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Postdocs Origins of Life research (6.0 fte) (217354-58)


The Origins Center
The Origins Center ( is a recent, multidisciplinary and multi-institute initiative of a large number of top tier scientists in The Netherlands, who responded to questions submitted by the public on fundamentals of life in the universe in the context of the Dutch National Science Agenda ( Recently we defined the outlines of five three-year pathfinder projects that together should lay the groundwork for a future, far larger research programme which aims at game-changing understanding of the origin of life and of life-bearing planets, predicting evolution, building and steering life from molecule to biosphere, finding extraterrestrial life and of the mathematical concepts needed for bridging large spatial, temporal and organisatorial scale differences. The Center is coordinated by the University of Groningen, The Netherlands. Scientists affiliated with at least 17 Dutch universities and research institutes participate in its research. Recently The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NOW) granted ‘Startimpuls’ (initial boost) funding to the Origins Center.

For the pathfinder projects we are now recruiting six postdoctoral research fellows with a strong background in astronomy, biophysics, chemistry, microbiology, ecology, evolutionary biology, mathematics, computational science, molecular biosciences or planetary and geosciences, and with the ability to perform innovative and multidisciplinary research. The recruited fellows will, jointly with several research groups in The Netherlands, further define and execute the projects. They will thereby be centrally involved in advanced and multidisciplinary research of great scientific and public interest.

Job description

Fellowships are available within each of the following five projects.

217354 Developing, testing and operating the Origins Simulator
217355 Identifying factors enabling predictability of evolution
217356 Building and directing life (2 positions)
217357 Modelling planet earth as an exoplanet
217358 Mathematically understanding downward causation.

Each fellow will be hosted by a research group involved in the Origins Center initiative and be employed by the host’s university or research institute, and will cooperate with at least one other research group in another field of expertise and preferably in another university or research institute.

The fellow’s tasks will include:
• further conceptualising, planning, and executing a pathfinder project
• reaching out to and collaborating with research groups in The Netherlands and abroad
• forging linkages between the five pathfinder projects and with the relevant research community at large
• contributing to a programme of public outreach.


The successful candidate will have:
• a recently obtained PhD in a relevant field as indicated above
• an excellent track record as shown by publications, invitations, awards and honorary positions
• a sound grasp of issues, concepts and methods linked to the pathfinder project targeted in the application, and the ambition, resourcefulness, perseverance and cooperative skills needed to bring the project to a successful closure
• strong communication skills both towards direct collaborators and towards the wider research community
• an interest in science communication targeted at a variety of audiences
• good written and oral knowledge of English.

Some specific requirements linked to the separate projects are indicated in the separate pathfinder project descriptions:

Conditions of employment

Employment conditions according to the Collective Labour Agreement ( of the Dutch Universities, or a largely similar other collective labour agreement with, according to this collective labour agreement, a first-year gross salary ranging from € 3,111 (salary scale 10.4) to € 3,475 (salary scale 11.0) gross per month for a full-time position, holiday and end-of-year reimbursements, and inclusion in a pension scheme.
Secondary employment conditions may vary between the research institutes and universities participating in the Origins Center, but will normally include further training facilities, career counselling for partners and, if needed, assistance with establishment in The Netherlands.
Employment by a Dutch University or research institute on the base of a fixed-term full time contract, for the duration of three years (projects 217354, 217355, 217357, and 217358) or 2 year and nine months (project 217356). Secondments, for short periods during the project, to other Dutch universities or research institutes can be considered.

As a rule, candidates may not occupy postdoc positions for more than six years overall, and no more than four years with one employer.

The aimed-for starting date is 1 January 2018 or soon afterwards.

Each of the pathfinder projects to which the research statements should refer is outlined on At the end of the project outline, with contact details for each host.

Candidates are encouraged to discuss their draft research statement with leading scientists (also indicated) from hosts whose research interests and approaches match their own. Both the project and the hosting research group should be clearly identified in the application. Each application should target just one pathfinder project, however candidates are free to submit plausible applications for more than one project.

Submitted documents should clearly show how the candidate would meet the general and (if applicable) project-specific requirements. Specific questions on the pathfinder projects can be discussed with prospective hosts, whose email addresses are included in the project outlines.

We aim to complete the selection process before 1 November 2017, with interviews on 5 and 11 October 2017.

You may apply for this position until 24 September 12.00 hours pm / before 25 September 2017 Dutch local time by means of the application form (click on "Apply" below on the advertisement on the university website). Please state the vacancy number in your motivation letter.

Interested applicants should submit:
1. A concise motivation letter (1.5 pages maximum)
2. A research statement (2.5 pages maximum) that (i) fits within one of the pathfinder project outlines, (ii) identifies one hosting research group and in which the candidate would prefer to be employed, and (iii) identifies at least one other research group in another field of expertise, and preferably in another university or research institute, with which the candidate expects to cooperate closely
3. A concise CV ( 3 pages maximum) including a list of five best papers
4. Two letters of reference.

Applications submitted later or in other ways will not be considered.

Unsolicited marketing will not be appreciated.


For information you can contact:

(please do not use for applications)