PhD position on the fate of emotional episodic memories

Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences – Department of Psychology

Publication date
9 May 2017
Level of education
Master's degree
Salary indication
€2,191 to €2,801 gross per month
Closing date
2 June 2017
38 hours per week
Vacancy number

The Department of Psychology is a part of the Faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences (FMG), which is the largest educational and research institution in the social sciences in the Netherlands. The Faculty serves 7500 students in numerous Bachelor and Master programs in Psychology, Political Science, Sociology, Anthropology, Communication Science, Social Geography, Planning and International Development Studies, and Educational Sciences. Psychology is situated centrally in Amsterdam, and hosts program groups focusing on social, organizational, developmental, clinical, statistical, and cognitive psychology. It offers excellent facilities for undertaking research in a broad range of areas, including a range of psychophysiological, behavioral, EEG and TMS laboratories, as well as a 3T and 7T MRI scanner.

Project description

Our emotional memories seem to be a reliable record of our experiences. But nothing is further from the truth: recollection of past experiences changes over time and so do the accompanying emotions of these memories (emotional episodic memory). Recurrent reconstruction of upsetting experiences can even contribute to the development of emotional disorders. Classic theories of memory cannot easily explain such dynamics, but the recent (re)discovery of reconsolidation demonstrated that existing memories can re-enter an unstable state when retrieved. Critically, they are then susceptible to modification.

For this project, we seek a highly motivated and talented PhD candidate. You will critically test the operational conditions and underlying neurobiological mechanisms of reconsolidation in the modification of episodic emotional memories. To do so, you will further develop variations on a paradigm (including an fMRI version) that is suitable to measure episodic memories and their emotional (i.e., psychophysiological) expression. You will collect and analyze data to write a doctoral thesis on the basis of at least five experimental papers.

You will conduct your research under the supervision of dr. Vanessa van Ast (co-promotor) at the University of Amsterdam, as part of her NWO-funded project The fate of emotional episodic memories. The group focusses on the neuroendocrinological, physiological, and psychological mechanisms of memory formation and change, and how these explain clinically relevant phenomena like intrusive memories. The project is also part of the group of prof. dr. Merel Kindt, that focusses on the mechanisms of (memory) change in the treatment of anxiety and related disorders. Prof. Merel Kindt will be your promotor.

The position includes .2 fte of teaching. Accordingly, subject to availability and qualifications, you will contribute to the teaching program of Clinical Psychology, by e.g. supervising (bachelor) thesis students.


You have: (or are about to obtain) a MSc degree in (bio)psychology or a related field such as cognitive neuroscience or biomedical science; a strong interest in memory, brain functioning and psychophysiology; affinity and (preferably) experience with fMRI; affinity with programming (e.g., R, Matlab, Presentation); strong analytical and statistical skills; the ambition to become a leading scientist; a good command of written and spoken English; good project management skills; excellent social skills and team spirit. You are expected to work in an interdisciplinary environment, sharing technical know-how and ideas. You are willing and able to travel internationally.

Further information

Would you like to know more? Please contact:


The position starts in September 2017 but a later date may be considered, and is initially for 1 year. Extension of the contract after the first year to a total of four years depends on satisfactory performance. For PhD candidates, the gross monthly salary will be in accordance with the salary scales for PhD candidates at Dutch universities, i.e. ranging from €2,191 in the first year to €2,801 in the final year. The Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities is applicable.

Job application

Are you interested? For full consideration, applications should be sent by email to Mr H.H. Vinckers  before 3 June 2017. Please quote vacancy number 17-240 in the subject line of your email and include, in one assembled pdf file, the following four documents:

  • letter of motivation (maximally one page, attn. of dr. Vanessa van Ast);
  • detailed Curriculum Vitae;
  • grade-list of all completed (research) master courses;
  • the names and contact details of two scientists who are willing to provide references.

Please quote the project title (The fate of emotional episodic memories) on your application and include all the required documentation when applying. #LI-DNP

No agencies please

Published by  University of Amsterdam