Professor Stephen Simpson
ARC Laureate Fellow
Academic Director Charles Perkins Centre
D17 - Charles Perkins Centre
The University of Sydney
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Charles Perkins Centre
Behaviour and Physiology Research Lab
A08 - Heydon-Laurence Building
Professor Stephen Simpson is Academic Director of the Charles Perkins Centre and Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Sydney. The Charles Perkins Centre is a new $385 million cross-faculty initiative at the University of Sydney. Its mission is to research and implement cross-disciplinary approaches to alleviating the individual and societal burden of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Stephen returned to Australia in 2005 as an ARC Federation Fellow after 22 years at Oxford. Before that he had undertaken his PhD at the University of London, and his undergraduate degree and Honours at the University of Queensland.
Together with colleague David Raubenheimer, Stephen developed an integrative modelling framework for nutrition, the Geometric Framework, which was devised and tested using insects but has since been applied to a wide range of organisms, from slime moulds to humans, and problems, from aquaculture and conservation biology to the dietary causes of human obesity and ageing. A synthesis of this body of work can be found in The Nature of Nutrition: a Unifying Framework from Animal Adaptation to Human Obesity, published by Princeton University Press in 2012. In addition to nutritional biology, Stephen’s research on locusts has led to an understanding of locust swarming that links chemical events in the brains of individual insects to landscape-scale mass migration.
Stephen has been Visiting Professor at Oxford, a Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Study (Wissenschaftskolleg) in Berlin, Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the University of Arizona, and Guest Professor at the University of Basel. In 2007 he was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, in 2008 he was awarded the Eureka Prize for Scientific Research, in 2009 he was named NSW Scientist of the Year, and in 2010 he was named as the Wigglesworth Medallist by the Royal Entomological Society of London. In 2013 Stephen was elected Fellow of the Royal Society, and awarded an Honorary Fellowship by the Royal Entomological Society. He was also co-writer, narrator and presenter of the four-part documentary Great Southern Land, for ABC TV, which was aired to critical and viewer acclaim in September 2012.
My group works at the interface of physiology, ecology, and behaviour. As well as discovering the mechanisms that induce swarming in locusts (research which now spans events within the nervous system of individual locusts to mass migration), we have, in collaboration with longstanding colleague David Raubenheimer (Massey University), developed a novel class of state-space models for nutrition, called the Geometric Framework (GF). The GF arose from extensive experiments on insects, but is now being applied in a wide variety of contexts, including conservation biology, human health, gerontology, immunology, ecology and aquaculture.
Leads the Behaviour and Physiology Research Lab The Behaviour and Physiology Research Group (BPRG), studies the neural, physiological, ecological and evolutionary bases of animal behaviour. The group's emphasis is 'bottom-up', in that we are especially concerned with the way in which lower-level processes lead to higher level outcomes. Our approach focuses on the behaviour of individual organisms and involves an interplay between theory and experiment. Most of our experimental work is on insects, although recent work has examined fish, birds and mammals - including humans. Techniques employed include the quantitative analysis of behaviour, neurophysiology, metabolic and digestive physiology, mathematical modelling, computer simulations and laboratory selection experiments.
Awards and honours
- Fellow of the Royal Society, 2013
- Edwards Oration, Australian Society for Medical Research,2013
- Honorary Fellow, Royal Entomological Society, 2013
- The Wigglesworth Medal and Award, Royal Entomological Society, 2012
- ARC Laureate Fellowship, 2010-2014
- NSW Scientist of the Year, 2009
- NSW Scientist of the Year Award for Plant and Animal Sciences, 2009
- Inaugural ‘Frontiers in Biology’ Lecturer, Princeton University, 2009
- Eureka Prize for Scientific Research, 2008
- Fellow, Australian Academy of Science, 2007
- Rockefeller Foundation, Bellagio, Italy, invited participant, 2006
- ARC Federation Fellowship, 2005-2009
- Visiting Professor, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, 2005-2008
- Senior Research Fellow of Jesus College, University of Oxford, 2005-2008
- Fellow, Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (Institute of Advanced Study), 2002-2003
- Invited Exhibitor, Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition, 2001
- Distinguished Visiting Professor, University of Arizona, 1999
- Guest Professor, University of Basel, 1990
In the media
- Great Southern Land, co-writer, presenter and narrator, ABC, September 2012
- Nature’s Weirdest Events, BBC, January 2012
- Locusts, Animal Planet/Oxford Scientific Films, 2009
- Catalyst, ABC, 2009
- Catalyst, ABC, 2008
- Mega Disasters: Super Swarm, History Channel, 2007
- Killer Swarm, Channel 5 UK, 2006
- The Perfect Swarm, National Geographic, 2005
- Locust swarms: The rules of attraction. (2010). The Economist 18 September
- Hunger and cannibalism make locusts swarm. (2010). Planet Earth online
- Brainless behavior: a myxomycete chooses a balanced diet. (2010). PNAS 107, 5267-5268.
- Q&A. (2009). Current Biology 19, R632-R633.
