Simon Butt



University of Oxford and St. Andrews



Work History:

St. Andrews, Copenhagen, Stockholm, NYC, London

Current Job:

University lecturer in Neuroscience


University of Oxford

Me and my work

Research into normal and dysfunctional brain development

Our brains define who we are and for the vast majority of us we like to think that we are ‘normal’; that we have a normal brain that controls our behaviour in an appropriate fashion. The amazing part is that each and everyone of us has developed from a single fertilized egg – the starting point of an amazing developmental journey that has led to this point, looking at this computer screen, reading these words. So how does this come about? How do we go from one cell to the tens of billions of nerve cells that make up our brain? What happens if something goes wrong, what control mechanisms are there in place that keep the majority of us on the straight and narrow – the path to normality? These are just some of the questions that we think about in my lab every day. At the moment our focus is very much on how the brain wires up – how connections are made that will sculpt your emergent behaviour. Our current belief and something that we hope to test is that some connections are hired-wired and provide a scaffold for the rest of the developing brain.

My Typical Day

My days vary quite a bit depending on whether it is term time or not. During term I am often meeting with students for hour long tutorials when we discuss everything to do with neuroscience. In between I catch up with members of the lab, talk about their experiments, plan future experiments with them and work out what we need to make that happen. Out of term I have much more time for the research and we often have project students (undergraduate and graduate masters students) working alongside us. It is great to see them gain an insight into what we are doing. We are a small team and it is fairly informal with the area around the coffee machine acting as a hub for discussion and collaboration.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

inquisitive, excited, passionate

What living thing amazes you the most?

blue whales and my children

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

yes (but that is all part of development)

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

an artist (one of my biology teachers thought I might make it as an illustrator but not as a scientist)

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

my last experiment!

Who or what inspired you to become a scientist?

I have always wondered how we work

What would your superpower be?

the ability to instantly teleport myself to another location (for fun and stop me from being late)

If I could change one thing about the world...

one thing? that those that wilfully inflict pain perceive the consequences

My favourite CHRISTMAS LECTURE memory is:

sticky stick insects (Richard Dawkins back in 1991)

The most Fantastic thing about Life is:


Other stuff

Show us where you work: