Dr Maike Kittelmann

Senior Research Fellow

Department of Biological and Medical Sciences

Maike Kittelmann


I am an independent Research Fellow in Cell and Developmental Biology. I mainly focus on research but also teach Animal behaviour and Neurobiology as well as Nervous system development.

My research group works on two different themes:

1) the development of the nervous system and synaptic connections. We use the nematode C. elegans as a model but we also collaborate with groups using comb jelly to understand the evolution of nervous systems in animals.

2) eye size specification and its implication on vision. Here we use the fruit fly Drosophila as a model and collaborate with a range of researchers to help us integrate genetics, behaviour and mathematics to understand how this important sensory organ develops to species and sex specific size.


Areas of expertise

  • Electron microscopy (TEM, SEM and SBF-SEM)
  • High Pressure Freezing and Freeze Substitution, microwave fixation)
  • EM tomography
  • Correlative microscopy and 3D reconstructions
  • Synchrotron radiation microtomography
  • Confocal microscopy
  • Standard molecular biology techniques

Teaching and supervision


Modules taught

  • Nervous system and brain development
  • Animal behaviour and Neurobiology


My two current PhD student include Lewis Crockram (Active zone formation in C. elegans) and Lisa Moncrieff (temperature dependent eye development in Drosophila).

I also act as secondary supervisor for students with focus on developmental biology and bioimaging.

If you are interested to do a PhD project in my lab, please email maike.kittelmann@brookes.ac.uk for further information.


My lab is interested in the development of the nervous system, how connections are formed in the correct time and space and which components are crucial to assemble the synaptic vesicle fusion machinery. We take advantage of the well characterised and fairly stereotypic connectome of C. elegans to identify and analyse defects in mutants that lack multiple core proteins. These proteins are thought to be involved in synapse assembly and regulation of synaptic vesicle fusion and thus neurotransmission. We use a variety of imaging techniques including Confocal microscopy as well as high resolution 3D Serial Block Face SEM and TEM tomography for ultrastructural analysis.

During animal development it is crucial that organ size is correctly specified. More crucially so in important sensory organs like eyes. Insect compound eyes show a huge variety in sizes and shapes, but even within Drosophila species we can find large variation in eye size. We are utilising the large genetic and molecular tool kit available in Drosophila to identify the genetic basis of natural eye size variation and combine it with advanced 3D imaging techniques like synchrotron radiation tomography to identify corresponding morphological differences between Drosophila species. Mathematical models can then generate  predictions on the effects of eye size on Drosophila vision can then be tested in behavioural assays.

Current Research projects

  • Understanding the formation of the presynaptic active zone ultrastructure and function
  • Genetic, morphological and functional analysis of size differences in compound eyes in Drosophila
  • Variation of thermal plasticity of eyes in Drosophila species

If you are interested to do a PhD project in my lab, please email maike.kittelmann@brookes.ac.uk for further information.


Projects as Co-investigator

  • The eyes have it: genetic, morphological and functional analysis of differences in compound eyes between Drosophila species(01/12/2019 - 31/03/2023), funded by: Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), funding amount received by Brookes: £569,557, funded by: Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)


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Professional information

Memberships of professional bodies

  • Royal microscopy Society and European Microscopy Society
  • British Society for Developmental Biology
  • The Genetics Society
  • British Neuroscience Association

Further details

I studied Biology in the University of Goettingen, Germany where I obtained my Diploma. My thesis investigated the evolution of the nervous system and neurons using SNARE proteins as potential markers for neuronal anchestors in the early metazoan Trichoplax adhaerens.

During my PhD at the European Neuroscience Institute in Goettingen I used the model organism C. elegans to understand how synaptic transmission is regulated via the presynaptic density which is thought to be involved in vesicle tethering and recruitment to the presynaptic fusion site.

As post-doc I worked with Prof. Martin Goepfert to understand how mechanical stimuli lead to the opening of mechanosensory ion channels to generate an electric signal in the sensory neurons in Drosophila and identified ankyrin repeats of the mechanosensory ionchannel NOMPC as connection between the ion channel in the cell membrane and the microtubules.

I moved to Oxford in 2014 to join Prof Chris Hawes as a post-doc at Oxford Brookes University to use the state-of-the-art bioimaging facility and Serial-Block-Face SEM to investigate ER structure in 3D.