University of Oxford and St. Andrews
St. Andrews, Copenhagen, Stockholm, NYC, London
University lecturer in Neuroscience
University of Oxford
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 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 favourite CHRISTMAS LECTURE memory is:
sticky stick insects (Richard Dawkins back in 1991)
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
inquisitive, excited, passionate
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
I have always wondered how we work
Were you ever in trouble at school?
yes (but that is all part of development)