Understanding the neuronal and optical mechanisms underlying the use of polarized light in female horseflies to detect and approach cattle

This position, funded by the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research, is part of an interdisciplinary research project together with the groups of Professor Doekele Stavenga, at the University of Groningen, NL, as well as Drs Nick Roberts and Gregor Belušič at the Universities of Bristol, UK, and Ljubljana, SL, respectively. The project aims to understand the neuronal and optical mechanisms underlying the use of polarized light in female horseflies to detect and approach cattle. Work in the group of Professor Holger Krapp at Imperial College will focus on studies of the central neuronal circuits that exploit polarized light for visual guidance.

Methods applied include mainly electrophysiological techniques to record from and identify visual interneurons, descending neurons, and motor neurons involved in horsefly gaze stabilization and flight control. Quantitative behavioural experiments using polarized and non-polarized light stimuli under closed- and open-loop conditions will be carried out in collaboration with the groups of Drs Roberts and Belušič – partly in the laboratory and partly in the field. A potential extension of the project may include functional anatomical studies on the neck and flight motor system using state of the art x-ray techniques. The results will advance our understanding of the use of polarized light in the context of task-specific biological sensorimotor control and may inspire the development of novel autonomous robotic systems.


If you have previously been working in the area of visual/sensory neuroscience or neuroethology you are particularly encouraged to apply. Prior experience with insect behaviour, dissections as well as electrophysiological techniques – including dye-based neuronal reconstructions – would be appreciated and knowledge of basic electronics and programming for stimulus control and data analysis are desirable.

For appointment at Research Assistant level, applicants should have a BSc/MSc (or equivalent).
For appointment at Research Associate level applicants should have a PhD degree in bioengineering, electrical engineering, physics, neurobiology or a related discipline.

*Candidates who have not yet been officially awarded their PhD will be appointed as Research Assistant within the salary range £31,740 – £33,370 per annum.

For further information on the project and/or an informal discussion please contact Prof Holger G Krapp (email:; phone: +44 (0)20 7594 2014).

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