Professor Tanya Whitfield

Dr Tanya WhitfieldProfessor of Developmental Biology
Bateson Centre and Department of Biomedical Science
University of Sheffield
Sheffield
S10 2TN
United Kingdom

Room: C21 Firth Court
Telephone: +44 (0) 114 222 2350
Fax: +44 114 222 2788
email: t.whitfield@sheffield.ac.uk

General

Career history

  • 2016-present: Professor of Developmental Biology
  • 2013-2015: Reader in Developmental Biology
  • 2004-2012: Senior Lecturer, University of Sheffield.
  • 1997-2004: Lecturer, University of Sheffield.
  • 1994-1997: Imperial Cancer Research Fund Postdoctoral Fellow and Linacre College Junior Research Fellow, Developmental Biology Unit, University of Oxford, and Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London. Research Advisor: Dr Julian Lewis.
  • 1994: EMBO Short Term Fellow, Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, Tübingen. Research Advisor: Professor Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard.
  • 1992-1994: Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Zoology and Wellcome Trust/Cancer Research Campaign Institute, University of Cambridge. Research Advisor: Professor Chris Wylie.
  • 1989-1992: Wellcome PhD student, Department of Zoology and Wellcome Trust/Cancer Research Campaign Institute, University of Cambridge. Research Advisor: Professor Chris Wylie.
  • 1986-1989: BA Natural Sciences (Zoology), University of Cambridge.

Activities and distinctions

  • Invited speaker at national and international meetings (recent meetings include: Workshop 'Linking Evolution and Development of the Auditory System', Institute for Advanced Study, Delmenhorst, Germany; Gordon Conference 'Neural Crest and Cranial Placodes', Waltham, MA, USA; Association for Research in Otolaryngology 38th MidWinter meeting (Plenary speaker), Baltimore, MD, USA).
  • Board of Reviewing Editors, eLife
  • Member, BBSRC Pool of Experts

Funding

Recent publications

Full publications listPublications in Google Scholar.

Research

Research interests

Zebrafish EarMy group uses the zebrafish as a model organism to study the development and function of the inner ear. 

We are interested in the early patterning and evolution of otic structures, modelling of auditory and vestibular disease, ototoxicity and fluid regulation in the ear.

 Whitfield Lab Website

Our research group is part of the Bateson Centre

Bateson Centre

You can follow events from the Whitfield lab on our blog or on Twitter:


Positions available

Postgraduate PhD opportunities

1. Quantitative 3D morphogenesis of the developing zebrafish ear

Supervisors: Professor Tanya Whitfield (Biomedical Science);
Professor Alejandro Frangi (Centre for Computational Imaging and Simulation Technologies in Biomedicine).

Quantitative 3D morphogenesis of the developing zebrafish earThis project is fully funded by a four-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 three years to be eligible for full support.

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

For informal enquiries about this project, please contact Professor Tanya Whitfield (t.whitfield@sheffield.ac.uk) or Professor Alejandro Frangi (a.frangi@sheffield.ac.uk).

2. Thick and thin: imaging epithelial morphogenesis in the developing zebrafish ear

Supervisor: Professor Tanya Whitfield

This project is eligible for a department scholarship. These scholarships are awarded on a competitive basis – find out more on our funding webpage.

This project will explore how the complex shape of the vertebrate inner ear—the organ of hearing and balance—is generated in the embryo. By the third day of development, cells of the otic epithelium have very different shapes: these include the thin, squamous cells that form the non-sensory ducts of the semicircular canals, and the thickened epithelial cells of the sensory patches, including the sensory hair cells.  One of the first differences in cell shape to arise in the otic epithelium is a thinning of dorsal epithelium, a process known to be dependent on BMP signalling in the chick. 

This project aims to describe and understand the process of epithelial thinning in the developing zebrafish ear, using a combination of imaging and genetic analysis.

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 that lead to thinning of epithelium and the acquisition of correct cell shape.  Transgenic fluorescent markers are available to label cell membranes and nuclei.  We expect that the results will increase our understanding of the general principles of epithelial morphogenesis in the embryo.

The student will join the Whitfield group (developmental biology and biological imaging).  We collaborate closely with engineers, and there will also be an opportunity to select and apply computational techniques to analyse imaging data.   We are seeking an enthusiastic student who wishes to expand their knowledge of developmental biology and organogenesis.

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

To find out more about this project and how to apply see our PhD opportunities page:

PhD Opportunities