PhD position is available in the Brigid project: Assessing uptake and toxicity of microplastics upon ingestion using advanced in vitro models, at Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology, at Maastricht University (UM), in the Netherlands – 2022


Save 0

Scroll Down for Content

General Info

Position: PhD candidate
No. of Positions: 1
Research Field: , ,
Deadline to Apply: Expired
Joining Date: ASAP
Contract Period: 4 Years
Salary: 2.443 to 3.122 Euro/Month

Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology

Maastricht University (UM), the Netherlands


Scroll Down for Content

Qualification Details

You have a Master’s degree in the Molecular Biology/BioMedical Sciences/Toxicological field and you would like to develop further in this area. You have a real researcher’s mentality; open-minded, curious, enthusiastic, inquisitive and accurate. You are capable of working independently, but you are also a team player. You have good organization and communication skills and master the English language. As this project focusses on the biological effects of microplastics on intestinal epithelial cells, the candidate is expected to have a great interest in cell biology and toxicology. Any previous experience with cell cultures and state-of-the-art molecular biology tools are recommended. Moreover, the candidate is expected to have excellent scientific English writing and presentation skills.

Responsibilities/Job Description

Micro- and nanoplastics (MP, plastic particles ≤ 5 mm) have been detected in drinking water, food, air and in human stools, evidencing human exposure, which is only expected to rise in the future. Exposure of humans to MNPs is most prominent via the oral route (ingestion) and respiratory route (inhalation). However, currently, little is known about the effects of microplastics on human health. Recent findings indicate that it is highly likely that MP can cross the epithelial barrier in the intestines (as well airways/lungs and thus may exert detrimental biological effects in the human body). One of the specific goals of this project is the quantification of human body exposure to MP through the ingestion route, and to study the effect of size, shape and concentration on these processes. Secondly, an in-depth MP hazard characterization on intestinal cells as well as secondary organs (e.g. liver) is being performed.

The Brigid project (“Bridging the gap between microplastics and human health”) aims to improve our understanding of the impacts of MP oral exposures on human health by generating robust and reliable scientific exposure and hazard data, indicating the critical MP properties which trigger uptake and/or toxicity following oral exposure. With this, Brigid will lay the foundations for the establishment of an innovative risk assessment framework. The Brigid project is funded by Plastics Europe, a leading European trade association. The Netherlands Organisation for applied scientific research (TNO) is partner in this international consortium.

To address these research questions, this project will deploy simple and more advanced in vitro cell culture and ex vivoorgan perfusion systems. These will include primary cells, cell lines as well as advanced ex vivo intestinal and liver models.

In this project, relevant read-out parameters will be investigated by using state-of-the-art cellular and molecular biology tools and in the end this should result in a PhD thesis.

You will conduct your PhD research at TNO in a new international project investigating the possible health risks of MP via the oral exposure route. Within the research, advanced in vitro cell and ex vivo tissue models will be used to investigate the absorption of MP across the gut barrier, and how the liver subsequently handles these microplastics. You will also investigate the biological effects of these microplastics on these organ models. Research will be performed with cell lines (Caco-2, hepatocytes) and advanced ex vivo and organ on-a-chip models (InTESTine, Intestine Explant Barrier model) as well as organ perfusion models (liver perfusion). You will play an important role in this international project and will perform the research within TNO. Activities include, amongst others:

  • Set up in vitro and ex vivo experiments
  • Conducting experiments
  • Processing, analyzing and interpreting the data
  • Presenting results in project consortium and in the scientific field

TNO is an inspiring environment where research is conducted into practical solutions for societal challenges, including microplastics, using diverse expertise. Microplastics are an important topic within TNO's Circular Economy and Environment unit. The project will therefore be carried out in a multidisciplinary context in which various units of TNO are involved. You think along and contribute in a multidisciplinary team of experts in the field of microplastics and health.

The project is in collaboration with the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, of NUTRIM School for Nutrition and Translational Research in Metabolism, Maastricht University. You will be employed by Maastricht University and obtain a PhD doctorate from this University. The research activities will be carried out at the TNO premises; location Zeist (first year) and location Leiden from the second year onwards.

How to Apply?

Application Method: Online Application
Ref. No.: AT2022.95

Application Procedure

Basic documents required for the application

About the Department/Section/Group

TNO (Nederlandse organisatie voor Toegepast-Natuurwetenschappelijk Onderzoek) is one of the major contract research organisations in Europe. With a staff of approximately 2,600 and an annual turnover of 580 million euros, TNO is carrying out research in order to achieve impact within the following nine units: Healthy Living; Industry; Traffic & Transport; Energy; Buildings; Infrastructure & Maritime; Information & Communication Technology; Defence, Safety and Security; Circular Economy & Environment; and Strategic Analysis & Policy. TNO functions as an intermediary between research organisations and industry. By translating scientific knowledge into practical applications, TNO contributes to the innovation capacity of businesses and government. TNO is involved in many international projects (about 30% of the market turnover), including EU-funded collaborations.

More information:

NUTRIM - School for Nutrition and Translational Research in Metabolism is part of the Faculty of Health Medicine and Life Sciences of the Maastricht University. NUTRIM catalyses translational research into metabolic and chronic inflammatory disorders (i.e. metabolic syndrome/diabetes, IBD/intestinal failure and COPD) that will contribute to innovative personalized lifestyle and medicine approaches with a focus on nutrition, toxicology and metabolism. Within NUTRIM, approximately 400 scientists including 245 PhD students, and an additional 70 support staff members work interdisciplinary together in 16 Biomedical, clinical, and behavioral-science departments. Through its research master and PhD programme NUTRIM aims to educate investigators of high scientific excellence and ambassadors to support and develop this research field.

More information:

The Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology consist of a multidisciplinary team of biologists, chemists and toxicologists working together to address mechanisms by which environmental chemicals and oxidative stress alter cellular processes to cause diseases and study the way in which intervention is possible. To reach these goals, the department's laboratory is well equipped with facilities for chemical analysis including mass spectrometry (MS) and electron spin resonance (ESR), the analysis of DNA damage and multiple state-of-the-art molecular biological techniques. The research is carried out on a (bio) chemical, cellular, tissue or whole organism level. The department consists of 16 staff members (4 professors, 3 senior lecturers and 9 lecturers/postdocs), 6 support technicians and 15 PhD students.

About the Employer:

Note or Other details

Temporary employment for 4 years. The first year will be a probation period, after a positive assessment the position will be extended for another 3 years, which happens in the vast majority of cases.

Your salary would be € 2.443,- gross per month in the first year up to € 3.122,- gross per month in the fourth year according to the PhD-candidate salary scale. An 8% holiday and an 8.3% year-end allowance is also provided. Each year an evaluation will take place.

The terms of employment of Maastricht University are set out in the Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities (CAO). Furthermore, local UM provisions also apply. For more information look at the website > About UM > Working at UM.

Scroll Down for Content

Contact details

Additional information can be obtained from:

Dr. Ingeborg Kooter ([email protected])

Dr. Evita van de Steeg ([email protected])

Prof. Dr. Frederik-Jan van Schooten ([email protected])

Advertisement Details:

Other Vacancies from this field

Scroll Down for Content