PhD Position in Neuroscience
Catholic University of Leuven Center for Contextual Psychiatry

The Center for Contextual Psychiatry (CCP) is a world-leading, multidisciplinary and internationally oriented research centre, widely recognized for its expertise in the design, application, and analysis of studies using ambulatory assessment and experience sampling methodology in the context of mental health research. The CCP is headed by Prof. Inez Myin-Germeys and currently consists of 30 researchers from diverse backgrounds (clinical and experimental psychology, psychiatry, statistics, philosophy, movement sciences). We aim to provide a supportive and collegial environment for all of our researchers, including ample training and mentoring opportunities for PhD researchers, as well as weekly lab meetings with lively discussions and presentations. Our group is committed to producing high-quality, ambitious and scientifically rigorous work, which seeks to make tangible, real-world differences in the lives of people with mental health problems. We work according to open science practices and lead initiatives to facilitate the use of open science practices by other researchers, to increase transparency and reproducibility. The CCP is part of the Department of Neurosciences in the School of Medicine at KU Leuven, one of the most renowned research universities in Europe. The PhD project will be supervised by Dr Olivia Kirtley and Dr Glenn Kiekens, who lead the non-suicidal and suicidal self-injurious thoughts and behaviours research line within the CCP, and Prof. Inez Myin-Germeys


Up to 10% of adolescents and adults engage in non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI; e.g., cutting, hitting) every year and are at increased risk for suicide and various other adverse outcomes (e.g., stigma, depression, interpersonal stress). Suicide is the second leading cause of death for 15 - 29 year-olds worldwide. As such, NSSI and suicide represent major global public health issues, especially in young people. Despite this, we still lack the ability to effectively predict NSSI and suicidal behaviours where they occur: in individuals’ everyday lives. Without this knowledge, preventing NSSI and suicidal behaviour will remain a significant challenge. Existing research has relied heavily upon traditional self-report questionnaires using observation windows from months-to-years, lacking temporal precision to capture dynamic fluctuations in NSSI and suicidal behaviour.  Fortunately, the proliferation of new technologies have made it feasible to start answering a question of crucial clinical relevance: when are young people at acute risk of non-suicidal and suicidal thoughts and behaviors in daily life? Against this background, this innovative PhD project will harness the power of cutting-edge experience sampling methods and wearable technology to lay the foundation for novel interventions and collect data in two daily life studies: a clinical study with individuals who have engaged in NSSI and another with young adults from the general population who are at risk of developing suicidal thoughts and behaviours. The project will involve developing individual risk prediction models that can accurately detect the risk of NSSI in daily life and investigating dynamic phenotypes of people who self-injure, as well as those at high-risk. The successful candidate will take a leading role in the two studies and will be responsible for conducting interviews with the participants and cooperating with clinicians. In collaboration with their supervisors, the PhD student will develop their own research questions and hypotheses, collect and analyse their data, and write papers for publication in international peer-reviewed journals. The insights from this PhD will pave the way for individualised treatment programmes and in-the-moment ecological momentary interventions for NSSI and suicidal thoughts and behaviours.


Applications for which the following information is uploaded will be considered:

Master's degree in Psychology or a related field (e.g., Mental Health, Psychiatry)

Clinical background or work-related experience in mental health care involving patient contact

Solid background in statistics and research methods (e.g., analyses will involve constructing within-person prediction models, using multilevel modeling) 

Strong interest in novel approaches to assessing and preventing non-suicidal and suicidal self-injurious behaviors in daily life

A creative, problem-solving personality, who can generate novel solutions independently, yet does not mind being challenged constructively to reach the best possible outcome

Knowledge of the experience sampling method, physiological measurement, and/or literature on non-suicidal and suicidal self-injury is an advantage

Excellent written and verbal command of the English language is required (C1 proficiency level)

Applicants must be fluent in Dutch. Non-Dutch speakers will not be considered for this position.

Note: This profile was created, considering all the essential skills that will be needed for the successful completion of the PhD project. If you are interested in this position but currently do not meet all requirements, we encourage you to apply and address in your cover letter how you aim to obtain the necessary skills within the first year of the Ph.D. However, English and Dutch language levels are an absolute requirement.


A contract for one year will be offered, which is renewable for another three years after positive evaluation. Salaries for Ph.D. students are competitive by international standards. The starting date is flexible but no later than March 2021. 


For more information, please contact Dr. Olivia Kirtley ( or Dr. Glenn Kiekens (

You can apply for this job no later than February 01, 2021 via the
KU Leuven seeks to foster an environment where all talents can flourish, regardless of gender, age, cultural background, nationality or impairments. If you have any questions relating to accessibility or support, please contact us at
  • Employment percentage: Voltijds
  • Location: Leuven
  • Apply before: February 1, 2021
  • Tags: Psychologie

If you apply for this position please say you saw it on Psychoneuroxy


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