PhD candidate in developmental neurocognition ‘How language and social development interact and affect social interaction across
Utrecht University, Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

PhD candidate in developmental neurocognition ‘How language and social development interact and affect social interaction across development: Comparing typical and atypical trajectories’ (1.0 FTE)


Job description

We are seeking a highly motivated PhD candidate to investigate the interplay between language and social development in early childhood, both within typical and atypical development (e.g., autism). This PhD candidate will work on existing data and contribute to data collection for the Youth-cohort. We have access to two longitudinal datasets: one on-going population-based cohort (Youth-cohort, n= up to 3,000; age 0-4 years) and one European cohort with infants at increased risk of developing autism (Eurosibs, n=400; age 0–3 years). Both datasets contain a wide variety of measures representing the child’s social interaction in everyday-life, as well as on language and social development, repeated at various age points.

The selected candidate will be supervised by Dr. Caroline Junge and Dr. Carlijn van den Boomen in the lab of Prof. Dr. Chantal Kemner at the Department of Experimental Psychology, Utrecht University, the Netherlands. The position is part of SAPIENS, a pan-European Marie Sklodowksa-Curie Innovative Training Network project which aims to investigate the role of the child and the caregiver in social interaction and social brain development. The network will train Early Stage Researchers (PhD candidates) and produce new knowledge, methods and technology to answer critical issues in our efforts to understand typical and atypical social interaction. The starting date is April 2019.

Job tasks

  • Completion and defence of a PhD thesis within four years, containing at least four peer-reviewed articles.
  • Assist in data collection in the Youth-cohort.
  • To use the data from the Youth-cohort to develop new techniques to predict and norm typical trajectories.
  • To subsequently test whether the integration of markers on language and social development can be extrapolated to the Eurosibs cohort, to predict atypical trajectories.
  • In a 3-month secondment, to be in contact with practitioners to help signal ASD at a much earlier age.
  • To present results at national and international scientific conferences.
  • To participate in SAPIENS training programmes (10%) and meetings.



We are looking for someone who:

  • holds (or nearly holds) a Master’s degree in Psychology, Neuroscience, Developmental Psychology or a related field;
  • has excellent written English communication skills, and is (willing to become) fluent in Dutch;
  • has good social skills, and preferably experience with testing infants or children;
  • can program large data analyses (e.g. in MATLAB or Python), or is ambitious to learn so;
  • is effective and efficient, and able to think conceptually;
  • is able to meet deadlines, and conduct research independently and as part of a team;
  • did not live longer than 12 months in the past three years in the Netherlands (as this position is part of the requirements for SAPIENS, which is a pan-European Marie Sklodowksa-Curie Innovative Training Network).


We offer a temporary position (1.0 FTE) for one year. Upon a positive performance, the appointment will be extended for three further years. The gross salary - depending on previous qualifications and experience - ranges between €2,266 and €2,897 (scale P according to the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities) gross per month for a full-time employment. Salaries are supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8 % and a year-end bonus of 8.3 % per year. We offer a pension scheme, (partly paid) parental leave, collective insurance schemes and flexible employment conditions (multiple choice model). More information is available at: working at Utrecht University. The selected researcher will become a junior member of the Helmholtz Institute of Experimental Psychology.


About the organization
A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching. At Utrecht University, the various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major societal themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Sustainability.

Utrecht is a young and vibrant city with a large academic population, around 30 minutes south of Amsterdam. It combines a beautiful old city centre with a modern university. Utrecht has an excellent quality of life, with plenty of green space and a strong bicycle culture.

The Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences is one of the leading Faculties in Europe providing research and academic teaching in Interdisciplinary Social Science, Cultural Anthropology, Educational Sciences, Pedagogical Sciences, Psychology, and Sociology. More than 5,600 students are enrolled in a broad range of undergraduate and graduate programmes. The Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences has some 850 faculty and staff members, all providing their individual contribution to the training and education of young talent and to the research into and finding solutions for scientific and societal issues.

Additional information
Additional information concerning this position can be obtained by contacting Iris Bleeker, Secretary of Prof. Dr. Kemner, via or +31 30 253 79 07.


You can apply by using the button below. Applications should include:

  • a research statement (about 1000 words), explaining why you are interested in the project and how you meet the requirements;
  • a cv with publication list (if you have any);
  • contact information of two references;
  • if you have no publications as first author, please also include a sample of your own academic writing, preferably describing experiments you conducted, such as a Master’s thesis.

The application deadline is

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