PhD position in Experimental Psychopathology 'A new approach to fear reduction by disrupting reconsolidation of threat memories' Utrecht University Department of Clinical Psychology Netherlands

PhD position in Experimental Psychopathology 'A new approach to fear reduction by disrupting reconsolidation of threat memories' (1.0 FTE)



Job description

This PhD project is part of an NWO VICI Grant awarded to Prof. Dr. Iris Engelhard and will be performed in the Experimental Psychopathology lab of the Department of Clinical Psychology, Utrecht University. Research will be conducted within the context of a research programme that concentrates on mechanisms of change in the treatment of trauma and anxiety-related disorders. The VICI project focuses on the development of therapeutic techniques to persistently weaken pathological fear. Patients often suffer from vivid mental images of trauma in the past and of future threatening events that were never experienced. These images are debilitating and have a persistent nature. Insights from neuroscience show that a consolidated trauma memory can return to a transient labile state, from which it has to restabilize in order to persist. This process of reconsolidation renders the memory sensitive to modification. This PhD project will focus on promising psychological methods to devalue episodic memories of both past and future threat events. Findings from fundamental experimental studies will be translated to clinical practice, within the larger framework of the VICI project.


The core tasks will include development of experimental studies and programming protocols, recruitment and data collection both in healthy and anxious participants, analysis of psychophysiological and behavioral data, communication of results via publication in scientific journals and presentations at conferences, and collaboration with other lab members working on this project. There will be close collaborations with different disciplines within Utrecht University and other (international) centers.




We are looking for an enthusiastic candidate who has a genuine interest in emotional memory and anxiety disorders, strong motivation to conduct experimental research, willingness to work within a larger research group, interest in standard and advanced data analysis methods, and excellent writing skills. Advantages are research experience (during the master thesis or research internship) with emotional memory and clinical experience with patients suffering from anxiety or trauma-related disorders.


The candidate has:


    a Master’s degree in the field of Clinical Psychology and/or Experimental Psychopathology and/or Neuroscience;

    well-developed analytical skills and creativity;

    excellent social and organizational skills;

    excellent writing and presentation skills (English and preferably Dutch);

    knowledge of and experience in episodic memory, fear conditioning or psychophysiology research.





We offer full-time temporary employment for one year that, with satisfactory completion, will result in an extension for an additional three years. Salary will range from a minimum of €2,325 to a maximum of €2,972 per month based on a full-time appointment. In addition, we offer attractive and flexible secondary terms of employment such as an annual holiday pay of 8%, an end-of-year bonus of 8.3% per year and partially paid parental leave. Other secondary conditions include e.g. a pension scheme, partially paid parental leave and flexible employment conditions. For more information visit our website.


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.


The Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences is one of the leading faculties in Europe providing research and academic teaching in Cultural Anthropology, Educational Sciences, Interdisciplinary Social 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.


The candidate will join the Dutch-Flemish Postgraduate School ‘Experimental Psychopathology’, which will provide additional training and facilitate networking and collaboration with other researchers in the field of Experimental Psychopathology.


Additional information

For additional information, please contact Prof. Iris Engelhard via



Applications should include a motivation letter and a full cv (including copies of your academic transcripts). You can apply online via the button below


The first interviews will be held in early June and the preferred starting date is September 1, 2019.



The application deadline is


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