Bruno van Swinderen received a PhD in evolutionary biology from Washington University in St Louis, Missouri. His postdoctoral work at the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego, California, led him to the scientific study of consciousness. Taking an evolutionary view, he developed novel paradigms to study perception in the smallest animal brains. His discoveries include uncovering neural correlates of sleep and selective attention in flies, as well as fundamental mechanisms of general anaesthesia. In 2008, he moved to Australia to run lab at the Queensland Brain Institute, in The University of Queensland. His lab uses flies to understand how the brain is able to block or prioritise sensory stimuli, as happens during sleep and attention. He is particularly interested in how sleep and attention might have co-evolved to optimise behaviour and is keen to promote research in simpler animal models to understand complex brain processes.