Contact Us

Biochemistry Dept.
University of  Oxford,
South Parks Rd.,
Oxford, ​OX1 3QU


Contact Us


Biochemistry Dept.,

University of Oxford,

South Parks Rd.,



Latest News - DPHIL Studentship position 2019

We are very excited to announce a fascinating interdisciplinary DPhil studentship co-supervised by Ilan in conjunction with the Martin Booth of the Engineering Dept., Alfredo Castello of Biochemistry and Dr. Phillipa Timmins of Aurox Ltd.

This unique project involves building a microscopy platform tailored to the specific needs of the project. This would then be used to study neural stem cells and the early stages of infection of Sindbis virus. Students interested in microscopy, neurobiology, RNA biology and viral biology are encouraged to apply as soon as possible. We particularly encourage students with Engineering and Physics experience to apply, extensive biology experience is not a requirement. Further information can be found here

Vacancies &
PhD Positions

Research Focus

We are interested in understanding how the fly brain develops and functions, as a model for the human brain in health and in disease. We are focusing on elucidating the role of post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression in neural stem cell (neuroblast) development and their differentiation into neurons, as well as in synaptic plasticity during memory and learning. These mechanisms include mRNA transport and localised translation, as well as mRNA stability and processing. 

Keywords:  mRNA, Neuronal development, Neural stem cells, Drosophila, live cell imaging,  synaptic plasticity, neuromuscular junction, brain, neurons, memory, learning, neuromuscular diseases. 

We use a wide range of methodologies in our research, from established methods to cutting edge technologies and purpose-built microscopes.

Movies & Images

We welcome informal enquiries from prospective Post-Doc and PhD students

The research in our lab is generously funded by Wellcome, the Leverhulme Trust, the BBSRC and Marie Curie. 

Browse a selection of movies and still images taken using the advanced imaging techniques we use in the lab.

RNA - what is it and what does it do?

We are particularly interested in how RNA is involved in the development of the nervous system and memory & learning. But what is RNA? The DNA that is in every one of our cells contains vast amounts of information (genes) used as instructions to make proteins. When a cell needs to make a protein this part of the DNA is copied and the copy is called RNA. These are then sent to the cell machinery in order for a protein to be made. Of particular interest to us are RNAs located at the distant end of nerve cells that are used to enable quick growth of nerves and synapses a long way from the cell nucleus. In order to study these tiny molecules we use cutting-edge microscopy techniques.

We wish to thank the generosity of the Drosophila research community and acknowledge the contribution of FlyBase and the various stock centres

Ilan Davis Lab

Biochemistry Department, University of Oxford

our Research


+44 (0)1865 613271


We are interested in understanding how the fly brain develops and functions, as a model for the human brain in health and in disease.

Lab Members

METhods & Technology development

  1. Jonathan U Harrison, Richard M Parton, Ilan Davis, Ruth E Baker (2019). Testing models of mRNA localization reveals robustness regulated by reducing transport between cells
    bioRxiv 533133; doi: pre-print.
  2. Manuel Garcia-Moreno, Marko Noerenberg, Shuai Ni, Aino I. Järvelin, Esther González-Almela, Caroline E. Lenz, Marcel Bach-Pages, Victoria Cox, Rosario Avolio, Thomas Davis, Svenja Hester, Thibault J.M. Sohier, Bingnan Li, Gregory Heikel, Gracjan Michlewski, Miguel A. Sanz, Luis Carrasco, Emiliano P. Ricci, Vicent Pelechano, Ilan Davis, Bernd Fischer, Shabaz Mohammed, Alfredo Castello (2019) System-wide Profiling of RNA-Binding Proteins Uncovers Key Regulators of Virus Infection. Molecular Cell. pdf
  3. Josh Titlow, Francesca Robertson, Aino Jarvelin, David Ish-Horowicz, Carlas Smith, Enrico Gratton, Ilan Davis (2019) Syncrip/hnRNPQ is required for activity-induced Msp300/Nesprin- I expression and new synapse formation. pre-print
  4. Mantas Zurauskas, Ian M. Dobbie, Richard M. Parton, Mick A. Phillips, Antonia Gohler, Ilan Davis, and Martin J. Booth (2019) IsoSense: frequency enhanced sensorless adaptive optics through structured illumination. Optica, Vol. 6, Issue 3, pp.370-379. pdf
  5. Yang L., Titlow J., Ennis D., Smith C., Mitchell J., Young F.L., Waddell S., Ish-Horowicz D., Davis I. (2017) Single molecule fluorescence in situ hybridisation for quantitating post-transcriptional regulation in Drosophila brains. Methods. pdf
  6. Yang C-P, Samuels TJ, Huang Y, Yang L, Ish-Horowicz D, Davis I, Lee T. (2017). Imp/Syp Temporal Gradients Govern Decommissioning Of Drosophila Neural Stem Cells. Development. 144(19):3454-3464 pdf. ​
  7. Hailstone M., Yang L., Waithe D., Samuels T.J., Arava Y., Dobrzycki T., Parton R.M., Davis I. (Under Review, Dev Cell) Brain Development: Machine Learning Analysis Of Individual Stem Cells In Live 3D Tissue. pre-print
  8. Titlow JS, Yang L, Parton RM, Palanca A, Davis I.​​ (2017) Super-Resolution Single Molecule FISH at the Drosophila Neuromuscular Junction.​ Methods Mol Biol. 1649:163-175. pd                   Full list of publications on Pubmed

Selected Recent Publications

Plain English

Fruit Flies

In the Davis lab we use fruit flies to study how the nervous system works on a microscopic level. These are the same fruit flies commonly seen in kitchens in the summertime. Perhaps surprisingly, fruit flies are very similar to humans in how they control the function of their cells, making them an excellent model system to use. The fly nervous system works in essentially the same way as it does in mammals, with the same types of nerves as well as a distinct brain with similar structures to those found in a human brain.

In the Davis lab we have a team of people from diverse scientific backgrounds who bring a wide range of skills to our research.