Postdoc proteomics of microproteins in childhood brain cancer

The Princess Máxima Center for pediatric oncology is a unique interdisciplinary institute that brings together all the highly complex care, research, and education to provide the best possible care for children with cancer. This concentration and integration of specialized pediatric oncology reflects our mission: to provide a cure and optimal quality of life for every child with cancer. Close cooperation between care and research will lead to more children being cured of cancer, with fewer adverse effects later in life.


Over recent years, the van Heesch lab has discovered thousands of new open reading frames translated from regions of the genome believed not to code for protein. Many of these newly translated sequences are evolutionarily young, meaning they emerged recently during primate evolution. Despite their young age, several may produce functional small proteins termed microproteins. Interestingly, many putative microproteins are expressed during early brain development, leading us to hypothesize that they may play roles in brain development and early onset cancer. The aim of this NWO Vidi-funded project is to provide endogenous protein-level evidence for microprotein production in brain tumors and investigate whether microproteins can play a role in deadly early developmental brain cancers. This will yield novel mechanistic insights into the role of young proteins in brain development and cancer, and may provide new options for targeted therapies.

The position

For this project, you will use molecular proteomics techniques to detect microproteins in brain tumor samples, tumoroids, and cell lines (whole proteome and targeted approaches). Next, you will define how a selection of detected microproteins may function biologically, through a combination of interactome technologies (proximity labeling, affinity purification, immunoprecipitation). The project will be a collaboration with the expert proteomics lab of Dr. Kelly Stecker located within the Biomolecular Mass Spectrometry and Proteomics group at Utrecht University.


We are looking for an enthusiastic and highly motivated postdoc with prior PhD experience in proteomics and mass spectrometry. As our group combines wet lab and bioinformatics, prior experience with mass spectrometry data analysis is essential. 

Furthermore, you:

  • Hold a PhD in biomedical sciences, molecular biology, proteomics, or related disciplines.
  • Have a demonstrated strong scientific track record.
  • Have experience with mass spectrometry proteomics, ideally DIA workflow, and proximity labeling (e.g., APEX/bioID/turboID/microID etc).
  • Have experience with mass spectrometry data analysis and/or software.
  • Have excellent analytical and problem-solving skills.
  • Are a team player with excellent communication and presentation skills.
  • Possess excellent oral and written English skills.

Our job offer

We offer a full-time position (based on 36 hours a week) in a very stimulating and interactive environment. You will also have the opportunity to actively collaborate with various research groups at the Princess Máxima Center and the Biomolecular Mass Spectrometry and Proteomics groups at Utrecht University. The contract will be initially for one year, with the possibility to extend upon satisfaction. The earliest envisioned starting date is 1 December 2023, but this can be discussed. Your gross monthly salary will be based on your experience and background within scale FWG 60 (min. €3.736,- max. €5.473,-) and will include 8,33% holiday allowance and 8,33 % end-of-year bonus. The Princess Máxima Center operates according to the collective labor agreement ‘CAO ziekenhuizen’.

Work environment

The Van Heesch group was established in 2020 and currently consists of 14 people, including PhD students, postdocs, research technicians, bioinformaticians, and interns. We combine wet lab and computational work and offer support in both directions. Our group works on a diversity of tumor entities and most of our projects are centered around the discovery of new translated open reading frames through RNA-seq and ribosome profiling.

Although your appointment will be with the Princess Máxima Center, the proteomics work will be carried out in close collaboration with the Stecker lab at Utrecht University. The Stecker lab was established in 2021 and consists of 7 people including PhD and postdocs. Our research focuses on quantitative proteomic applications in the field of immuno-oncology, with a particular emphasis on cell signaling and intercellular communication. The Stecker lab is embedded in the Biomolecular Mass Spectrometry and Proteomics group, consisting of approximately 60 people, which is a world leading lab in protein mass spectrometry.

We value diversity and inclusivity, an open and welcoming working atmosphere, and a healthy work-life balance. Our group frequently organizes social events and makes sure international team members feel welcome! The Máxima center is a highly international research environment with over 50 different nationalities, with various initiatives and activities to stimulate interaction and support international staff.


Are you excited about this position? We are looking forward to meeting you! You can apply directly by clicking on the orange button on this page. We invite you to apply as soon as possible, since we will close the vacancy when we have found a suitable candidate. Please provide:

  • an up-to-date resume/CV
  • a short motivation letter describing your background and interests
  • contact information of 2-3 references

For more information about this position, or to arrange an informal chat, please contact Sebastiaan van Heesch. Sebastiaan will be happy to tell you more!

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