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Can the nose taste? Characterisation of a new cell type in the vertebrate olfactory system

Project Description

Animals can sense diverse sensory stimuli, such as sound, light and smell. This is usually mediated by distinct sense organs, such as the ears, eyes and nose. Recently, it has become clear that some sensory cells can detect more than one sensory modality. This project aims to study a distinctive cell type in the olfactory epithelium (nose) of zebrafish, with a shape characteristic of cells that sense mechanical or chemical cues, but which does not fit any known class of olfactory sensory neurons. The successful applicant will use a combination of approaches to determine the functions of this new cell type: firstly, genes expressed by the cells will be characterised; secondly, neuronal connectivity will be defined, and thirdly, the student will attempt to disrupt development of this new cell type through genome editing. By identifying specific genes expressed, the student will be able to identify which stimuli the cell is likely to detect, and will test their hypotheses using physiology and genetics. The project will involve high-resolution image analysis and the use of transgenic animals or dye injection to determine anatomical connection to higher brain centres. The project is expected to shape our understanding of how multi-sensory integration can influence animal behaviour.
Key subject areas: Cell Biology / Development, Imaging, Genetics, Sensory Neuroscience

Science Graduate School
As a PhD student in one of the science departments at the University of Sheffield, you’ll be part of the Science Graduate School. You’ll get access to training opportunities designed to support your career development by helping you gain professional skills that are essential in all areas of science. You’ll be able to learn how to recognise good research and research behaviour, improve your communication abilities and experience the breadth of technologies that are used in academia, industry and many related careers. Visit to learn more.

Funding Notes

We are seeking an enthusiastic student who is keen to embrace a range of experimental approaches to tackle a problem of sensory neuroscience. The project offers the exciting opportunity of a two-year placement at a research institute in Singapore.

This project is fully funded by a 4-year A*STAR Research Attachment Programme (ARAP) studentship. This includes fees, stipend, travel, a settling-in allowance in Singapore, and research expenses. Residency restrictions: awards are open to UK/EU citizens only. Applicants should have, or expect to achieve, a First Class or 2.1 UK honours degree or equivalent in a relevant subject.


For informal enquiries about this project, please contact:
Professor Tanya Whitfield: Email: [email protected]

Associate Professor Suresh Jesuthasan: Email: [email protected]

Information about the A*STAR Research Attachment Programme can be found at:

How good is research at University of Sheffield in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 44.90

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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