BBSRC funded PhD position on the genetic and developmental control of complex nanostructure formation in butterfly wing scales

27 October 2023

About the Project

Butterfly wings are natural wonders, covered in colourful scales that are used for signaling, thermoregulation and to help with aerodynamic performance. This beauty and wonder extends beyond the visible, with each scale being intricately patterned on the sub-micron level. These nanostructures are essential for the properties of the scales, including producing structural colour. 

This project will investigate how these nanostructures are formed from a genetic and developmental perspective. Previous genomic, transcriptomic and proteomic analysis has identified several genes/proteins that differ between scales of different morphologies, specifically those with nanostructures that produce a blue colour and those that lack this colour/structure. These include membrane, actin and cuticle bound proteins, some of which have functions in bristle formation in Drosophila melanogaster, interesting as bristles and scales are developmentally homologous. The PhD student will investigate the role of these genes in both Drosophila bristle and cuticle formation and butterfly wing scale formation. The student will be trained in a range of techniques including fluorescent confocal microscopy to localize and image specific proteins during development, electron microscopy to image scale and bristle nanostructures and genetic manipulation techniques such as CRISPR/Cas and RNAi.

Co-supervisors: Prof David Strutt (School of Biosciences), Dr Andrew Parnell (Department of Physics), Dr Kyra Campbell (School of Biosciences)

About the DTP

This studentship is offered as part of the White Rose BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) in Mechanistic Biology, which brings together the research of the world-class molecular and cellular bioscience centres at the White Rose universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York.

What is on offer

Appointed candidates will be fully funded for 4 years:

Not all projects will be funded; the DTP will appoint a limited number of candidates via a competitive process.

How to apply – Expression of Interest

Students may apply for up to three projects anywhere in the Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP).  Applications will be to the DTP centrally, using an online Expression of Interest (EoI). The EoI will include:

Deadline for EoIs is midnight Sunday 7th January 2024.

Submit EoIs using this link:

Shortlisted candidates will be required to make formal applications to the University of Sheffield, supplying the necessary paperwork.

Interviews will be held either Friday 2nd and Monday 5th to Friday 9th February, or Monday 19th to Friday 23rd and Monday 26th February 2024, in-person in Sheffield with a panel representing all 3 Universities. Shortlisted candidates will be notified of a specific time/date to attend. If you have applied for more than one project and are selected for interview, you will be interviewed only once.