Michael Thomas



Stag Lane (73-76), York House (76-82), Merchant Taylors (82-86), Exeter University (87-90), Birmingham University (91-92), Oxford University (92-95)


BSc(Hons.) Psychology, MSc Cognitive Science, DPhil Experimental Psychology

Work History:

University of Winchester (95-98), Institute of Child Health London (98-02), Birkbeck University of London (2002-present)

Current Job:

Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience


Birkbeck, University of London

My Interview

Me and my work

I am a professor of cognitive neuroscience at Birkbeck, University of London, and Director of the Birkbeck-UCL Centre for Educational Neuroscience.

Typical day

My working day ranges across many activities, including preparing and giving lectures to students, marking essays, meeting with PhD students or other researchers, interviewing students applying for PhDs, carrying out experimental studies with children and adults, analysing data, reading and reviewing scientific articles (a lot!), writing articles and books, building computer models, attending conferences, applying for and managing research grants, and giving public lectures.

What topics do you work on?

The goal of my research is to understand the nature and causes of cognitive variability – that is, why children become cleverer as they get older, why children of the same age can differ in their ability, and what causes the extremes of variation such as giftedness and developmental disabilities.

What methods do you use?

My research uses multi-disciplinary methods, including behavioural studies, brain imaging, genetics, and computational modelling.

Who was your favourite teacher?

Several memorable teachers stick in my mind, mostly in the hard sciences – physics, chemistry – teachers who managed to bring these topics alive and impart something of the passion and curiosity that must have driven the original discovers of this knowledge. (Drs Burton, Overton, Cole). And from my early days, a headmaster who believed in me! (Mr. Archdale).