Benjamin Butt

By Laura Kenworthy 2min read

When Ben Butt was pooled to Homerton, having originally applied to Pembroke, he had never heard of the College. Eight years later, as his cohort return to receive their MA degrees, he is still a Homertonian, and will be graduating with his PhD on the same day.

“As an undergraduate I studied Biological Sciences, and was really enjoying my science, but not set on going into research. But in my second and third year, largely thanks to Julia Kenyon (Pre-Clinical Director of Studies in Medicine), I came round to the idea of a PhD.”

Working on the biochemistry of viral infection, Ben found his research interests suddenly had a new currency as the pandemic reshaped everyone’s lives.

“I became the point of contact for all my family and friends as the person who understood virology!”

From a practical perspective, Covid reduced his access to the lab, and cemented a gradual move towards computational biology.

“I’d been doing increasingly more computational biology and, because I could do that from home and carry on my work when lab access was limited, the pandemic was the push I needed to make that my primary focus.”

This flexibility has also allowed Ben to remain in Cambridge, despite being employed by Oxford-based drug discovery firm Exscientia.

“The drug discovery is fully led by artificial intelligence. The scale of the data sets means that AI is the best way of addressing the challenge.  I work fully remotely from Cambridge, writing code from home.”

Living in College for four years, the defining feature of Ben’s Homerton life beyond the academic has been choral music.

“I sang at school but I hadn’t realised how big a part of my Cambridge life it would become. I sang with the Charter Choir, won a choral award and went on all the tours…I was always singing when I wasn’t doing science.”