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Department of Genetics


The Department of Genetics hosts 83 researchers across 26 research groups. As summarised below, our research portfolio covers a wide range of interests and model systems, all centred round the application of genetics approaches to understanding fundamenta questions in modern biology.

Functional Genomics and Systems Biology

russellarray_smallThe post-genomic era has stimulated the use of high-throughput techniques for data generation. The Department is at the forefront of utilising such techniques, including functional and computational genomics, bioinformatics, and genetic databases, to understand and quantify genomic processes in both invertebrate and vertebrate cells. This includes development of algorithms and software for high throughput sequencing data [Durbin] In addition, we are involved in the provision of services to the research community, including InterMine/FlyMine [Micklem], and a Drosophila functional genomic facility, FlyChip [Russell]. The Department enjoys a close working relationship with the School of Biological Sciences Bioinformatics Training Facility. Several groups have developed tools for in vivo functional genomics, as illustrated by the genome-wide RNAi screen of C. elegans [Ahringer], and RNAi and protein trap screens in Drosophila [Russell] [St.Johnston].

Developmental Biology


Starting from earlier research on Drosophila as a model system [Russell], the Department has expanded the repertoire of model organisms to embryological studies using Arabidopsis, mice, zebrafish, C. elegans and chick.  Developmental Biology is becoming increasingly cellular in its focus and analytical methods, and this is reflected in the research of several groups in the main Department [Martinez Arias] [Ferguson-Smith]  [Steventon], and in the Gurdon Institute [St Johnston] [Ahringer]. The topics of interest include the role of cell polarity, signalling and gene regulation in cell fate assignments and pattern formation in Drosophila [Russell], in C. elegans [Ahringer] and in vertebrate systems in cultured stem cells and in vivo [Martinez Arias] [Ferguson-Smith] [Steventon] [St Johnston]

Cell Biology


Genetics has catalysed major advances in understanding many cell functions. Major topics of interest in the Department are the cell division cycle and cell-level neuroscience. Interests include the centrosome, and control of cell division [Glover], chromosome biology [Farr], asymmetric cell division in yeast [Segal], and cell polarity in yeast [Geymonat]. In Drosophila neuroscience, interests include circuits and connectomics approaches to learning and memory [Masuda-Nakagawa], the roles of human neurological disease genes in autophagy and axonal endoplasmic reticulum [O’Kane], and neurodegeneration and cell polarity and cytoskeletal organisation [St Johnston]

Epigenetic Inheritance

Epigenetics theme imageEpigenetic modifications to DNA and chromatin can regulate genome function, host defense mechanisms and can have a profound impact on phenotype. Using a range of model systems (e.g. genomic imprinting, transposon repression, RNA-dependent silencing, stem cells and cancer) and model organisms including plants, Drosophila, C. elegans and mouse, we focus on the relationships between genotype, epigenotype, post-transcriptional RNA-mediated functions, and normal and abnormal phenotype. In addition, we consider the contribution of dynamic changes in epigenetic state to the properties and programming of stem cells in vivo and in vitro, and the mechanisms regulating the epigenetic programme both within and between generations. Research groups in this area conduct both computational and experimental research and include [Ahringer] [Ferguson-Smith] [Martinez Arias] [Miska]

Microbial Genetics


The Department hosts three microbial research groups working on E. coli [Summers] and budding yeast [Segal] [Geymonat]. Research areas include the cell cycle, microbial signalling, antibiotic resistance, and novel cell factories. Research collaborations exist with both academic and industrial partners.


Evolution and Population Genetics

Hominid tree small for evol research themeThe genomes of living things contain a wealth of information about their evolutionary history, enabling us to infer the causes and timescales of past evolutionary change. Evolutionary research in the Department has a tradition extending back to the work of Ronald Fisher in the 1930s, as one of the founders of modern evolutionary genetics. Today it combines field and experimental approaches with mathematical and computational techniques, and focuses on a variety of questions, including the co-evolution of pathogens and their hosts, the spread and control of pathogens [Salje], the evolutionary origins of humans and primates, and the genomics of cichlid fish speciation. A common focus of the evolutionary labs [Durbin] [Jiggins] [Welch] [Scally] is understanding the role of Darwinian natural selection in shaping genomes.

A full alphabetical list of groups in the Department is available HERE

More Research Links

Research in Life Sciences by themes [School of Biological Sciences]

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