The department of Psychology, Health and Technology at the University of Twente  has a vacancy for a PhD-student within the ambitious Stress in Action project.

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PhD-student position: The cognitive stress response in daily life
38 hours

Stress in Action project
In this project, 65 multidisciplinary scientists from six Dutch Universities collaborate around the theme ‘stress in daily life’. Divided over three Research Themes and three Support Cores (the Stress in Action consortium), we will validate daily-life stress assessments, examine which contextual factors contribute to the experience of daily-life stress, and examine how daily-life stress leads to the development of both mental and cardiometabolic diseases. The project is funded through the Dutch Research Council under the Gravitation programme. More details can be found here.

What will you be doing?
As a PhD-student your main mission is to provide the Stress in Action community with tools for the continuous (and reliable) recording of the cognitive stress responses in daily life.

You will start by reviewing the state of the art in active and passive sensing of cognitive aspects of the stress response. This review will focus on constructs underlying and relating to executive function based on both traditional tests as well as passive sensing methods. As an example, you may delve into the potential of passive sensing techniques, such as keystroke dynamics – observing how people type or interact with their smartphones – might provide insight into their cognitive state and potentially reflect varying levels of stress.

Following this foundational work, you will initiate a secondary objective providing the consortium with an up-to-date overview of the best commercially available tools for measuring behavioural stress responses, especially focusing on sleep trackers. The relationship between outcomes from these behavioural tools and the cognitive tools will be explored.

In parallel, you will also start validating the identified cognitive tools through lab and daily life studies. For instance, you could focus on comparing existing adaptations of traditional cognitive tests for smartphones, such as the Stroop test, which measures processes tapping on interference control and reaction time. By deploying such tests at different times, you will investigate how performance varies with stress levels and how passive and active sensing of the cognitive stress response varies over different tools.

You’ll harness the potential of these cognitive tools to determine optimal moments for participant responses to experience sampling items or just-in-time adaptive interventions (JITAIs).

By the end of the project, you will have contributed substantially to our understanding of the cognitive aspects of the stress response and provided valuable tools and methodologies for researchers in the field.

Where will you be working?
The section PHT is part of the Faculty of Behavioral, Management and Social sciences (BMS) at the University of Twente. More information on the department and faculty can be found on the UT website.

Requested profile:

  • MSc-degree in (bio or health) psychology, health sciences, statistics, biomedical technology, cognitive neuroscience, computer science or a related discipline (also candidates close to graduating are encouraged to apply).
  • Strong interest in cognitive function and/or stress. A drive to compare and explore different research methodologies and settings.
  • Programming skills in Python, R, Matlab or other tools for data analysis.
  • Affinity and preferably experience with writing research papers.
  • English conversation, writing skills, and presentation skills.
  • Communication and social skills related to working in interdisciplinary environments.

What will we offer?

  • As a PhD student at UT, you will be appointed for 38 hours for 4 years (1.0 fte), with a qualifier in the first year, within a very stimulating and exciting scientific environment.
  • You will become part of a large and active national community of 20+ PhD-students within the Stress in Action programme, 4 of which start within the same Research Theme at around the same time.
  • Your salary and associated conditions are in accordance with the collective labour agreement for Dutch universities (CAO-NU).
  • You will receive a gross monthly salary ranging from € 2.770,- (first year) to € 3.539,- (fourth year).
  • There are excellent benefits including a holiday allowance of 8% of the gross annual salary, an end-of-year bonus of 8.3%, and a solid pension scheme.
  • A family-friendly institution that offers parental leave (both paid and unpaid).
  • You will have a training programme as part of the Twente Graduate School where you and your supervisors will determine a plan for a suitable education and supervision.
  • We encourage a high degree of responsibility and independence, while collaborating with close colleagues, researchers and other staff.

For more information about this vacancy, you can contact prof. Matthijs Noordzij (

Submit your motivation letter and a recent curriculum vitae until October 13, 2023 using the application link. For more information, see the UT website.

Application link