Ian Simpson

Working with some very large database tables today which store information on how proteins interact with each other. The kind of data that you need to build the "wiring diagrams" you can see on the Bioinformatics home page here.

Favourite Thing: In recent years I’ve been doing a lot of analysis looking at how proteins interact with each other which we can represent as a very cool looking “wiring diagram” (like the one on the home page to the Bioinformatics Zone). This “interaction network” can tell us a lot about the kinds of biological processes that are important in that system. If you’d like to know more you could always ask me…..



The University of Oxford (1991-1999) [Keble and Linacre Colleges]


Bachelors and Masters degrees in Biochemistry and a Doctoral degree in Genetics

Work History:

University of Edinburgh & Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland (BioSS)

Current Job:

I lead a Bioinformatics research group in the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh and lead the research theme in “Statistical Genomics and Bioinformatics” at Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland (BioSS)


University of Edinburgh & Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland (BioSS)

Me and my work

I use computers to study how genes work in the brain; 86 billion cells, 100s of trillions of connections and 24 thousand genes, it’s a big computer.

Here are some of the research questions my group(s) are working on at the University of Edinburgh and Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland, all using Bioinformatics approaches with experimental data coming from labs around the world.

University of Edinburgh

  • How are genes and proteins controlled in the brain ?
  • What processes are not working properly in brain diseases such as Attention Deficit Disorder, Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia ?
  • How does the brain encode memory and how do we learn ?
  • What can we learn about the function of our brain from studying other (simpler) organisms ?
  • How can we use computers to simulate brain function to help the drug discovery process ?
  • How can we deal with so much data !?


  • Why do “friendly” bacteria suddenly become harmful to humans ?
  • How do plant pathogens infect our food crops and how can we stop them ?
  • How can we measure biodiversity ?
  • Can we predict the effects of climate change on animal and plant pathogens ?
  • How can we know if an animal vaccine is likely to work ?
  • ….oh and how do we deal with so much data !?

My Typical Day

A typical day would be a mix of meetings with collaborators, PhD and MSc. students, grant and paper reading and writing and coding/analysis on the computer.

What I'd do with the money

I’d use the money to buy some kit to take into local schools to demonstrate coding in use (for example some Raspberry Pi machines)

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

biologist, techie, enthusiast

Who is your favourite singer or band?


What's your favourite food?

Asian cuisine.

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Body-boarding with the kids on the isle of Islay last Summer.

What did you want to be after you left school?


Were you ever in trouble in at school?

Surely not.

What was your favourite subject at school?

Difficult, a split between Biology, Pure Maths and History

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

In terms of scientific achievements, successfully engineering a very complex transgenic mouse is up there, but I think I view helping to develop younger scientists in my research group as being the best (and most satisfying).

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

Lots of things and people, but a big one was a book borrowed from the local library aged 16, “Genes” by Benjamin Lewin.

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

I’ve always loved studying history, so a Historian.

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

Pretty content really. Would wish health, happiness and success to all my family and friends.

Tell us a joke.

Why did the Cyclops give up being a teacher ? Because he only had one pupil ;)

Other stuff

Work photos: