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PhD programme

PhD programme Faculty of Science

The Faculty of Science at the VU has a broad range of research. One of the binding factors between the 12 departments of the Faculty is the combination of fundamental and applied research. Approximately 700 PhD students are working and studying at the Faculty and contribute at the high quality research of the Faculty. There are 10 graduate schools in the Faculty who often work closely together with national graduate schools.

More information on our PhD programme

  • PhD Education programme

    For every PhD candidate it is important to deepen the knowledge and skills, enabling them to become fully qualified scientists with an excellent perspective for a career of their choice. The educational program for PhD candidates of the Faculty of Science provides for a variety of activities enhancing the academic, professional and general skills of PhD candidates. During the PhD period each PhD candidate is required to obtain 30 EC's. The details of the requirements that are made concerning the educational program for PhD candidates can be found in the PhD Education Guidelines.

    Doctorate Regulations VU Amsterdam 
    PhD programs at VU Amsterdam typically take three to four years, depending on the scientific discipline and the type of appointment and funding in question. The VU Doctorate Regulations and admission procedure apply to all PhD candidates regardless of their type of appointment. The Doctorate Regulations covers issues such as admission to the PhD program and the responsibilities and authorities of those involved in the program.

  • Training and Supervision Plan (TSP)

    The admission process starts when an employee has been hired as an internal PhD candidate, or in the case of external PhD candidates, when the supervisor agrees to supervise the PhD candidate. Overall, the graduate schools are responsible for the admission process. The admission process starts after the application to the PhD has been successful. 

    Each PhD candidate develops an individual Training and Supervision Plan (TSP). This plan is tailor-made for your personal development with the aim of becoming a well-qualified independent researcher and professional in your field. When you have fulfilled all the requirements for the TSP at the end of your PhD you will obtain your doctorate diploma. 

    In the Supervision Plan you state the agreements you have made with your supervisors regarding the supervision. It is important to have the same expectations of the supervision as your supervisors. Such as: amount of time spent by supervisors on your PhD project, who is involved in which chapter or with which publication, number of meetings to evaluate the progress of the PhD project. The Supervision Plan is an agreement between the PhD candidate and the supervisors, therefore, both parties must agree with the content and with the specified arrangements. 

    In the Training Plan describes how you are going to meet the requirements of the PhD Education Program, which are stated in the PhD Education Guidelines. The Training Plan is split in four parts:

    1. Mandatory (minimum 4 EC)
      1. For the course on Scientific Integrity: Faculty Board (FB) will only admit students to this course after being fully registered in Hora Finita.
      2. A visit to at least one international conference is mandatory. 
    2. General skills (together with C: minimum 8, maximum 20 EC) 
    3. Scientific specialization (together with B: minimum 8, maximum 20 EC)
    4. Research-related activities (minimum 8, maximum 20 EC)

    The first version of the Training and Supervision Plan will be submitted, together with Form I, to the department (is PhD coordinator and the Vice Dean) within the first month of the admission of the PhD candidate. The Training and Supervision Plan is reviewed during the annual review (jaargesprek) of the PhD candidate with his/her supervisor(s). 

    For more specific information see the website of your graduate school or ask your PhD coordinator.

    DepartmentName key user and email addressName PhD coordinator and email address
    Chemistry & Pharmaceutical Sciences (AIMMS)Secretariaat
    Jurgen Haanstra   
    Computer ScienceMojca Lovrencak / Caroline Waij / Hellen Drooger
    Jacopo Urbani
    Earth SciencesFenny Bosse / Lesley Wuite /
    Monica Sanchez Roman
    Ecological SciencesTanja Elzer
    Toby Kiers
    Environment & Health (AIMMS)Caroline de Graaf / Renate Mooij
    Jurgen Haanstra 
    Health SciencesJozien Vedder
    Hanneke van Dongen
    Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM)Marjolijn Staarink
    Paolo Scussoline
    MathematicsMariëlle van der Aa
    Rob van der Vorst
    Molecular Cell Biology (AIMMS)Jeannet Wijker / Jacqueline Cransberg
    Jurgen Haanstra
    NeurosciencesAnna du Pree / Brigitte Borgman / Eline van Zon
    Renée Lustenhouwer
    Physics & AstronomyMarja Herronen / Chandra Westmaas-Doest
    Rick Bethlem
    AthenaJustine Hazenkamp-Browne / Lotte Snellenburg
    Barbara Regeer


  • PhD courses

    Below, you will find an overview of the PhD programme for each department of the faculty of Science. Please visit the pages of the specific department for more information about the education offered. Some departments have joint a national research school. Therefore the website links in some cases to a web address not part of the VU. For general questions PhD students can contact the PhD coordinator of the department (see schedule under Training and Supervision Plan). 

    Courses offered by the VU 
    Scientific Integrity 

    For more information contact Maaike Croes: 
    All PhD candidates that started after 1 April 2015 are required to take a course on scientific integrity. 

    The aims of the course are to:

    1. introduce you to the topic research integrity;
    2. help you identifying any potential grey areas in your research field;
    3. stimulate an open discussion of research integrity matters on the work floor.

    Courses 2021

    Deel I 2021Deel II 2021
    09 March 2021 (13.00– 17.15)
    19 April 2021 (13.00 – 17.15)
    28 June 2021 (13.00 – 17.15)
    05 October 2021 (13.00 – 17.00)
    02 November 2021 (09.00 –13.15)
    07 December 2021 (13.00 – 17.15) 
    19 January 2021 (13.00 – 17.00)
    17 May 2021 (09.00 – 13.00)
    21 June 2021 (13.00 – 17.00)
    14 September 2021 (09.00 – 13.00)
    23 November 2021 (09.00 – 13.00)
    13 December 2021 (13.00 – 17.00)

    Courses 2022

    Deel I 2022Deel II 2021
    07 February 2022 (13.00– 17.15)
    04 April 2022 (13.00– 17.15)
    04 July 2022 (13.00– 17.15)
    04 Oktober 2022 (13.00– 17.15)
    13 December 2022 (13.00– 17.15)
    08 March 2022 (13.00 – 17.00)
    10 May 2022 (13.00 – 17.00)
    13 September 2022 (13.00 – 17.00)
    15 November 2022 (13.00 – 17.00)

    You can subscribe for the first part of the course when you have 1) a registration of your PhD Admission in Hora Finita (please contact your department secretary for more information) 2) and you have completed the online course Research Integrity. Please send your certificate of the results of the online course Research Integrity to Simone Zindel/Maaike Croes at .

    Herewith more information about the course:

    Course ‘Writing a Data Management Plan’ for PhDs from FGB and Faculty of Science 
    Sign up through the Library Event Calendar  

    The course will be taught in two different versions: one for research with personal data (in the sense of the GDPR) and one for research without personal data. When registering for the course, please make sure that you sign up for the right version.

    Course dates: 

    • With GDPR: 15-12-2020, 12-1-2021, 19-1-2021 – registration closes 24-11-2020
    • Without GDPR: 26-1-2021, 16-2-2021, 23-2-2021 – registration closes 5-1-2021
    • With GDPR: 2-3-2021, 23-3-2021, 30-3-2021 – registration closes 9-2-2021
    • With GDPR: 14-4-2021, 12-5-2021, 26-5-2021 – registration closes 24-3-2021
    • Without GDPR: 20-5-2021, 10-6-2021, 17-6-2021 – registration closes 29-4-2021

    RegistrationLibrary Event Calendar (please select the course of your choice) 
    Workload: 1 EC 
    Target group: PhD students at FGB/Beta at the beginning of their research project (± 1st year) 
    Maximum number of participants: 30 
    Language: the default language for this course is English, but we can switch to Dutch in case all participants speak Dutch. If desired, assignments may be submitted in Dutch as well. 
    Costs: free of charge for VU PhD students 


    The University Library provides training on Research Data Management (RDM) for PhD students. We kindly invite PhD students from the Faculty of Behavioral and Movement Sciences (FGB) and the Faculty of Science to this course on writing a Data Management Plan.  

    Good RDM (e.g. storing, sharing, archiving, describing your research data) contributes to research transparency and integrity. Due to the advance of new technologies, data volumes and numbers of files are constantly increasing. For that reason good data management is an essential part of data-driven research as well. In this course, we will introduce and discuss the different aspects of RDM which typically need to be covered in a data management plan (DMP), such as data description, data storage during research, sharing data with colleagues, data archiving after research and data citation. The various components of research data management will be related to the FAIR principles (that is, principles to make data Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable). We will also address the ethical and legal framework, including the General Data Protection Regulation (the European law on privacy), if applicable.  

    In this course, you’ll learn why good RDM is necessary and how it can be beneficial to your research. In two interactive workshops, we will provide you with practical guidelines and instruments to manage your data properly. You will be working on a DMP for your own research, so that you can apply the things you learn to your own project. Your DMP will be peer reviewed by another participant of the course and you will peer review someone else’s DMP. At the end of the course you will also receive feedback from an RDM expert. Due to COVID-19 the workshops currently take place online. 

