Graham ThompsonWestern Science

Graduate Opportunities

Our lab studies the evolutionary and developmental interplay between behaviour and genes, with a focus on how genes interact with their environment to influence the social behaviour of insects. There are opportunities available for undergraduate and graduate research within this Behavioural Genetics and Sociobiology theme. Projects are typically developed between myself and the student during their first semester, but ‘pre-made’ projects can also be assigned.

Standing Positions Available

The Social Biology Group ( in the Department of Biology at Western University (London, Canada) is recruiting graduate students to advance any of the following projects. We will match the precise project to the skill, aptitude and experience of successful candidates.

1) Network analysis of honey bee genomes

We are seeking evolutionary-minded students with an aptitude for network and related bioinformatics analyses to identify genes and gene networks that regulate worker sterility in response to queen pheromone. We anticipate that students with expertise in software-driven network analysis will be well-suited to these positions.

Some background information is available in:

Sobotka et al 2016. Structure and function of gene regulatory networks associated with worker sterility in honeybees. Ecology and Evolution 6: 1692-1701

Mullen et al. 2014. Gene co-citation networks associated with worker sterility in honey bees. BMC Systems Biology 8: 38

2) Comparative biology of social and non-social insects

We are seeking one or more students with experience in Drosophila biology and genetics to help identify genes and neurons essential for pheromone responsiveness and ovary de-activation - first in flies, then in other insects. We aim to discover the genetic and neural circuits that coordinate reproduction in social versus non-social insects.

Some background information is available in:

Camiletti AL, Percival-Smith A, Croft JR, Thompson GJ 2016. A novel screen for genes associated with pheromone-induced sterility. Scientific Reports 6: 36041.

Camiletti AL, Thompson GJ 2016. Drosophila as a genetically tractable model for social insect behaviour. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 4: 40.

Camiletti et al 2014. How flies respond to honey bee pheromone:The role of the foraging gene on reproductive response to queen mandibular pheromone. Naturwissenschaften 101: 25-31.

Camiletti et al 2013. Honey bee queen mandibular pheromone inhibits ovary development and fecundity in a fruit fly. Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata 147: 262-268.

3) Molecular coordination of social traits in termites

We seek a candidate with interest or expertise in next-generation sequence analysis, gene network analysis, or in the general social and evolutionary biology of insects. We aim to discover the molecular basis of social coordination and invasiveness in the Eastern subterranean termite.

Some background information is available in:

Wu T, Dhami GK, Thompson GJ 2018. Soldier-biased gene expression in a subterranean termite implies functional specialization of the defensive caste. Evolution and Development 20: DOI: 10.1111/ede.12243

Wu et al. 2015. Subterranean termites: the evolution of a pest. PCT Canada 3: 34-42.

Gao and Thompson 2015. Social context affects immune gene expression in a subterranean termite. Insectes Sociaux. 62: 167-179.

Scaduto et al 2012. Genetic evidence for multiple invasions of the Eastern subterranean termite into Canada. Environmental Entomology. 41: 1680-1686.

4) Developing and testing sociobiological ideas

We have developed a conceptual roadmap for social gene discovery, and we seek a student with an interest in population genetic modeling or comparative sequence analysis, or both. The successful candidate would help us develop guidelines for predicting the type, location and qualities of genes that underlay social traits, with a focus on honey bees. 

Some background information is available in:

Thompson GJ, Richards MH 2016. Editorial: Genetic effects on social traits. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 4:91.

Mullen and Thompson 2015. Understanding honey bee worker self-sacrifice: a conceptual-empirical framework. Advances in Insect Physiology 48: 325-354.

Thompson GJ et al 2013. Genes underlying altruism. Biology Letters 9: 20130395.

How to apply

Western University is located in the City of London (pop. 400 000) and has a large and vibrant Department of Biology We have strong links to the London Regional Genomics Centre (LRGC) and SHARCNET super-computing facilities. In addition, we run an active research group, with a well-equipped molecular laboratory. We have access to live insetcs and maintain a small apiary. Funding is often available for Canadian students, and we will strongly support your scholarship (NSERC OGS) applications. International students are welcome to apply especially if they have access to scholarships from their home country Inquiries to Associate Professor Graham J Thompson ( Informal inquires are welcome :)