- Animal behaviour: feeding the superorganism. (2009). Current Biology 19, R366.
- Sensible swarming. (2009). Nature 457, 132.
- Evolutionary ecology: old ideas percolate into ecology. (2009). Current Biology 19, R21-R23.
- The key to Pandora’s box. (2009). Science 323, 594-595.
- The hunger, the horror. (2008). New Scientist May 31, 42-45.
- Locusts, Cannibalism & Human Obesity. (2007). Australasian Science, August, 20-22.
- How locusts decide it’s time to swarm. (2006). New Scientist, June1.
- Align in the sand. Perspective. (2006). Science 312, 1320-1322.
- March of the locusts. Research Highlights. (2006). Nature 441, 670.
- Push on the marching crickets. News & Views. (2006). Nature 440, 38.
- Can the war on locusts be won? (2004). Science 306, 1880-1882.
- An insect’s extreme makeover. (2004). Science 306, 1881.
PhD and master's project opportunities
- Modeling biological interactions: from individuals to ecosystems
- Nutrition and the origin of phenotype
- Securing the future of water and soil
- Do genes have memory?
- The evolutionary ecology of complex microbial communities
- Complex Brain Networks and Nutrition
- New approaches to Early Detection of Chronic Disease
- Social and Healthcare Network Effects on Delivery and Quality Of Care
- Physical, Mental and Psychological Health through Personal Networks
- Towards real time data sharing to support patient-centred care, quality health delivery, improvement programmes, performance management and research; Morris J, Roberts C, Simpson S, Kay J, Venkatesh S, Fazekas B, Arthur J, Feng D, Holmes E, James D, Yang J, Engel A; NSW Ministry of Health, Office for Health and Medical Research/Bioinformatics Collaborative Grants Program.
- Dining with Dasyurids: Using Nutritional Geometry to Improve Diets for Captive Breeding Programs; Wilder S, Raubenheimer D, McAllan B, Simpson S, Spindler R, Van Sluys M, Shaw M; Australian Research Council (ARC)/Linkage Projects (LP).
- Establishment of a Preconception Cohort Study in VietNam to link with the Charles Perkins Centre Cohort study; Morris J, Baur L, Benn D, Glasson R, Robinson B, Simpson S, Dang D, Tran T, Smyth C; DVC International/IPDF Grant.
- The University of Sydney Core Facility for Human Body Composition Assessment; Salis A, Caterson I, Brand-Miller J, Simpson S, Tam C, Johnson N, Grunstein R; DVC Research/Equipment Grant.
- Integrating nutritional immunology; Simpson S, Holmes A, Ponton F, Wilson K; Australian Research Council (ARC)/Discovery Projects (DP).
- Diabetes research project; Salis A, Caterson I, Brand-Miller J, Simpson S, Johnson N, Franklin J, Yee B; Rebecca L Cooper Medical Research Foundation/Equipment Grant.
- Advanced High Resolution Mass Spectrometer for Collaborative Proteomic and Lipidomics Research; Raftery M, Cordwell S, Stocker R, Simpson S; Australian Research Council (ARC)/Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LIEF).
- IMELDA: Indonesian Model for Epidemic Lifestyle Disease Associations; Holmes A, Simpson S, Sudoyo H, Malik S, Suastika K; DVC International/IPDF Grant.
- Do nutritionally poor environments promote sociality? Testing a long-standing hypothesis in two socially plastic insect groups (INSSOCPLAS); Simpson S, Gilbert J; European Commission (Belgium)/Marie Curie Outgoing International Fellowship.
- Sydney Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity Network (SIBRN); Sorrell T, Bennett B, Booy R, Crawford J, Dwyer D, Gilbert G, Giles F, Holmes A, Hossain L, Iredell J, Jones C, Kesson A, Kerridge I, Marais B, Simpson S, Sintchenko V, Ward M, Werder O, Britton W, Dhand N, Hunter C, Kamradt-Scott A, Mor S, Salkeld G, Shaw T, Smith F, Wood N; DVC Research/Research Network Scheme (SyReNS).
- A flexible high throughput analytical system for psychopharmacology and drug discovery; McGregor I, Simpson S, Shannon Weickert C, Kassiou M, Copeland J, Solowij N, Codd R, Arnold J, Karl T, Long L; Australian Research Council (ARC)/Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LIEF).
- Host-pathogen interactions as a resource competition problem; Wilson K, Simpson S, Cotter S, Smith J, Graham R; Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (UK)/Research Support.
- Safety in numbers or beware thy neighbour: collective motion and disease transmission in a migratory pest (LOCDIS); Graham R, Graham R, Simpson S; European Commission/Marie Curie Action: International Research Staff Exchange.
- Can bees meet their nutritional needs in the current UK landscape?; Simpson S, Borland A, Wright G; Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (UK)/Research Support.
- Dietary nutrients, variety and the control of human energy intake; Simpson S, Conigrave A; National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)/Project Grants.
- Sydney basin Multi-purpose Spectral Analysis Facility for evolutionary and ecological studies.; Ballard J, McArthur C, Simpson S, Oldroyd B, Beekman M, Sword G; Australian Research Council (ARC)/Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LIEF).
