• 3262
1990 …2024

Research activity per year

Personal profile

Research interests

My overall goal is to understand the computational principles that underly brain development, using a combination of experimental and theoretical approaches. Previously I have studied how growing nerve fibers detect and respond to molecular gradients to find their targets, and how visual experience affects the development of maps in the developing brain. Currently we are using the larval zebrafish as a model to understand the links between the development of patterns of brain activity and complex behaviors and how the development of brain and behavior is altered in Autism Spectrum Disorders.


My father grew up as one of 10 kids in one of the poorest parts of London (UK); my mother came from a family of mildly eccentric left-wing intellectuals. Together they instilled in me a strong sense of social justice. We lived in Beijing China for the first 2 years of my life, where my parents were employed by the Chinese government teaching English. After returning to London my parents taught foreign languages in schools and teacher-training colleges, and English to recent immigrants and refugees. I spent 5 years at a high school in a predominantly working-class area of London where most kids left school at age 16 and about 2% went on to university. My own upbringing was not deprived, but I certainly knew enough people who weren’t so lucky to understand something about what that meant.

After my PhD I spent 10 years in the US, and was often surprised by the depth of some of the cultural differences between the US and UK, despite the 2 countries appearing in many ways quite similar. I then spent 17 years in Australia, absorbing and adapting to a 3rd (or perhaps a 4th) culture, and being exposed to some of the many challenging issues relating to Aboriginal Australians. I was the founding Chair of my Institute's Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

My lab has always contained a mix of people from a diverse range of backgrounds and countries (including China, Japan, India, Vietnam, the Philippines, Israel, France, Germany, Romania and New Zealand, besides of course the UK, US and Australia). The over-arching principal in my lab is respect for others. I see my role as a mentor as being to support each person's individual career goals, whatever they may be. Several of my trainees (including some amazing women) have gone on to run their own labs, while others have chosen to follow different paths, for instance in tech companies such as Google. I have been very proud to support them all.

Available to Mentor:

  • PhD/MSTP Students


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