    The course consists of the elements described below. Part of the materials need to be studied prior to the first workshop. 

    Preparation (reading materials and watching videos) 9 hours
    2 online workshops of 2 hours 4 hours
    Assignment 1 | RDM Framework4 hours
    Assignment 2 | First draft DMP 6 hours
    Peer review DMP 1 hour
    Assignment 3 | Final DMP 4 hours 
    Total 28 hours (= 1 EC)

    You can receive 1 EC for this course. In order to obtain this credit, you need to meet the following requirements:

    • Participate in both workshops
    • Submit all assignments
    • Do a peer review of someone else’s DMP
    • Assignment 3 should be of sufficient quality

    Links to graduate school pages 

    Athena Institute
    Chemistry & Pharmaceutical Sciences (AIMMS)
    Computer Science
    Earth Sciences
    Ecological Sciences
    Environment & Health (AIMMS)
    Health Sciences
    Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM)
    Molecular Cell Biology (AIMMS)
    Physics & Astronomy
  • Hora finita

    Registration of the promotion trajectory 
    The promotion trajectory has to be registered in the tracking system Hora Finita. This trajectory has to be started by the secretary of your department (see schedule below). When this has started you will receive an email with the request fill in all information needed and upload the required documents. The whole process of the beginning to your defence will be registered in Hora Finita. When you have any questions, please contact the secretary of your department. 

    Hora Finita Login 
    Go to and then click the button 'login with VUnetID'. 

  • PhD Support

    Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam offers its employees a varied range of training programmes, courses and workshops. You will find the complete range in the Learning Management System (LMS). The Quick Reference Card (QRC) ‘Search and register for courses and update your learning plan’ explains how the LMS works. You can find this QRC via the link to the LMS.

    VU courses, especially for PhD’s, are:

  • PhD Council

    The PhD council
    Welcome to the information page of the PhD Council of the Beta Faculty. If you have questions on requirements and education you are in exactly the right place. We can also help if you want to get to know your fellow PhD-students. And we will also try to reach you, in order to be able to represent our needs as PhD-students within the Beta faculty.

    Goals of the council
    The PhD council was established with two overarching goals in mind: 1) to improve communication from the Beta faculty board to PhD students in all graduate schools of the Beta Faculty, and 2) to represent the needs of PhD students in the faculty of Beta sciences. As such, the PhD council aims to provide information on ‘doing’ your PhD, communicate on new regulations and education requirements for PhD students, gain insights into problems and solutions experienced and offered by PhD students and facilitate a network of PhD students at the Beta faculty.

    Who are in the council?
    PhD representatives of all graduate schools of the Beta faculty are involved in the PhD council. You can find a profile of us here below.

    Agata Malinowska
    Room: WN U-030

    Who am I?
    My name is Agata Malinowska and I am working on my PhD at the department of Physics. I’m part of the group of the Physics of Living Systems, where we research biological systems at the single-molecule level.

    What is my research about?
    My main project is focused on understanding the processes driven by the ice-binding proteins: inhibition of the recrystallization of ice (causing ice to stay in form of small grains) and introduction of thermal hysteresis (lowering of the freezing point of water). Such proteins appear in cells and blood of various organisms that live in the Antarctic area and can be very helpful for preserving crops or protecting organs during transportation on ice.

    Why am I a member of the PhD council?
    I believe the PhD council can be a bridge between the PhD students and the Faculty Board and it has already greatly improved the communication between the two. We want to strengthen the community within the PhDs of the faculty, provide help with PhD related issues and lower the amount of stress all PhD students are being subjected to.

    Tessa Roedema
    Who am I?
    My name is Tessa Roedema, a PhD-student working at the Athena Institute – the department for inter- and transdisciplinary research in the health and life sciences at the VU. I love to step outside of my comfort zone and I am eager to take on new challenges, as I feel these are ideal situations to learn. In my student and working life I have put this to practice by switching from biomedical sciences; to studying complex societal problems; to taking on my current PhD-position in the field of Science Communication.

    What is my research about?
    My research is part of the EU-funded RETHINK project, that aims to improve the quality of interactions between science and society. We specifically focus on the fast-changing science communication landscape. This landscape is characterised by science opening-up to society and digitalisation, thereby inviting a wide variety of new actors now engaged in online scicomm, social media and fake news. A guiding principle in our effort to bring science and society closer together is that the local knowledge of citizens and scicomm practitioners across the EU should play a vital role in shaping future scientific developments.

    Why do I love being a member of this PhD council?
    My interest in bringing people together and sharing our knowledge is what drove me to apply for the PhD council. As a member of this council I hope to connect people with different perspectives and backgrounds, because I believe that 1+1=3!

