DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — The National Science Foundation has awarded University of Dayton biologist Dr. Thomas Williams more than $1 million for his trait development research.

The four-year $1,036,507 grant that started Sept. 1 will also enable Williams to train one doctoral student, two masters students and eight undergraduate students on staff in his lab.

Williams shares the award with research collaborator Mark Rebeiz, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh Department of Biological Sciences.

The study focuses on how physical traits develop and evolve at the DNA level. Williams will test his findings through genetic engineering, according to a university release.

He will use fruit flies in his study to understand which genes are responsible for the male flies’ abdomen color patterns.

His findings will be useful in studying human disease. Roughly 60% of fruit fly genes can be found in humans in similar forms, and about 75% of the genes responsible for human diseases have counterparts in fruit flies, the release states.

“The lessons we learn about the genes in fruit flies give us insights about how these genes might be functioning in our bodies as well,” Williams said.

More information about the study can be found here.