Dr Fabio Manfredini

Dr Fabio Manfredini
Dr Fabio Manfredini

Dr Fabio Manfredini

BSc, MSc, PhD



School of Biological Sciences
1.14 Cruickshank Building, St Machar Drive
University of Aberdeen
Aberdeen AB24 3UL



2005-2009        PhD: Evolutionary Biology, University of Siena. Dissertation title: “Dealing with a changeable environment: host-parasite relationships in insects”. Advisor: Romano Dallai. Co-advisor: Laura Beani.

2003-2005        MSc: Biodiversity, Ecology and Evolution, University of Siena. 110 (out of 110) cum laude. Thesis title: “The peculiar immunity elusion of Xenos vesparum (Insecta: Strepsiptera) as endoparasite inside Polistes dominulus (Insecta: Hymenoptera)”. Advisor: Romano Dallai.

1999-2003        BSc: Life Sciences, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia.110 (out of 110) cum laude. Thesis title: “Public perception of Genetically Modified Organisms”. Advisor: Mauro Mandrioli.



From Jan 2020  Lecturer in Functional Genomics, School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen

2016-2019        Postdoctoral Research Associate Royal Holloway University of London. European Research Council project BeeDanceGap: “Honeybee communication: animal social learning at the height of social complexity”. Project Coordinator: Elli Leadbeater.

2014-2016        Marie Curie Fellow (International Incoming Fellowship) Royal Holloway University of London. Project EVOCOOP: “Multi-level analysis of the evolution of cooperative behaviour in social insects”. Project Coordinator: Mark J. F. Brown. 

2013-2014        Leverhulme Postdoctoral Fellow Royal Holloway University of London. Project: “Are bumblebees the Extended Phenotype of nematodes? A transcriptomics approach”. Project Coordinators: Mark J. F. Brown and Seirian Sumner.

2010-2013        Postdoctoral Researcher Penn State University. Project: “Functional Genomics of the Red Imported Fire Ant, Solenopsis invicta.” Project Coordinators: Christina M. Grozinger and DeWayne D. Shoemaker.


Research Overview

I am an evolutionary ecologist interested in understanding how complex behaviours and phenotypic plasticity are regulated at the molecular level. My research focuses on social insects (such as bees, ants and wasps) as these organisms provide a wide range of opportunities to explore how complex animal societies interact with the environment: from the ecosystem services that pollinators like bees provide, to biological invasions as observed for many ant and wasps species. I adopt a  multidisciplinary approach in my research, including functional genomics, behavioural assays and molecular tools. I have used a diverse set of study models to address my questions, including fire ants (Solenopsis invicta), paper wasps (Polistes dominula), bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) and honeybees (Apis mellifera).



At the moment there are two opportunities to join the lab as a PhD student through competitive DTP scholarships that are open to international applicants - see details below. In addition to these, I am always available to discuss other options for prospective PhD students and also for MRes students or postdocs to secure their own funding to join the Lab and support their research. If you are interested please contact me by email: your CV and a brief statement of interests are always a great start.

1) The first project is on the "Importance and sustainability of endangered communities of bee pollinators in the machair, a changing coastal ecosystem". This is a 3.5 years CASE project, part of a competition funded by QUADRAT NERC DTP and the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and in collaboration with Dr Paul Williams (Queen's University Belfast), Dr Lesley Lancaster (University of Aberdeen) and Prof Robin Pakeman (The James Hutton Institute). Prospective candidates can find full details about the project, including criteria and eligibility, on FindAPHDor on the QUADRAT website. Deadline to apply to this program is Wednesday, December 01, 2021.

FindAPHD advert: https://www.findaphd.com/phds/project/quadrat-dtp-case-importance-and-sustainability-of-endangered-communities-of-bee-pollinators-in-the-machair-a-changing-coastal-ecosystem/?p134843

QUADRAT website: https://www.quadrat.ac.uk/projects/importance-and-sustainability-of-endangered-communities-of-bee-pollinators-in-the-machair-a-changing-coastal-ecosystem-case/

2) The title of the second project is "Identifying the link between viral infections and foraging behaviour in the honeybee brain". This is a 4 year PhD project, part of a competition funded by EASTBIO BBSRC DTP and in collaboration with Dr Alan Bowman (University of Aberdeen) and Dr Mark Barnett  (University of Edinburgh, Roslin Institute). Prospective candidates can find full details about the project, including criteria and eligibility, on FindAPHD and on the EASTBIO website. Deadline to apply to this program is Thursday, December 16, 2021.