- Nutritional immunology: a new frontier in biology; Ponton F, Simpson S; DVC Research/Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Scheme.
- Developing a new framework for analysing the impact of nutrition on immunity and parasitism; Simpson S, Wilson K; DVC Research/International Visiting Research Fellowship (IVRF).
- Nutritional Dynamics: from Genes to Individuals to Ecosystems; Simpson S; Australian Research Council (ARC)/Australian Laureate Fellowships (FL).
- Embla (Titanium PSG System); Grunstein R, Liu P, Robinson P, Simpson S; National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)/Equipment Grants.
- Next-generation high-speed flow cytometric cell sorter; Fazekas B, King N, Simpson S, Britton W, Campbell I, Vadas M, Grau G, Weninger W, Christopherson R, Gamble J, Rasko J, McCaughan G, Xia P, Beale P, Holst J, Haass N, Combes V, Saunders B, Byrne S, West N, Gorrell M, Bertolino P, Bowen D, Warner F, Seth D, Grimshaw M, Jolly C, Martiniello-Wilks R, Mrass P, Lyons G, Sword G; National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)/Equipment Grants.
- Locust Swarming: From Neurochemistry to Mass Migration; Simpson S; DVC International/IPDF Grant.
- Ageing, Nutrition and Geometric Framework; Cumming R, Simpson S, Le Couteur D, Blyth F, Naganathan V, Kendig H, Seibel M; National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)/Project Grants.
- Heterarchical modelling of nutritional ecology: from individuals to communities; Couzin I, Simpson S, Raubenheimer D, Couzin I, Charleston M, Sword G; Australian Research Council (ARC)/Discovery Projects (DP).
- The Nutritional geometry of ageing in a rodent model ; Simpson S, Le Couteur D, Raubenheimer D, Ballard J; National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)/Project Grants.
- Autonomous tracking and predictive modelling of Australian plague locust migratory band movement; Sword G, Sukkarieh S, Brooker G, Simpson S, Spurgin P, Spurgin P; Australian Research Council (ARC)/Linkage Projects (LP).
- The functional genomics of locust migratory behaviour; Sword G, Simpson S, Lo N, Kang L; Australian Research Council (ARC)/Discovery Projects (DP).
- Video analysis suite for the integrative analysis of resource acquisition behaviour in animals; Simpson S, Shine R, Thompson M, Seebacher F, Pile A, McArthur C, Coleman R, Beekman M, Ward A, Sword G, Brooks R, Poore A, Bonduriansky R, Cassis G, Olsson M, Williams S, Booth D; Australian Research Council (ARC)/Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LIEF).
- Video analysis suite for the integrative analysis of resource acquisition behaviour in animals; Simpson S, Shine R, Thompson M, Seebacher F, Pile A, McArthur C, Coleman R, Beekman M, Ward A, Sword G, Brooks R, Poore A, Bonduriansky R, Cassis G, Olsson M, Booth D, Williams S; Australian Research Council (ARC)/Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LIEF).
- Nutrition and ageing: caloric restriction and free radicals revisited; Simpson S; University of Sydney/Bridging Support.
- A geometrical and genomic analaysis of the nutritional bases of ageing in a model invertebrate, droSchool of Philosophical and Historical Inquiryla melanogaster; Simpson S; University of Sydney/Bridging Support.
- Testing the protein leverage hypothesis in humans; Simpson S, Conigrave A, Caterson I, Brand-Miller J; National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)/Project Grants.
- Climate controlled physical containment 2 (PC2) and pathogen/insect contained glasshouse facility; Day D, Guest D, Warren C, Simpson S, Kennedy I, Overall R, Smith P, McArthur C, Mansfield S, Gardiner J, McConchie R, Copeland L, Kecskes M; Australian Research Council (ARC)/Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LIEF).
- Marie Curie Fellowship - Australian plague locust population genetics and migratory behaviour; Simpson S; European Commission via INRA/Research Grant.
- Marie Curie Fellowship - Australian plague locust population genetics and migratory behaviour; Simpson S; European Commission via INRA/Research Grant.
- Self-medication or host-manipulation: influence of parasites on host feeding behaviour; Simpson S; Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP)/Research Grant.
- On the move: the study of self-organised movement of animal groups with and without leadership; Simpson S, Beekman M; Australian Research Council (ARC)/Discovery Projects (DP).
- Australian plague locust population genetics and migratory behaviour; Simpson S, Sword G, McCulloch L, Steinbauer J, Steinbauer M; Australian Research Council (ARC)/Linkage Projects (LP).
- Integrative behaviour: A new synthesis; Simpson S; Australian Research Council (ARC)/Federation Fellowship (FF).
- Adaptability of an insect herbivore, the diamondback moth, to change in its nutritional environment; Raubenheimer D, Simpson S; Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (UK)/Research Support.
The Nature of Nutrition: A Unifying Framework from Animal Adaptation to Human Obesity (Princeton University Press, 2012)