Emília Santos | Principal Investigator, NERC Independent Research Fellow


I graduated in Biology at the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon, where I also enrolled in the Evolutionary and Evolutionary Biology Masters program. During my master’s degree I worked with Élio Sucena at IGC (Institute Gulbenkian de Ciência). We studied the gene structure and function of the FoxP gene family in drosophila and mouse. It was a fantastic project, but throughout its duration I realised that the topic I felt more passionate about was the evolution of morphological diversity. What are the genes, mutations and developmental mechanisms responsible for the emergence of morphological variation? I then moved on to do a PhD on the evolution of pigmentation patterns in cichlid fishes with Walter Salzburger at the University of Basel (Switzerland). For my  post-doc, I added one more model organism to my experimental portfolio – the Rhagovelia insects. In this project I worked with Abderrahman Khila at the Institute of Functional Genomics in Lyon (France). I studied the genetics, development, and function of a novel cuticular structure present only in the Rhagovelia genus. During the process we described new species and got to name two genes!

At the moment, we are focusing on neural crest cells and pigmentation evolution in cichlid fishes. In the future, we will also be carrying out projects on the evolution of the Rhagovelia fan. If you want more details on what we are up to, you are welcome to visit our research tab.

Aleksandra Marconi |Wellcome Trust PhD student

Aleks_photoI’m a PhD student on the Wellcome Trust 4-year PhD Programme in Developmental Mechanisms. My main research interests lie in understanding how developmental and genetic mechanisms are related to evolutionary patterns. During my PhD studies I will be focusing on the evolution and development of the neural crest in cichlid fishes, aiming to explore how changes at the level of the genome, gene regulatory networks and developmental mechanisms during embryogenesis can affect morphological evolution of the neural crest-derived features and generate natural phenotypic diversity. When I am not in the lab, I enjoy practicing yoga, running and film photography.