MSc Research Internship

Population Genetics of Human Communication

Modelling group differences in genomic structures using the
Genomic-Relationship-Matrix Structural Equation Modelling (GRM-SEM) framework

The Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, the Netherlands, is offering a 5-to-10-month MSc internship position in the population genetics of human communication group ( The host research group, led by Dr Beate St Pourcain, is embedded within the Language & Genetics Department at the MPI. Research within the group focuses on (i) studying the genetic basis of social communication, language and interaction in population-based and clinical cohorts and (ii) developing statistical modelling approaches. The internship duration is flexible but lies between 5 to 10 months.

Job description

In this biostatistics research internship, students will work with the Genomic-Relationship-Matrix Structural Equation Modelling (GRM-SEM) framework1,2, an R software developed by the host research group ( GRM-SEM can model genomic and residual covariance structures, as captured by genome-wide data, with SEM strategies analogous to multivariate twin models. For example, we applied GRM-SEM to study genetic relationships among language and literacy traits during different stages of development3,4 or to investigate symptom differences among autistic individuals5. However, within a study population, groups of individuals may often differ from each other and genomic structures may, thus, vary, such as, for example, between males and females. Therefore, a uniform model across all individuals may only be partially informative.

This internship aims to develop the GRM-SEM framework further, allowing (i) the joint modelling of multiple groups within a study sample (multi-group model) and (ii) optimising current genomic and residual modelling strategies using simulations and benchmark tests.


  • MSc student enrolled on a master's programme such as Computer Science, Biostatistics, Statistics, Genetic Epidemiology or similar
  • Solid background in undergraduate statistics
  • Good programming expertise in R and bash or another programming language (e.g. C/C++, Python)
  • Good knowledge of English


What we offer you

  • Experience in modelling genomic and residual structures as captured by "big data" from population-based cohorts using GRM-SEM software
  • A nice team


Application procedure

The internship will last at least five months; the starting date is negotiable. Note that the MPI cannot remunerate any work during this internship. Applications will be reviewed until the position has been filled.

To apply, please submit your motivation letter (max. 1 page) and a CV and contact details via this link. For further information, please get in touch with Dr Beate St Pourcain (beate.stpourcain [at]

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