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Two fully funded PhD positions to look at the chronobiology of vaccination response

Vaccination is important to protect against infectious diseases such as influenza and COVID-19. The circadian clock is known to influence immune cell distribution and function and affect the induction of the adaptive and innate immune responses. Hence, the time of vaccination has an impact on the quality of the immune response to the vaccine antigens. The time of blood collection for analyses has an effect on the measured values of immune parameters. Disturbing the biological clock by nightwork or shiftwork is expected to have a significant impact on the immune system. It is important to understand how timing of vaccination affects vaccination response, how this vaccine response affects the risk of infection, and how we use this information to offer better protection against infectious diseases.

The ultimate goal of this project is to determine which time of the day vaccines should be administered to offer the best protection by the vaccination. The project offers tracks for two PhD-students who will start simultaneously and who will collaborate closely.

Specifically the objectives are to:

  1. Determine the effect of dosing time on the antibody and cellular immune response to vaccination (PhD student 1 at RIVM’s Centre for Immunology of Infectious Diseases and Vaccines);
  2. Determine the impact in number of infections and burden of disease if dosing time is changed (PhD student 2 at RIVM’s Centre for Infectious Diseases, Epidemiology and Surveillance).

In PhD track (position 1) you will perform clinical and mechanistic studies, measure vaccine-induced immunity, as well as apply statistical analyses to understand the circadian rhythm of immune cells and to determine how time of day affects the vaccination response. In PhD track (position 2) you will use mathematical and statistical models to capture the annual and circadian patterns in antibody levels or other biomarkers for various pathogens, and determine how shifts in diurnal fluctuations in the immune system will affect the spread of an infection in the population, and calculate the potential impact that optimized timing of vaccination could have on increasing vaccine effectiveness, reducing the prevalence of infection, severity and burden of disease. You will use available data already collected at the RIVM, and collaborate with the other PhD student in conducting studies and interpreting the results. In both positions you will work together with researchers at the RIVM and the Leiden University Medical Center.

These PhD positions are part of in total 25 positions at the core of the BioClock consortium, funded by the Dutch Research Council (NWO) in the framework of the Dutch Research Agenda (NWA). BioClock is a national consortium in which academic institutes, societal partners, and industry join forces to address a broad spectrum of fundamental and applied research questions on the circadian clock in modern society. As a PhD student in the BioClock consortium, you will get the opportunity to actively participate in this multidisciplinary team effort. See for more information about the BioClock consortium.

Qualifications and skills
We are looking for a candidate with:
• a (research) master in biomedical sciences, life sciences or …
• interest in infectious diseases, vaccination and the circadian clock
• for PhD position 1: background in immunology with affinity for clinical trials and data analysis; experience with cell culture, flow cytometry
• for PhD position 2: background in modelling with affinity for immunology
• for both positions, experience in data-analysis preferably with a programming language such as R
• strong and enthusiastic motivation for a PhD track in translational public health research
• originality in scientific questions, presentation and publication
• an analytical mind-set and ability to work independently
• excellent communication skills in English (speech and writing)
• a profile of a team player with interest in cross-disciplinary work
• a respectful attitude towards colleagues and collaborators

The PhD position is available immediately and funded for 4 years. The salary is according to the doctoral student scale. Both PhDs will be based at the RIVM in Bilthoven, The Netherlands. The RIVM offers an international, multidisciplinary, and highly stimulating environment. Vaccination is mandatory for this function.

For further information about the project, please contact or

Applications can only be submitted through the online application form via To apply for this position, upload a letter explaining your current skills, skills that you would like to develop for this project, why you are suited to the position, and your future career plans, together with your CV.

PhD position
Rijksinstituut voor Volksgezondheid en Milieu (RIVM)
The Netherlands
Closing date
June 23rd, 2022
Posted on
June 14th, 2022 10:17
Last updated
June 14th, 2022 10:27