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Transcriptional control of learning and memory

Department of Biosciences

Dr Vincent Croset , Prof A Darby Friday, January 22, 2021 Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
Durham United Kingdom Bioinformatics Genetics Molecular Biology

About the Project

Have you ever wondered how gene expression controls memory? Would you like to manipulate the behaviour of an exciting model organism, with powerful genetic tools? Are you keen to generate and analyse genomic and transcriptomic data? Then this project is for you!

We are seeking a talented and enthusiastic PhD student to investigate transcriptomic control of learning and memory, using the brain of the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, as a model. This project will explore the role of Activity Regulated Genes (ARGs), whose expression rapidly increases in response to neuronal activity. These genes often encode transcription factors which coordinate synaptic function, cellular transport, signal transduction, or plasticity. These processes are essential for memory, and a better understanding of how they are regulated could provide invaluable insights about the molecular mechanisms driving learning, and the consolidation and retrieval of memories.

The research will focus on ARGs expressed in memory neurons. The student will investigate how learning shifts their expression across neuronal subtypes, and how this influences memory performance. Using ChIP-seq, they will analyse how these genes interact with DNA, to identify what genes they control, in different contexts.

Circuits of learning and memory have been extensively described in the fly. A full connectome, single-cell transcriptome atlases, and a host of tools to precisely manipulate genes and circuits are available, providing a unique opportunity to address the links between gene expression and behaviour, at a resolution that would be impossible to achieve in other organisms.

Through this interdisciplinary project, the student will have the opportunity to work with a large range of molecular, microscopy, behavioural and computational techniques, under the guidance of experts in the field, across two of UK’s leading universities. The successful student will gain a broad range of skills and competencies, including in Drosophila neuroanatomy and genetics, immunohistochemistry, in situ hybridisation, microscopy, molecular biology, behaviour, and bioinformatic analysis of high-throughput sequencing data. The ideal candidate will have some background in genetics or neuroscience, and basic knowledge in one or several of these techniques. However, curiosity and motivation are the main prerequisites, and the student will have plenty of opportunity to learn.

Informal enquiries may be made to


Applications should be made by emailing with a CV and a covering letter, including whatever additional information you feel is pertinent to your application; you may wish to indicate, for example, why you are particularly interested in the selected project/s and at the selected University. Applications not meeting these criteria will be rejected. We will also require electronic copies of your degree certificates and transcripts.

In addition to the CV and covering letter, please email a completed copy of the NLD BBSRC DTP Studentship Application Details Form (Word document) to , noting the additional details that are required for your application which are listed in this form. A blank copy of this form can be found at:


Funding Notes

Studentships are funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) for 4 years. Funding will cover tuition fees at the UK rate only, a Research Training and Support Grant (RTSG) and stipend. We aim to support the most outstanding applicants from outside the UK and are able to offer a limited number of bursaries that will enable full studentships to be awarded to international applicants. These full studentships will only be awarded to exceptional quality candidates, due to the competitive nature of this scheme.


• A single-cell transcriptomic atlas of the adult Drosophila ventral nerve cord. Elife, 2020.
• Cellular diversity in the Drosophila midbrain revealed by single-cell transcriptomics. Elife, 2018.
• An expression atlas of variant ionotropic glutamate receptors identifies a molecular basis of carbonation sensing. Nature Communications, 2018.
• A molecular and neuronal basis for amino acid sensing in the Drosophila larva. Scientific Reports, 2016.
• Drosophila Ionotropic Receptor 25a mediates circadian clock resetting by temperature. Nature, 2015.
• Ancient protostome origin of chemosensory ionotropic glutamate receptors and the evolution of insect taste and olfaction. PLoS Genetics, 2010.
• Improved Aedes aegypti mosquito reference genome assembly enables biological discovery and vector control. Nature, 2018.
• Genomes of trombidid mites reveal novel predicted allergens and laterally transferred genes associated with secondary metabolism. Gigascience, 2018.
• Genome Sequence of the Tsetse Fly (Glossina morsitans): Vector of African Trypanosomiasis. Science, 2014.
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