How do animals build themselves?

We use mathematical models, computational data analysis and close collaborations with experimentalists to understand development - the remarkable processes that allow single-cell embryos to develop into complex, functional and diverse adult forms. We are based at the Institute for Medical Sciences, University of Aberdeen.

Lab members

Current lab members

  • Tom Hiscock, Group Leader

Former lab members

  • Jake Cornwall Scoones, Undergraduate student



  • Cornwall Scoones J, Hiscock TW. A dot-stripe model of joint patterning in the tetrapod limb. 2020. Development, 147(8). pdf
  • Hiscock TW. Adapting machine-learning algorithms to design gene circuits. BMC bioinformatics. 2019;20(1),214 pdf
  • Ishimatsu K, Hiscock TW, Collins ZM, Sari DWK, Lischer K, Richmond DL, et al. Size-reduced embryos reveal a gradient scaling-based mechanism for zebrafish somite formation. Development. 2018;145(11). pdf
  • Kingsley EP, Eliason CM, Riede T, Li Z, Hiscock TW, Farnsworth M, et al. Identity and novelty in the avian syrinx. PNAS. 2018;115(41):10209-17. pdf
  • Hiscock TW, Tschopp P, Tabin CJ. On the Formation of Digits and Joints during Limb Development. Dev Cell. 2017;41(5):459-65. pdf
  • Hiscock TW, Megason SG. Orientation of Turing-like Patterns by Morphogen Gradients and Tissue Anisotropies. Cell Syst. 2015;1(6):408-16. df
  • Hiscock TW, Megason SG. Mathematically guided approaches to distinguish models of periodic patterning. Development. 2015;142(3):409-19. pdf


  • Aztekin C, Hiscock TW, Butler R, Andino FDJ, Robert J, Gurdon JB, Jullien J. The myeloid lineage is required for the emergence of a regeneration-permissive environment following Xenopus tail amputation. Development. 2020;147(3) pdf
  • Aztekin C, Hiscock TW, Marioni JC, Gurdon JB, Simons BD, Jullien J. Identification of a regeneration-organizing cell in the Xenopus tail. Science. 2019;364(6441):653-8. link pdf
  • Pijuan-Sala B, Griffiths JA, Guibentif C, Hiscock TW, Jawaid W, Calero-Nieto FJ, et al. A single-cell molecular map of mouse gastrulation and early organogenesis. Nature. 2019;566(7745) pdf


  • Hiscock TW, Miesfeld JB, Mosaliganti KR, Link BA, Megason SG. Feedback between tissue packing and neurogenesis in the zebrafish neural tube. Development. 2018;145(9). pdf
  • Liu T, Upadhyayula S et al. Observing the cell in its native state: Imaging subcellular dynamics in multicellular organisms. Science. 2018;360(6386),eaaq1392. pdf
  • Xiong F, Ma W, Hiscock TW, Mosaliganti KR, Tentner AR, Brakke KA, et al. Interplay of cell shape and division orientation promotes robust morphogenesis of developing epithelia. Cell. 2014;159(2):415-27.pdf


  • Hiscock HG, Hiscock TW, Kattnig DR, Scrivener T, Lewis AM, Manolopoulos DE, Hore PJ. Navigating at night: fundamental limits on the sensitivity of radical pair magnetoreception under dim light. Quarterly reviews of biophysics 52 (2019). pdf

Join us

I am hoping to build a talented and diverse research team that shares my aspirations for scientific rigour, my curiosity about how embryos develop and a desire to work with generosity and kindness towards each other. Please get in touch via my email below to talk about opportunities.

PhD students

I am actively recruiting PhD students; please see here for a current opening, deadline 27 Nov 2020. Our work is highly interdisciplinary, using mathematical and computational methods to address questions in developmental biology. An interest in developmental biology and the wonders of embryogenesis is essential; previous experience in quantitative disciplines (e.g. physics/mathematics) will be a great help. There are a number of other upcoming (e.g. EASTBIO studentships ). Please email me for more information and I'd be happy to discuss if this is a good fit.


I do not currently have funded postdoc positions to advertise, although I am in the process of applying for grants... watch this space!

I would be happy to support applications for independent postdoctoral fellowships on a range of topics. If your research ambitions are a good fit with mine, then please get in touch and we can discuss next steps.

Some possible opportunities include: EMBO Long Term Fellowships, Newton International Fellowships, Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellowships, Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowships, Human Frontier Science Program, Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowships.

Undergraduate students

If you are an undergraduate looking for an interesting summer research project, please get in touch! BSDB offers summer studentships.

About me

I originally trained as a physicist at the University of Cambridge, before setting off across the Atlantic to do my PhD at Harvard Medical School. In Sean Megason's lab, I fell in love with embryos, and spent the best part of six years watching them develop under a microscope. In my postdoc, supervised by John Marioni and Ben Simons at the University of Cambridge, I worked on several projects combining my training in physics with my love for developmental biology. In Summer 2020, I started as a Lecturer in Systems Biology at the Institute for Medical Sciences, University of Aberdeen. My group is embedded within the strong developmental biology hub at the IMS, and benefits from proximity to the wonderful wildlife, mountains and scenery that Northeast Scotland has to offer.


You can contact me at:

Images of the beautiful autumn leaves just outside Aberdeen, October 2020.