Stem Cells and Organoid Biology

ESR project


Title of project

The development of stem cell therapy for the treatment of hypoxic-ischemic injury in the newborn brain.

We offer

A 4-year PhD student position in the interdisciplinary area of regenerative medicine. Your project will focus on the development of stem cell therapy for the treatment of hypoxic-ischemic injury in the newborn brain. You will be offered a full-time PhD position at the UMCU, initially for one year. Upon successful evaluation of the first year your employment will be extended for three more years (total: 4 years). Your gross salary will be in line with the collective labour agreement of your employer. The full-time gross monthly salary ranges at the UMCU from € 2357 to start with in the first year, to € 3020 after 3 years. The exact net salary will depend on your eligibility to receiving the 30% tax benefit. The 30% tax benefit cannot be guaranteed. The HR department will request for this benefit for you, after which the tax office will make a decision. Without the 30% tax benefit, the minimum net salary is approximately € 1,850 per month. The salary is supplemented by a guaranteed end-of-year bonus of 8.3% and a holiday allowance of 8% of your yearly salary. We offer a pension scheme (partly paid by employer), collective insurance schemes, parental leave, travel allowance (home to work and for work purposes), and a flexible system of benefits (multiple choice model at UU/ a la carte model at UMCU). Facilities for sports and childcare are available. Check the Careers at UMC Utrecht for more information about working at the UMCU. The mobility allowance is already included in the ESRs living allowance (salary). There is an internal individual training budget to attend external courses, conferences or workshops. Travel to the Partner Organisation and visa costs are financed by the project.


The Department Developmental Origins of Disease (DDOD) of the Wilhelmina Children’s Hospital and the UMCU Brain Center, both within the University Medical Center Utrecht, is a leading facility in the field of stem cell research for treatment of the newborn brain.

The DDOD has approximately 20 employees and is a fully equipped laboratory facility in a thriving research environment. We closely collaborate with clinicians at the Department of Neonatology, research groups within the UMCU Brain Center as well as with the Utrecht Life Science Campus (Biology, Biomedical Sciences, Medicine, Chemistry and Biomedical engineering) and international academic and industrial partners. You will be working as part of a team of PhD students, post-docs, senior researchers and (bio)technicians that are actively collaborating on projects to develop novel therapeutic strategies to protect and repair the neonatal brain. The underlying molecular, biological, physiological and functional mechanisms of neuroregeneration in the developing brain are studied.


The available project will focus on developing stem cell therapy for the treatment of hypoxic-ischemic brain injury in neonates. Hypoxia-ischemia around birth is a key risk factor for the development of brain injury in newborns, which represents a major clinical problem and results in severe life-long neurodevelopmental impairments. Currently treatment options are very limited, which is at least partially due to the lack of knowledge on the mechanisms that underlie such early brain damage. To elucidate these pathological mechanisms, we use neonatal rodent models and molecular, biochemical as well as in vitro cellular approaches. Hereby we aim to develop novel therapeutic interventions that repair neuronal damage.

Within this project, you will investigate the molecular and physiological impact of intranasal stem cell treatment in murine models of hypoxic-ischemic brain injury. You will perform in vivo experimental animal work as well as in vitro cell culture and numerous biochemical, molecular and histological techniques to investigate the underlying repair mechanisms and migration of mesenchymal stem cells in the injured newborn brain. Furthermore, you will focus on functional recovery of neuronal networks after stem cell therapy by in vivo behavioral paradigms as well as ex vivo electrophysiological assessments. You will have access to state-of-the-art imaging techniques (confocal, multi-photon and light-sheet microscopy, MRI) and electrophysiological recording techniques for in-depth assessments of the developing brain at the cellular and network level. You will work in a dynamic group of MD- and PhD-fellows, and peers. You will write scientific articles and will present your work nationally and internationally.


  • Master in Biomedical Sciences (or related)
  • Affinity with translational research, neuroscience and regenerative medicine
  • A strong interest in neuroscience and translational research comprising of in vivo animal research including behavioral paradigms and electrophysiology as well as in vitro cellular assays. Molecular, biochemical and immunohistochemical techniques will be used extensively in this project as well.
  • Experience with in vivo models, neuroscience, behavioral readouts and electrophysiology are of benefit.
  • Challenged by novel scientific concepts, are flexible and social, and have the ambition of becoming an independent scientist in an international and challenging research environment.
  • Ability to thrive in an interdisciplinary environment, learn quick and to contribute to team efforts and projects, to work in a stimulating network and scientific team of PhD students, post-docs, MDs and (bio)technicians
  • Ability to communicate effectively scientific ideas, foster collaboration and independent thinking.
  • Proven proficiency in written and spoken English.
  • Willing to temporarily work at collaborating research facilities in the Netherlands and overseas

We are looking for an excellent, talented, ambitious, enthusiastic, highly motivated and goal-oriented Early Stage Researcher (ESRs), with a no-nonsense mentality. The ideal candidate is interested in regenerative medicine and stem cell biology, is highly motivated to perform research in an excellent, exciting and international working environment, and is committed to a 4 year PhD track. You are excited about moving to Utrecht and to perform two secondments at one of the RESCUE Partner Organisations in NL, EU or globally.

This research project is one of the 30 PhD project within the RESCUE project, which is co-funded by the European Commission under Horizon 2020's Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions COFUND doctorate programme scheme. Specific and strict eligibility requirements with regards to mobility, career stage and the English language apply.

Mandatory and strict requirements: you are in the first four years (full-time equivalent) of your research career (no doctoral degree) prior to the appointment date; you did not reside or carry out your main activity (e.g. reside, work, studies) in the Netherlands for more than 12 months during the 3 years immediately prior to the application deadline; and you hold a MSc degree (or will graduate before the appointment date) in the above mentioned field(s). A summary of the other requirements: excellent communication skills and excellent proficiency of the English language (both oral and written) are absolutely required. You are accurate, cooperative, flexible and mobile. An inquisitive mind-set and self-reliance are very important.

Contact person & more information

Dr Cora Nijboer


This project is part of RESCUE, a multidisciplinary, intersectoral and interdisciplinary PhD training programme in Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cells organised by UMC Utrecht (coordinator) and Utrecht University. RESCUE is partly funded by the European Commission under Horizon 2020's Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions COFUND scheme. There are specific requirements with regards to English language and mobility for candidates who would like to take part in this programme. More information