University of Sheffield                   BBSRC

PhD project - University of Sheffield

Quantitative 3D morphogenesis of the developing zebrafish ear


  • Professor Tanya Whitfield
  • Professor Alejandro Frangi

Application deadline: 1st April 2016

zebrafishProject description: This project will explore how the complex shape of the vertebrate inner ear—the organ of hearing and balance—is generated in the embryo. Within this sensory organ, the semicircular canals have a highly ordered three-dimensional arrangement, which is critical for their function.  The canals consist of narrow ducts or tubes linked to ampullae, rounded chambers that house the exquisitely sensitive sensory hair cells.  Formation of the ducts, ampullae and sensory tissue in the embryo requires co-ordinated changes in cell shape to generate thin or thickened epithelium, and regions of high epithelial curvature. This project aims to describe and understand these processes in the zebrafish embryo.

The successful student will use confocal and light-sheet microscopy to image the developing ear. Through analysis of mutant zebrafish lines, the project will test the role of different genes in generating the correct cell and tissue rearrangements that lead to the correct morphology of the ear.  Transgenic fluorescent markers are available to label cell membranes and nuclei.

The student will primarily be based in the Whitfield group (developmental biology and biological imaging), but will also have the opportunity to learn how to select and apply computational techniques to analyse their imaging data, by working with the Frangi group.   We are seeking an enthusiastic student who wishes to expand their knowledge of developmental biology, and who is also keen to learn new skills in computational approaches to analyse imaging data.

Key subject areas: Cell Biology / Development, Imaging, Genetics, Computational Image Analysis


This project is fully funded by a 4-year White Rose DTP studentship in Mechanistic Biology from the BBSRC. Eligibility: UK/EU citizens only.  EU citizens must have lived in the UK for at least 3 years to be eligible for full support.

Contact details:

For informal enquiries about this project, please contact:

Professor Tanya Whitfield


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Professor Alejandro Frangi


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Information about the BBSRC White Rose DTP scheme can be found at:

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