Universiteit Leiden

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PhD candidate Clinical Psychology

Vacancy number
Function type
PhD positions
Hours (in fte)
External/ internal
Placed on
11 February 2020
Closing date
20 March 2020

21 more days to apply

The section Clinical Psycholgy of the institute of Psychology of the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences is looking for a

PhD candidate Clinical

Project description
In the recently funded 10-year Gravitation Project ‘New Science of Mental Disorders’, a large consortium of researchers from 5 Dutch universities aims to further develop network theory and network methodology, and test the framework’s value and usefulness for personalized treatment and relapse prevention in clinical mental health practice. The network approach to mental illness has received considerable attention in recent years, and posits that psychopathology emerges due to causal dynamics among symptoms. From this perspective, clinical symptoms, such as insomnia or sadness, are not passive consequences of one underlying disorder, but rather active causal elements within a complex dynamical system. These systems often feature vicious cycles, making them difficult to escape for patients. These network theoretical processes are estimated using statistical models from the emerging field of network psychometrics.

Dynamic network models are commonly used to estimate relations among symptoms in one or more individuals across time (e.g. insomnia -> fatigue). The present PhD project will extend this framework and focus specifically on the social environment, and we will explore in which ways feelings and behaviours in one person can dynamically impact feelings and behaviors in other people, such as close family members.

The title of the project is ‘Communicating Networks’. The project is situated between clinical psychology and statistical methodology, and the PhD student will have several tasks. First, review the extant literature to identify (and possibly extend) the best statistical model for estimating dynamic network models in context of multiple actors, likely based on vector autoregressive models. Second, apply and validate the model to an already collected, unique empirical dataset collected in the context of a VICI grant awarded to Prof. Elzinga, which features depressed and non-depressed adolescents and their parents (this project likely includes a simulation study). Third, use tools from control theory we are currently developing to investigate potential intervention targets in the family systems. And finally, given these experiences, help the Gravitation project set up new studies on communicating networks. Other tasks will be analyzing data, and writing at least 4 articles. About 10% of student’s time will be spent gaining teaching experience, e.g. via the supervision of bachelor and master theses. Overall, the specific aspects of this project will be adapted and further extended based on the student’s interests and expertise. In our team we are strong advocates of modern open science principles such as pre-registration and we encourage active discussions and the exchange of ideas within the research group.

Selection criteria

  • Master's degree (preferably Research Master) in Clinical Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Statistical Methods, or a related study program;
  • Interest in inter-disciplinary research, from clinical research on family dynamics to network theory and network psychometrics;
  • You have strong analytic and statistical skills;
  • You are an enthusiastic researcher with the ambition to become a top scientist;
  • You enjoy working in a team and you have good social skills;
  • You are creative and an autonomous thinker.

Our organisation
The Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences comprises four institutes: Education and Child Studies, Political Science, Psychology and Cultural Anthropology & Development Sociology. The Faculty also includes the Centre for Science and Technology Studies. The Faculty is home to 5,000 students and 600 members of staff. Our teaching and research programmes cover diverse topics varying from adoption to political behaviour.

Terms and conditions
We offer a
 full-time position of initially one year, with the prospect of a total of 4 years of employment. Salary range from €2,325.- to 2,972.- gross per month on a full-time basis (pay scale P, in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities).

Leiden University offers an attractive benefits package with additional holiday (8%) and end-of-year bonuses (8.3 %), training and career development. Our individual choices model gives you some freedom to assemble your own set of terms and conditions. For international spouses we have set up a dual career programme.
 Candidates from outside the Netherlands may be eligible for a substantial tax break. 

The appointment should preferably start on May 2020. The supervisory team consists of Prof. Dr. Bernet Elzinga and Dr Eiko Fried. The student will become a junior member of the Flemish-Dutch research school Experimental Psychopathology (EPP), will be embedded in the large-scale Gravitation consortium, and can participate in numerous formal and informal network theoretical and network psychometric events that happen regularly across the Netherlands. The PhD candidate will follow relevant courses in the fields of statistical analyses and writing skills.

For more information about the vacancy, please contact Prof. Dr. Bernet Elzinga, email elzinga@fsw.leidenuniv.nl.

We believe that diversity and inclusion are integral to the future of psychological science. Those from backgrounds traditionally underrepresented in science are encouraged to apply. 

Please submit online your application no later than 20th of March 2020 via the blue button in our application system. Applicants should submit online a letter of interest accompanied by a CV.

Enquiries from agencies are not appreciated.

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