PhD position: The Memory Function of Sleep: Reactivating lost memories

PhD position: The Memory Function of Sleep: Reactivating lost memories using Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation (NIBS) and a Pharmacological Approach at the Department of Neuropsychology and Psychopharmacology (NP&PP)


Job Description
In our lab, we study ‘The Memory Function of Sleep’. To this end, we conduct both animal and human studies. Some of this work is conducted by looking at the beneficial effects of sleep on memory, but mostly we research sleep’s role in memory by studying the negative consequences of the absence of sleep (sleep loss). Using this approach, the molecular mechanisms behind the negative effects of sleep loss on memory have largely been elucidated. This provided important insights into how sleep is important for memory function during sleep. What remained unknown, however, was the question to what extent these memories are lost. Recent work of our lab, using a combined optogenetic and pharmacological approach, revealed that memories compromised by sleep loss are not completely lost and can even be artificially retrieved in rodents. The current project aims to translate these findings to the human setting. A challenge that arises is the need for a human-applicable alternative for optogenetic memory reactivation. We have successfully used subliminal reactivation paradigms to this end. However, this only results in temporary restoration of the memory. We are searching for means to make the restored memories permanently accessible again. The aim of the current PhD project is to investigate the potential of a pharmacological approach as well as non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS) in combination with subliminal memory reactivation. The NIBS studies are conducted in direct collaboration with experts in the field (i.e., Prof. Alexander Sack and Dr. Vincent van de Ven at the department of Cognitive Neuroscience).


The PhD student will be involved in all aspects of human testing. From obtaining ethical approval to manuscript publication. The PhD student will become proficient in the use of NIBS for memory research, pharmacological stimulation of memory function, and the general procedures involving medical scientific research. The PhD student will be part of the department of Neuropsychology and Psychopharmacology, specifically the Psychopharmacology section. There are currently three other PhD students working in the lab of Dr. Heckman (each working on their own, but related, projects). 


Responsibilities/tasks of the PhD student:

  • Development of a doctoral dissertation under the supervision of the Principal Investigator and a (co)promotor
  • Contribution to the full project plan (under supervision)
  • Obtaining the BROK certification
  • Obtaining medical-ethical approval
  • Participant testing and execution of the studies
  • Project management
  • Navigating stimulus presentation software
  • Learning the neurobiological underpinnings of non-invasive brain stimulation
  • Obtaining certified user status and safety qualification to administer non-invasive brain stimulation techniques (magnetic, electric) to healthy participants
  • Use of non-invasive brain stimulation
  • Acquisition, postprocessing and analyzing behavioral and neuroimaging data (e.g., EEG)
  • Active contribution to other research activities within the larger research group
  • Setting up and/or maintaining (inter-) national collaborations within the field
  • Keeping up with the relevant scientific literature within the field of study
  • Supervising students/interns on the research project



  • (Research) Master’s degree in neuroscience or equivalent
  • Demonstrated ability to work independently as well as in a team
  • Experience in human behavioral testing/studies
  • (At least some) experience in computational modelling/programming is desired
  • A personality characterized by communicative, collaborative, and organizational skills
  • Good oral and written English communication
  • Strong ethical stance in conducting and reporting on empirical scientific research
  • During the 4 years in Maastricht, the candidate will spend 5% of the time on teaching (i.e., tutoring, assist in neuroanatomy practical, etc.) with the option to start obtaining the University Teaching Qualification UTQ (in Dutch BKO)). Some interest in or affinity with teaching is highly recommended.


What we offer
As PhD position: The Memory Function of Sleep: Reactivating lost memories at Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience, you will be employed by the most international university in the Netherlands, located in the beautiful city of Maastricht. In addition, we offer you:

  • Good employment conditions. The position is graded in scale P according to UFO profile PhD, with corresponding salary based on experience ranging from €2770,00 and €3539,00 gross per month (based on a full-time employment of 38 hours per week). In addition to the monthly salary, an 8.0% holiday allowance and an 8.3% year-end bonus apply.
  • An employment contract for a period of 12 months with a scope of 1,0 FTE. Upon a positive evaluation, an extension of 3 years will follow. 
  • At Maastricht University, the well-being of our employees is of utmost importance, we offer flexible working hours and the possibility to work partly from home if the nature of your position allows it. You will receive a monthly commuting and internet allowance for this. If you work full-time, you will be entitled to 29 vacation days and 4 additional public holidays per year, namely carnival Monday, carnival Tuesday, Good Friday, and Liberation Day. If you choose to accumulate compensation hours, an additional 12 days will be added. Furthermore, you can personalize your employment conditions through a collective labor agreement (CAO) choice model. 
  • As Maastricht University, we offer various other excellent secondary employment conditions. These include a good pension scheme with the ABP and the opportunity for UM employees to participate in company fitness and make use of the extensive sports facilities that we also offer to our students. 
  • Last but certainly not least, we provide the space and facilities for your personal and professional development. We facilitate this by offering a wide range of training programs and supporting various well-established initiatives such as 'acknowledge and appreciate'. 


The terms of employment at Maastricht University are largely set out in the collective labor agreement of Dutch Universities. In addition, local provisions specific to UM apply. For more information, click here.

Maastricht University
Why work at Maastricht University?
At Maastricht University (UM), everything revolves around the future. The future of our students, as we work to equip them with a solid, broad-based foundation for the rest of their lives. And the future of society, as we seek solutions through our research to issues from all around the world. Our six faculties combined provide a comprehensive package of study programmes and research.

In our teaching, we use the Problem-Based Learning (PBL) method. Students work in small groups, looking for solutions to problems themselves. By discussing issues and working together to draw conclusions, formulate answers and present them to their peers, students develop essential skills for their future careers.

With over 22,300 students and more than 5,000 employees from all over the world, UM is home to a vibrant and inspiring international community.

Are you drawn to an international setting focused on education, science and scholarship? Are you keen to contribute however your skills and qualities allow? Our door is open to you! As a young European university, we value your talent and look forward to creating the future together.

Click here for more information about UM. 

Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience
The Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience (FPN) is an international faculty with students and staff from various cultural backgrounds, who are connected by their shared curiosity about human behaviour and our brains.   

This curiosity inspires us to explore the wide field of psychology from different perspectives (such as a biological and cognitive viewpoint). By using small-scale and student-centred methods, such as problem-based learning and project-based learning, we encourage a similar kind of curiosity in our students, as we provide them with the tools to discover the world of the human brain.  


Are you interested in this exciting position but still have questions? Feel free to contact Dr. Pim Heckman at for more information.


Or are you already convinced and ready to become our new PhD student? Apply now, no later than June 7, 2024 for this position.

The interviews preferably take place in the week of June 17th.

The vacancy is open for internal and external candidates. In case of equal qualifications, internal candidates will be prioritized. 

Maastricht University is committed to promoting and nurturing a diverse and inclusive community. We believe that diversity in our staff and student population contributes to the quality of research and education at UM, and strive to enable this through inclusive policies and innovative projects led by teams of staff and students. We encourage you to apply for this position.


Job Type:  Academic
Faculty/Service Center:  Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience
Closing date:  7-06-2024
FTE min:  1,0
FTE max:  1,0
Salary min:  €2770,00
Salary max:  €3539,00
ID job:  955
Job Type:  Academic
Faculty/Service Center:  Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience
Closing date:  7-06-2024
FTE min:  1,0
FTE max:  1,0
Salary min:  €2770,00
Salary max:  €3539,00
ID job:  955