amounts to €2,770 per month based on a 38-hour working week, and will increase to €3,539 in the fourth year (salary scale P).
  • You will receive 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus.
  • You will be employed 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).
  • 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.
  • Working for us means getting extra days off. In case of full-time employment, you can choose between 30 or 41 days of annual leave instead of the legally allotted 20.

Additional employment conditions

Work and science require good employment practices. This is reflected in Radboud University's primary and secondary employment conditions. You can make arrangements for the best possible work-life balance with flexible working hours, various leave arrangements and working from home. You are also able to compose part of your employment conditions yourself, for example, exchange income for extra leave days and receive a reimbursement for your sports subscription. And of course, we offer a good pension plan. You are given plenty of room and responsibility to develop your talents and realise your ambitions. Therefore, we provide various training and development schemes.

Would you like more information?

For questions about the position, please contact Corette Wierenga, Professor of Neurophysiology, PI of the project, at (+31)6 311 330 29 or corette.wierenga [at] (corette[dot]wierenga[at]donders[dot]ru[dot]nl).

Practical information and applying

You can apply until 22 October 2023, exclusively using the button below. Kindly address your application to Corette Wierenga. Please fill in the application form and attach the following documents:
  • A letter of motivation.
  • Your CV.
The first round of interviews will take place in the week of 30 October. The second round of interviews will take place on Tuesday 14 November.

You would preferably begin employment as soon as possible.
We can imagine you're curious about our application procedure. It offers a rough outline of what you can expect during the application process, how we handle your personal data and how we deal with internal and external candidates.
Apply now Application deadline

We would like to recruit our new colleague ourselves. Acquisition in response to this vacancy will not be appreciated.

Prof. Wierenga, C.J. (Corette)

Professor of Neurophysiology, PI of the project
(+31)6 311 330 29

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