Postdoc researcher - genomics of language skills

Closing Date
15 Dec 2021
Max Planck Institute, Nijmegen, the Netherlands
2 years (possibility for 3)

postdoctoral position (2 years, with potential extension to 3 years) on Genomics of Language Skills is available at the Language and Genetics Department of the Max Planck Institute, Nijmegen, the Netherlands. The department is led by Simon Fisher, co-discoverer of FOXP2, the first gene to be implicated in a speech and language disorder. Our work identifies genetic loci that are important for language, literacy and social communication, using them as windows into neural pathways and evolutionary foundations. We carry out interdisciplinary research at multiple levels, including next-generation DNA sequencing of relevant disorders, genome-wide association screens of language-related skills, molecular biology investigations in neuronal cell models and brain tissue; and neuroimaging genetic studies of brain structure/function. We work closely with leading researchers at the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Radboud University, Nijmegen, and with extensive international networks of expert collaborators.

Job description

The successful candidate will join an innovative research program that is characterizing individual variation in language skills at behavioural, neurobiological, and genetic levels, an initiative of the Language in Interaction (LiI) consortium, sponsored by a major grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research. The LiI consortium has developed a computer-based test battery to assess core skills underlying speaking and listening across a broad spectrum of abilities, and has already applied this to hundreds of young adults from the general population, a subset of whom are also tested with functional MRI. In parallel, saliva sampling has been used to collect DNA. The postdoctoral scientist will take the lead on the genetic aspects of the project. Specifically, they will process and analyse genome-wide genotype data from this unique resource, and use methods for analyzing polygenic contributions to human traits in order to trace genetic links to cognitive skills, childhood learning disorders, and MRI-based measures of brain structure/function, integrating with independent datasets available at the Language and Genetics department. The project will be further scaled up by applying online versions of the LiI battery to large pre-existing population-based cohorts with available genome-wide genotypes. The postdoctoral scientist will also foster connections to ongoing work by GenLang, an international network of researchers carrying out genetic association meta-analyses of multiple speech/language/reading-related cohorts across the world.


You are a research scientist who holds, or shortly expects to obtain, a PhD in a field with direct relevance for studying genomics of complex (human) traits in large-scale datasets. You are proficient in coding/scripting and statistics, and sufficiently experienced that you can readily use bioinformatics and statistical genetics methods, such as genome-wide association screening, genetic correlations, polygenic score analysis, pathway enrichment, and interrogation of diverse ‘omics’ resources. You have a critical and careful approach to science, and you strive for robustness and reproducibility of results. You are highly organized and adept in communicating project plans and outcomes to others, in both spoken and written form. You are interested in working together with researchers from a wide range of backgrounds, and in helping to drive projects of large consortia. The successful candidate will be involved in supervising junior scientists, including students and research assistants, and in writing up findings for publication, as well as giving presentations about the work at international conferences.