PhD Student

Last application date
Jun 04, 2021 00:00
PP02 - Department of Experimental Psychology
Limited duration
Master’s degree in psychology, biology, or a related discipline
Occupancy rate
Vacancy type
Research staff

Job description

A PhD position in animal experimental psychology is available for 2+2 years, co-funded by an ERC (European Research Council) consolidator grant and a Methusalem grant (Flemish government). The research will be led by Prof. Frederick Verbruggen (Department of Experimental Psychology) at Ghent University, in close collaboration with Prof. Luc Lens (Department of Biology) and Prof. An Martel (Department of Pathology, Bacteriology and Poultry Diseases at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine).

The successful applicant will join the ‘Cognition, Behavior and Ecology’ lab (CoBE@UGent) to work on a project that focuses on response inhibition, and more specifically, the learning and development of inhibitory control in different environments (‘eco-devo’).

Response inhibition refers to the ability to suppress or cancel actions that are premature, unduly risky, inappropriate, or no longer required. Response inhibition is a key component of ’executive functioning’, and is essential for navigating everyday life. In humans, its derailment is also considered integral to numerous neurological and psychiatric disorders, and more generally, to a wide range of behavioral and health problems.

In this project, we will use an animal model (the Japanese quail) to study:
1. how individuals inhibit actions in complex and ecologically-valid environments
2. how and to what extent inhibitory-control (dis)abilities are shaped by learning
3. whether a lack of inhibitory control is by default dysfunctional in different contexts.

The research will happen in our state-of-the-art research facilities at the Wildlife Rescue Centre (WRC) in Ostend. The WRC is an internationally renowned institution, specializing in the rescue and rehabilitation of birds. At the WRC, we have constant access to ten outdoor enclosures, 4 lofts with an outdoor area, a large flight cage, two research rooms, and an office space. All enclosures, lofts, and cages are equipped with a camera system and a (soon to be-installed) UWB tracking system to monitor birds 24/7.

The successful applicant will be responsible for the development of experiments (in collaboration with the interdisciplinary research team, consisting of psychologists, biologists, and veterinary scientists), collection and analysis of data, publication and dissemination of the results, and will be involved in the supervision of research assistants and MSc students.

We offer:

  • A PhD position in (animal experimental) psychology with a competitive salary.
  • The applicant will have access to state-of-the-art UGent research facilities at the WRC.
  • The applicant will have the opportunity to collaborate with other lab members, working on different avian species at the WRC.

  • The applicant will also have the possibility to collaborate with other national and international research groups.
  • The research group is situated in Ghent, a lively city in the heart of Europe (
  • All Ghent University staff members enjoy a number of benefits, such as a wide range of training and education opportunities, 35 days of holiday leave (on an annual basis for a full-time job) supplemented by annual fixed bridge days, a bicycle allowance and eco vouchers.

Job profile

Preferred start date: September or October 2021.

We are looking for a highly-motivated candidate with:

  • An appropriate degree (preferably a research master) in psychology, biology, or a related discipline. The degree requirements must be fulfilled at the start of the job appointment
  • Evidence of excellent research, communication, and cooperative skills
  • Good English writing and communication skills are mandatory. Knowledge of Dutch is not required.
  • Prior research experience (e.g., involvement in data collection)
  • Good data analysis skills; knowledge of R is desired.

  • A (FELASA) certificate for animal work or prior experience with working with animals is a plus.

How to apply

To apply, please send a motivation letter, CV, transcripts of BSc and MSc courses and grades, copies of educational certificates (if applicable), and letters or contact information of two referees as a single pdf to Frederick Verbruggen (

For further information on the project or details about the position, please also contact Frederick Verbruggen ( You can also find extra information about the lab by visiting our website

Closing date: June 4 2021. Interviews are expected to take place in the fourth week of June 2021.