Ben Steventon

Steventon, Ben 4

Lara Busby, PhD student


I graduated in 2017 from the University of Cambridge with a BA in Natural Sciences (Genetics) and then spent a year working as a Research Assistant at the University of Sheffield. During this time I studied the developmental patterning of feathers on the avian wing. I returned to Cambridge and joined the Steventon group in Spring 2019 as a PhD student on the BBSRC programme.

In my research, I am studying the interplay between time and cell fate decisions during avian posterior body development, exploiting the chicken embryo as a system for experimental embryology. During development, cells must coordinate their behaviours and fate decisions with the overall progression of developmental time, to allow for normal morphogenesis. I hope to gain insight into the mechanisms which allow cells to “know how old they are” by performing heterochronic grafting experiments (moving cells between embryos of different ages).

Chaitanya Dingare, Post-Doc


I obtained my bachelor’s degree (Biotechnology) and master’s degree (Zoology, Specialization in Genetics) from the University of Pune (India). Later I joined the zebrafish epidermis laboratory at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai (India) to gain some research experience in the field of developmental cell biology. I started my PhD in 2012 with Prof. Virginie Lecaudey at the University of Freiburg and later at the JW Goethe University Frankfurt in Germany. During my PhD, I have studied how hippo pathway transcriptional co-activators Yap and Taz regulate the size of a tissue and a cell using the posterior lateral line primordium and the micropylar cell as model systems.

In Ben’s lab, I will study the role of metabolism during embryonic development using in vitro model systems such ‘gastruloids’ and ‘pescoids’ as well as zebrafish embryos as an in vivo system. I will develop spatial metabolomics technique in these model systems to visualise systemic metabolic changes and manipulate them to study their role in different developmental processes.

I think performing molecular biology experiments and cooking are not that different, so I enjoy cooking and baking too.  I enjoy trying different cuisines and Cambridge being so international is a great place to explore different food types. After moving to England, I revived my interest in cricket and sometimes do follow cricket matches when England or India are playing. Apart from this, I am trying to learn and speak French but no luck so far!

Dillan Saunders, PhD student


I first became interested in embryos and developmental biology during my undergraduate degree in Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge. I then joined Megan Davey’s lab at the University of Edinburgh, for an MSc in Developmental Biology, where I spent a year fate mapping tissues in the chick limb. I am now a PhD student on the Wellcome Trust Developmental Mechanisms programme and I joined the Steventon lab in Autumn 2019. At the moment, I am interested in the feedback between cell populations and their signalling environment, and how this feedback allows for developmental pattern regulation. My PhD project explores this aspect of development using axial progenitor populations in the zebrafish tailbud. I am excited to be part of a community of people who are similarly intent on a holistic approach to learning about the dynamic and complex nature of embryos.

Alex Neaverson, PhD student


I graduated with a BSc in Biomedical Sciences (with a year in industry) from the University of York in 2018. During my undergraduate degree I became very interested in developmental biology, and gained experience studying FGF signalling in Xenopus laevis embryos. After graduating, I spent three years working as a research assistant at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, where I was able to study development on a much larger scale, using knockout iPSC differentiation to neural stem cells to study the effects of rare developmental disorders on neural development and gene expression, as part of the UK-wide DDD (Deciphering Developmental Disorders) study.

My PhD research as part of the Steventon lab will involve using the chick embryo, to investigate the behaviour of cells after removing Hensen’s node, the organiser which patterns the body axis and nervous system of the early embryo. Despite its importance, previous work shows that embryos develop normally after node ablation, but development is delayed for 6-9 hours. I will perform experiments to try to identify the reasons behind this delay, and how the cells can seemingly continue down their developmental trajectory without this important source of patterning signals.

Previous Lab members

Tim Fulton, PhD student, now a lecturer at Queen Mary’s London.


Lewis Thomson, BBSRC DTP PhD student, Now a Post-Doc with Emilia Santos, Department of Zoology


Berta Verd, Herchel Smith Postdoctoral Fellow, now a Lecturer and Group Leader at the University of Oxford:


Kane Toh, PhD student, Now plotting to take over the world
Susie McLaren, Wellcome Trust PhD student, Now a Post-Doc with Fengzhu Xiong, Gurdon Institute


Meagan Hennessy, Research Assistant. Now a PhD student with David Turner at the University of Liverpool


Kay Spiess, Research Assistant, now a Data Scientist at Swenex


Seongwon Hwang, Research Assistant, now a PhD student with Aylwyn Scally, Department of Genetics


Veronika Mantziou. Now a PhD student with Alfonso Martinez Arias, UPF, Barcelona


Adam Pond. MPhil student. Now a Machine Learning Engineer at SciBite


Andrea Attardi. Now a PhD student with Jacqueline Tabler at the MPI-CBG, Dresden


Silvija Svambaryte. Now a PhD student with Alexander Aulelha at the EMBL, Heidelberg


Toby Andrews, Wellcome rotation student. Now a Post-Doc with Rashmi Priya, Crick institute

Department of Genetics

University of Cambridge