    Tom Eames
    Who am I?
    I am Tom Eames, doing my PhD in the ‘Earth and Climate’ group within the department of Earth Sciences. I am passionate about climate change issues in our society and hope to be able to assist in addressing the problem by adding to our understanding of it!

    What is my research about?
    In a word, fire. Wildfires are featuring more and more in the news, and our group is focussed on quantifying greenhouse gas emissions from fires worldwide. My own research is more remote sensing based – I use drones to map areas before and after fires in Savanna ecosystems with multispectral cameras. These can be then used to estimate things like fuel load (i.e. total vegetation) area burned, combustion completeness, and also to compare and validate satellite observations over the same area. Additionally, part of the work I do goes towards validating carbon credit schemes using fire management techniques, so making sure that the offset programs available actually work!

    Why do I love being a member of this PhD council?
    (Probably) everybody doing a PhD is fascinated by their research and loves what they do! But it’s not always the easiest job in the world. Seeing as I can’t make anybody’s research any easier, I’d like to try and help make the rest of their work lives a little smoother and less stressful so that all the important research happening at the VU can be as good as possible!

    Fabio Buccoliero
    Room: NU 9A-94

    Who am I?
    I am Fabio Buccoliero. I am a PhD student in the mathematics department, where I work on topological graph theory. I am passionate about mathematics and how to explain mathematics in an easy way.

    What is my research about?
    My research consists of applying knot theory to graph theory. In particular, I work with graphs (which are just a bunch of points connected by lines) whose lines are knotted, called spatial graphs. I try to see which of these spatial graphs can be put on top of a sphere or other surfaces, without letting their lines intersect each other.

    Why am I a member of a PhD council?
    I love being involved in what happens in my university. I believe that the PhD council is a wonderful opportunity not only to keep myself informed but also to be active for my department.

    Kristina Thompson
    Who am I?
    My name is Kristina Thompson. I am a fourth-year Ph.D. student in the health economics section of the V.U. Amsterdam’s Health Sciences Department. I have a background in public health and history, and am interested in the interplay of social and economic factors and health outcomes.

    What is my research about?
    I examine body height (as a summary measure of early-life well-being)’s relationship to later-life health outcomes (e.g. mortality and socio-economic status).

    Why am I a member of the PhD council?
    I’m interested in helping to create a real Ph.D. community. The Council offers the opportunity to connect Phds with relatively diverse backgrounds, and to discuss our issues and successes all together. Ultimately, I think the Council has the potential to improve the working lives of Beta Faculty Ph.D.s.

    Juami van Gils
    Who am I?
    My name is Juami van Gils, and I am doing my PhD in the Computer Science department at the VU. As part of the bioinformatics group, we apply computational techniques such as machine learning and simulations of 3D molecular systems to answer complex biological questions. Until the end of 2020, I am also the chair of the PhD council.

    What is my research about?
    The aim of my project is to gain a deeper understanding of the thermodynamic properties of protein structure, more specifically beta-sheet formation. This work has applications in biotechnology, but can also help us understand amyloid-related diseases such as Alzheimer and Parkinson, where these structures play a major role.

    Why am I a member of this PhD council?
    In the PhD council of the Science faculty, I hope to help students feel at home at the VU. We can do this by addressing important issues that PhD students encounter directly with the faculty, but also by organising social events where students can get to know each other, and by being a point of contact in case something is not going so well.

    Xiaoran Li
    room: NU-8A40

    Who am I 
    I am Xiaoran Li, working on my Ph.D. research on China's role in governing global climate change at the Department of Environmental Policy Analysis (EPA) Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM). I have a background in development studies and communication for my previous studies.

    What is my research about?
    I pay special attention to the multilevel climate governance at different policy levels and the coherence among various levels.  As China's role in governing global climate change has been changing in the past decade, we lack good knowledge of the "state of the art" on China's climate governance. By focusing on the multi-dimensions and multi-actors relating to climate governance in China, I want to address: 1. the process through which climate governance takes place; 2. how climate change governance takes place; 3. by whom climate governance is being undertaken; 4. why and with what implications the governing of climate change is taking particular forms. 

    Why do I love being a member of this PhD council?
    There are many unwritten rules for doing a Ph.D. that could have saved you from large amounts of confusion, depression, and wasted efforts if only you had been told earlier. I believe that the Ph.D. council can play this role in PhDs life and help them better balance their work and life. 

