I am interested in how to program computation and decision-making in biological systems. The applications of programmed biology are numerous, including the synthesis of medicines and industrial chemicals, through to the direct treatment of disease. My current research looks at how developmental patterns can be programmed in multicellular or purely chemical systems, taking a Synthetic Biology approach to address fundamental questions of how natural systems develop. I am also interested in how the immune system detects pathogenicity and have contributed several analyses of the antigen presentation (MHC class I) machinery.
My general approach to research is to use mathematical and statistical models to interpret experimental measurements, employing techniques from dynamical systems theory and machine learning. These methodologies have their roots elsewhere in science but are also clearly applicable to biological applications. However, there is a significant challenge in the multidimensionality of biological systems, and so I am interested in developing new methodologies or adjusting existing ones to address this challenge.
I studied Mathematics at the University of Oxford, UK (2001-2005), before becoming a biologist at the University of Cambridge. My PhD project was a collaboration between Alex Webb‘s group at the Department of Plant Sciences and Jorge Goncalves in the Control Group at the Department of Engineering. Following my PhD, I briefly held a research associate position in the Control Group, working with Glenn Vinnicombe on applications of stochastic control theory to gene networks. I came to Microsoft Research as a postdoc in 2009 and became a permanent member of the Biological Computation group in 2012.
- DNA computing: Spatially localized DNA domino. Nature Nanotechnology, 24 July 2017.
- DNA Logic Gets Much Faster. IEEE Spectrum, 24 July 2017.
- Researchers build nanoscale computational circuit boards with DNA. Microsoft Research, 24 July 2017.
- Introducing our authors – ACS Synthetic Biology, October 2015.
- Turing’s morphogenesis theory drives research into self-configuring systems – The IET, 10 November, 2014.
- DNA computing: Molecules reach consensus – Nature Nanotechnology, 4 October 2013.
- Neil wins 2011 Tansley Medal for Excellence in Plant Science – New Phytologist, December 2011.
- Researchers Find Link Between Plant Metabolism and Biological Clock – Crop Biotech Update, 25th March 2011.
- Coming Soon to a Lab Near You: Drag-and-Drop Virtual Worlds – Science, 11th February 2011.