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PhD Candidate for Synthetic Cell Building: Societal Potentials and Concerns

BaSyC (Building a Synthetic Cell) is a 10-year Gravitation project funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). It is conducted by a consortium in which several Dutch universities collaborate. The objective is to ...

7 maanden geleden


Comeniuslaan, Nijmegen, Gelderland
Tijdelijk contract / Tijdelijke opdracht
Uren per week:
38 uur
€ 2840 per maand


BaSyC (Building a Synthetic Cell) is a 10-year Gravitation project funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). It is conducted by a consortium in which several Dutch universities collaborate. The objective is to build a synthetic cell: one of the biggest scientific and intellectual challenges of the 21st century. While we have extensive knowledge about the molecular building blocks that form the basis of life, we currently do not understand how these building blocks collectively operate. BaSyC aims to elucidate the cell’s intricate working, but will also raise fascinating philosophical and ethical questions about how society may cope with new opportunities. Work-package VI is explicitly devoted to addressing these challenges. A plethora of potential benefits for society comes into view. Synthetic cells can produce biocompatible and degradable biomaterials or pharmaceuticals. Human health would profit via new options for tissue engineering, while artificial photosynthesis could promote solar energy to solve our energy crisis. At the same time, various unintended side-effects may be involved, from dual use up to overpromising.

Your tasks will be:
- to explore and assess societal challenges involved in the synthetic cell endeavour (literature analysis);
- to contribute to the design and analysis of mutual learning exercises and public debates. Special attention will be given to the role of genres of the imagination (novels, films, etc.) in research, education and debate;
- to interact with BaSyC researchers (senior and early stage) and participate in the WP6 team;
- to contribute to interdisciplinary dialogues on the societal dimensions of the synthetic cell;
- to contribute to educational activities of the BaSyC consortium;
- to contribute to societal outreach activities;
- to participate in activities of Rathenau and ISiS (the project will be conducted at both locations).
- you will use literature analysis and BaSyC engagement activities (deliberative laboratories) as empirical input for a PhD thesis on the societal aspects of the synthetic cell.


- a Master’s degree in philosophy, science or social science;
- experience with interactive methodologies;
- a demonstrable interest in contemporary life sciences research;
- experience with interdisciplinary research;
- fluency in Dutch and English.


you will be appointed for an initial period of 18 months, after which your performance will be evaluated. If the evaluation is positive, the contract will be extended by 2.5 years
- you will be classified as a PhD Candidate in the Dutch university job-ranking system (UFO)
the gross starting salary amounts to €2,222 per month, and will increase to €2,840 in the fourth year.

Additional information

Prof. dr. H. Zwart, Professor of Philosophy of Science, Director of ISiS, PI BaSyC WP6
+31 24 365 20 38

Dr. ir. Rinie van Est, Rathenau Instituut


Radboud University


Strategically located in Europe, Radboud University is one of the leading academic communities in the Netherlands. A place with a personal touch, where top-flight education and research take place on a beautiful green campus in modern buildings with state-of-art facilities. Faculty of Science The mission of Radboud University’s Institute for Science in Society (ISiS) is to analyse, assess and improve the societal embedding of new developments in science and technology through research, education and outreach, and to understand how society is shaping science and vice versa. This PhD project will be part of research theme 2: responsible life sciences research. The mission of the Rathenau Instituut (The Hague) is to stimulate public and political opinion forming on social aspects of science and technology. The institute performs research and organises debate relating to science, innovation and new technologies.

No commercial propositions please.