PhD in Single Molecule Biophysics

VU University of Amsterdam


FTE: 0.8 - 1.0 

Job description

We are pleased to advertise at the Vrije Universiteit 2 of the 13 PhD positions for early-stage researchers (ESRs) to begin in February/March 2020, as part of the Innovative Training Network of the European Commission entitled “DNA helicases in genome maintenance: from molecular and cellular mechanisms to specific inhibitors as potential drugs” (AntiHelix). The offered positions will last at least three years and will allow all the recruited researchers to be enrolled in local PhD schools and to participate in an exciting multidisciplinary research programme that will enhance their career perspectives in both the academic and non-academic sector. In addition to their individual projects, all ESRs will benefit from a dedicated training programme consisting of local and network wide training activities aimed at improving their scientific knowledge and transferable skills. (More information at about the project below) 


  • have not been resident or have conducted main activity (studies, work, etc.) for more than 12 months within the last three years in the country where the project will take place
  • be in the first four years of their research career (measured from the date they have obtained a degree that allows them to enrol in a PhD program)
  • be fluent in English
  • have a master in Physics, Biochemistry or a related topic


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 €2,325 (PhD) per month during the first year and increases to €2,972 (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 at least 0.8 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 or 4 years. Additionally, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam offers excellent fringe benefits and various schemes and regulations to promote a good work/life balance.

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. And to be a university where personal education and societal involvement play a leading role. Where people from different disciplines and backgrounds work together on innovations and on generating new knowledge. Our teaching and research embrace the whole spectrum of science – from the humanities, the social sciences and the pure sciences through to the life sciences and the medical sciences.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is home to more than 26,500 students. We employ more than 4,600 individuals. The VU campus is easily accessible, located in the heart of Amsterdam’s Zuidas district, a truly inspiring environment for teaching and research.

Diversity is one of our university’s core values. We are an inclusive community, and we believe that diversity and international activities enhance the quality of education and research. We are always looking for people who can enhance diversity on our campus thanks to their background and experience.

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.

About the project
The AntiHelix consortium includes the following 9 European institutions as Beneficiaries: Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Naples, Italy; Elettra Sincrotrone SCpA, Trieste, Italy; University of Copenhagen, Denmark; Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Netherlands; University of Sheffield, United Kingdom; University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany; Lead Discovery Center GmbH, Dortmund, Germany; Edelris SAS, Lyon, France; Lumicks BV, Amsterdam, Netherlands. The AntiHelix program is coordinated by Dr Francesca M. Pisani (Istituto di Biochimica e Biologia Cellulare, Consiglio Nazionale Ricerche, Naples, Italy). 

Project background and aims
Helicases are ubiquitous enzymes, found in viruses, Bacteria, Archaea and eukaryotic cells. They act as motor proteins to separate or remodel DNA or RNA duplexes, using ATP as an energy source. Their activity is essential in nucleic acid metabolism, playing a key role in a variety of cellular processes, including DNA replication, repair and recombination, as well as RNA translation and transport. Not surprisingly, given their essential tasks in living organisms, they are emerging as an important class of targets for antiviral, antibiotic and anti-cancer drugs. To date, several genetic and biochemical studies have revealed the molecular and physiological functions of DNA helicases. In addition, protein three-dimension structural studies coupled with single molecule biophysical approaches have provided insights into structure-function relationships and reaction mechanisms of some key DNA helicases.

The AntiHelix consortium includes experts in Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Medicinal Chemistry, Structural Biology, Biophysics and Clinical Oncology and aims to:

  • obtain a detailed picture of the mechanism of action and the physiological role of a number of DNA helicases that are implicated in human diseases
  • discover specific inhibitors of those enzymes, which can then be tested as novel therapeutic drugs, especially for cancers
  • address the need for training next generation scientists with complementary approaches and diverse techniques by secondments in different laboratories of the consortium
  • promote a culture of collaboration between academic and private sectors and provide young scientists with the necessary experience and skills to exploit the full potential of research findings
  • provide researchers at early stage of their career with greater opportunities to access an increasingly competitive job market

Vrije Universiteit ESR projects

  • ESR7 - Project Title: Correlated Tweezers Fluorescence Microscopy to visualize and measure the interplay of the BLM complex with the chromatin-remodelling factor PICH on DNA Home institution: VU University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands Supervisor: Dr. Gijs J. L. Wuite Keywords: Biophysics; Biochemistry; Molecular biology, Correlative optical-tweezers fluorescence microscopy
  • ESR13 - Project Title: Biophysical study of DNA helicase action mechanism Home institution: VU University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands Supervisor: Dr. Gijs J. L. Wuite Keywords: Biophysics, Biochemistry; Correlative optical-tweezers fluorescence microscopy


  • 3 or 4 -year full-time employment contract in accordance with the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action regulations for Early Stage Researchers
  • Enrolment in a local PhD school
  • Access to state-of-the-art research and supervision by recognized experts
  • Participation in network-wide training activities, schools and conferences
  • Secondments periods at other network partners’ labs


Are you interested in this position? Please apply via the application button and upload your curriculum vitae and cover letter until 29 November 2019.

Applications received by e-mail will not be processed.

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

Prof. Gijs Wuite

Include in the application:

  1. a motivation letter (max. two pages) - please indicate in the subject for which project you are applying
  2. a CV including the details of education/qualifications, work experience, language skills and other relevant skills; indication of at least two Scientists for reference letters
  3. a certified/signed copy of a recent transcript of exams taken with relative mark. A certified/signed copy of Master of Science certificate or a letter from the Head of the degree course stating that the Student is going to finish before the end of 2019

No agencies


In your application, please refer to


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