    Saúl Fernandes
    room: WN-H127

    Who am I 
    My name is Saúl Fernandes. I am PhD in the Ecological Science department in the group of Ecotoxicology. I am enthusiastic about studying the environmental impacts of human actions, with a particular interest in soils. 

    What is my research about?
    My project focus on exploring the role of soil organisms in ecosystem services and study its potential sensitivity to chemical stressors. Particularly, I am investigating the effects of pesticides commonly used in agriculture on ecosystem services provided by soil micro-arthropods.

    Why do I love being a member of this PhD council?
    I believe it is very important for my PhD colleagues in Ecological Science to have a member of this council. I want to help in the representation of our interests and have a positive contribution to the council’s goals. 

    Doug Wightman
    room: WN-B636

    Who am I 
    I am Doug Wightman, a PhD student in the Neurosciences department. My research focuses on the genetics of Alzheimer’s disease and maintaining pipelines to make genetic analysis accessible.

    What is my research about?
    My projects largely focus on identifying novel genes associated with Alzheimer’s disease and adding additional resources to pipelines to prioritise variants and genes in genome wide association studies. 

    Why do I love being a member of this PhD council?
    I enjoy being a member of this PhD council because it is important to represent the interests of the students and to help improve their day-to-day experiences.

    Nikos Kondylidis
    Room: NU:10th floor A35

    Who am I?
    I am Nikos and I am doing my Ph.D. in the Knowledge Reasoning and Representation (KRR) group of the Computer Science department. I like socializing, meeting new people, and trying to better understand their points of view. I would be very happy if in the future my work could help different communities or people to understand each other and make it easier to find a common ground for living together.

    What is my research about?
    My research is funded by the European project "Meaning and Understanding in Human-centric Artificial Intelligence" (MUHAI) which is focused on researching artificial intelligence methods that have more humane properties. These properties would include common sense and understanding of social issues and are aimed to be applied in human-focused domains like disambiguating recipe execution and predicting or explaining social inequality causes. In more detail, my Ph.D. is focused on assisting two parties, that use different vocabularies, to successfully communicate, interact, and cooperate. Specifically, the two parties are represented by two knowledge graphs and the tasks that I am working on are best described by the terms meaning coordination and ontology alignment.

    Why do I love being a member of this Ph.D. council?
    As a Ph.D. student, I can experience some of the problems that other students are facing. Being a member of the Ph.D. council allows you to better understand these problems and why they occur while also the opportunity to try and resolve them or at least officially acknowledge them as a starting point. Finally, I understand that the Ph.D. experience alone can be very tough and I want to try my best to ensure that our Faculty is supporting its students as much as possible.

    Jennie Weemhoff 

    Room: WN A-511

    Who am I? I am Jennie Weemhoff. I am a PhD-candidate at the Athena Institute where I research competency-development of participants of community service learning. I have an interdisciplinary background, primarily in social sciences and humanities.

    What is my research about? Community Service Learning (CSL) is a form of education, in which students use their academic skills to contribute to societal issues. My research focuses on how students, teachers and community partners develop certain competencies through participation in these courses.

    Why am I a member of the PhD council? Through participating in the council, I get to know the beta faculty on a more institutional level and can contribute to the wellbeing of PhD-candidates in our department and faculty.

  • Post PhD

    As a PhD trajectory enters its final phase, the question of what to do next becomes more pressing. The PhD programmes at Vrije Universiteit are an excellent stepping stone for careers both inside and outside of the academic world. Doctoral candidates at VU Amsterdam have the opportunity to discuss different career prospects through the duration of the PhD programme. 

    We offer PhD candidates career orientation courses in the early stages of their trajectory and encourage them to strategically work towards their professional goals over the course of their stay at VU Amsterdam. 

    A career in science 
    Most academic positions at Dutch universities are financed by external research funds. The ability to acquire research grants is crucial for a career in science. Our Grants Desk offers professional advice and dedicated support to all of our researchers in the acquisition of external funding. 

    It also offers a special support programme for PhD's seeking to apply for a Veni grant, the most commonly-awarded grant for carrying out independent research after completing a PhD. Many researchers also apply for the NWO Rubicon grant, which enables them to gain experience at leading research institutes abroad. 

    You can also check the academic vacancies at to see what places are available. Academic vacancies are also posted at 

    A career elsewhere 
    The vast majority of PhD candidates will have to continue their career outside academia. It is therefore essential that early career researchers timely orientate to appropriate positions in the industry, or a societal context, before their contract ends. 

    Whatever career path you choose after completing your doctorate at Vrije Universiteit, we offer all of our candidates a life-long relationship of mutual benefit by inviting them to join our Alumni network and to remain part of the VU community.