FindAPHD advert: https://www.findaphd.com/phds/project/eastbio-identifying-the-link-between-viral-infections-and-foraging-behaviour-in-the-honeybee-brain/?p135449

EASTBIO website: http://www.eastscotbiodtp.ac.uk/how-apply-0

Current Research

I have recently established my research group at the Univeristy of Aberdeen (January 2020). The following projects are currently ongoing in my group. 

Elucidating the role of deformed wing virus (DWV) on honey bee cognitive performance through the analysis of brain gene expression. This is a projected funded by The CB Dennis British Beekeepers’ Research Trust and in collaboration with Dr Alan Bowman (Univeristy of Aberdeen) and his group. In this project we are investigating whether the presence of the widespread DWV virus (transmitted by the parasitic mite Varroa destructor) in the honeybee brain impairs bee's cognitve abilities by affecting the expression of key genes in neural tissues. The reasearch assistant for this project, Lauren Dingle, has performed behavioural tests (Proboscis Elongation Reflex assays or PER) across a range of honeybee colonies presenting different levels of DWV infection. She is now quantifying viral loads in the brain of these bees to select the samples that will undergo RNA sequencing. 

The evolution of the honeybee waggle dance: a population genomics approach. This is a Distance Learning PhD project led by Simon Loughran and under the co-supervision of Dr Kara Layton (University of Aberdeen). This project aims to characterize the evolution of the honeybee waggle dance at the genetic level. Simon will investigate whether key genes associated with the performance of this behaviour are under positive selection in populations of honeybees that are exposed to a range of different environments, from native tropical forests to rural and urbanized environments in Europe and North America. Simon will use open access genomic data and will interrogate them with the most advanced bioinformatic tools currently available.


Past Research

Implementing a Machine Learning Approach for the understanding of social learning in honeybee foragers. This project was led by Marcell Veiner, a student in Computing Science and Mathematics at the Univeristy of Aberdeen, and in collaboration with Dr Juliano Morimoto (University of Aberdeen). In this project Marcell used a transcriptomic dataset originated from a previous large RNAseq experiment to investigate whether brain gene expression data can be used to predict behavioural performance of honeybee dancers and followers involved in a waggle dance event. Marcell is currently preparing a manuscript for submission to a scientific journal for publication. The project was a NERC Funded Research Experience Placement funded by the UKRI. You can read Marcell's blog post about his experience with the project here




Simon Loughran PhD student, started in January 2021

Simon's background is computer science and software development, and since switching to the study of biology a few years ago he's developed a keen interest in animal behaviour, genetics and insects (especially the Diptera and Hymenoptera). For his PhD he's investigating the evolution of the honey bee waggle dance from a genomics perspective. He's also dad to a toddler, a songwriter, a running coach, and the webmaster for runbundle.com.


Stephen Lane MRes student 2021-22

Project: "Gene expression changes underlying lifespan extension in an insect host-parasite interaction"


Estefania Hugo Arnabal Honours Student 2021-22

Project: "Honeybee brain gene expression in relation to viral loads and cognitive performance"


Gabrielle Young MSc Student 2020-21

Project: "Habitat use by bumblebees in coastal and wetland environments" 


Nathanael Litlekalsoy MSc Student 2020-21

Project: "Effect of social environment on alternative splicing in the brain of ant queens"


Jessie Jungels Honours Student 2020-21

Project: "The role of immunity in honeybee foraging behaviour"


Caitlin McLeod Honours Student 2020-21

Project: "Investigating the relationships between immune-related gene expression in the brain and founding modalities with different levels of social stress in Solenopsis invicta queens"

Funding and Grants

The project on DWV, bee cognition and brain gene expression is supported by The CB Dennis British Beekeepers’ Research Trust (June 2020 - January 2022, £26,932).

The project Transcriptomic profiling of viral infections in the brain of a key pollinator has been funded by the Aberdeen Grant Academy under the call "Internal Funding to Pump-Prime Interdisciplinary Research and Impact Activities" (June-July 2021, £9,950).

The project on machine learning and waggle dance has been funded by The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC-UKRI) in the form of a research experience summer placement to Marcell Veiner (10 weeks in Summer 2020, £2,500). 


Teaching Responsibilities

I am the coordinator of the new course in Ecological Genomics (BI3312) that will launch in November 2021. Other contributors to the course are Dr Ashish Malik, Dr Kara Layton, Dr Victoria Sleight and Dr Marius Wenzel.

I am also contributing to the following courses:


BI1009: Frontiers in Biological Sciences (Evolution & Behaviour)


BI2023: Introduction to Genetics (Population Genetics)


BI3505: Behavioural Biology 


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