Information for first year students

This page provides information particularly relevant to first year Neural Dynamics students.

Programme structure

During the first year, you will gain necessary background knowledge by attending taught units and doing a computational mini-project. You will carry out two extended research projects (which you will choose from a list of available projects), each investigating dynamics in a different neural system. Subsequently, you will develop one of these projects into a PhD project lasting the remaining three years.

Table below shows overview of your activities in the first year, with dates for the academic year 2016-17, and each of them is described in detail below.

Week   Dates   Activity
0   19 - 23 Sep   Introductory week
1 - 4   26 Sep - 21 Oct   Foundations of Neuroscience
10 - 11   28 Nov -  9 Dec   Mathematical Modelling in Physiology and Medicine
    17 - 19 Oct  

Home Office Training Course

    26 Oct  

Home Office Exams

    Oct / Nov   Visits to labs offering projects
    Oct - Dec   Computational mini-projects
13-25   23 Jan - 5 May   Computational Neuroscience
    Jan - Apr   Project 1
    May - Aug   Project 2
    Sep   Preparing PhD proposal

Introductory week

We look forward to welcome you in September. Below is the schedule for the first week; some events are organized by the faculty and the details will be given to you directly, some are specific to the programme.

Day Time Venue Activity
19 September All day Faculty event Registation / Induction
19 September 9:30-11 Medical School, D1/3 Welcome and Health and Safety talk
20 September 1-2 Medical School, D3 Meeting with Programme Directors
20 September 2-3 Medical School, D3 Meet current Neural Dynamics Students
22 September morning   Individual meetings with Programme Directors
22 September 4-5 Merchant Venturers Building 3rd Floor Common Room Panel discussion

Taught modules

During the first year you will attend three modules providing background knowledge related to your research listed below. Dates during which the modules takes place are listed in the table above, while the details of times and venues of lectures are given below. The map of the campus with names of various buildings is available here.

  • Foundations of Neuroscience
    Detailed syllabus and schedule is available: 2016-17 Foundations Timetable (PDF, 51kB).
  • Mathematical Modelling in Physiology and Medicine
    Description of the module is available here. The lectures are 2-5 M/Tu/Th/F in MVB 1.11A in week 9 and MVB 2.56 in week 10.
  • Home Office Training Course
    This course provides information on procedures and laws regarding animal experimentation. It finished with exam for the Home Office license allowing you to conduct experiments involving animals. Detailed timetable will be e-mailed to you later.
  • Computational Neuroscience
    Description of the module is available here. A time table will be announced later.

Optional modules

University of Bristol runs many taught courses related to neural dynamics or neuroscience in general. You are most welcome to attend lectures on units related to your interests and project during your entire PhD. We would like you to take at least one such optional unit in your first year. A list of units and modules is found at

To attend such a unit, you do not need to register, but you just turn up to the lectures. However, it would be nice to introduce yourself to the lecturer during the first lecture, and ask if it is OK for you to attend (I cannot imagine someone refusing).

Below the list of the optional units is given, and you can get description of each unit by clicking on unit name. Timetables for individual units can be found here. The only exception are the modules with * in the table below. The timetables of these units only become available two weeks before the unit, and to find out about them you need to e-mail Astrid Linthorst:

Visits to labs offering projects

At the start of November, the list of possible projects will be made available. Each project will be co-advised by an experimental or clinical neuroscientist and a mathematician or computer scientist. You will need to choose six projects and rank them by the end of November, you should rank them with a resolution of two, so there should be three draws in your assessment of your interest level. Therefore in November, you need to arrange meetings with at least six pairs of advisors, preferably more, offering a project, find out details of the project, read relevant papers, and make an informed decision about your choice. Out of your six choices, two projects will be selected by the Management Committee taking in consideration: your preferences, preferences of your colleagues: no two students can do the same project. Furthermore, to give you a broader knowledge of neuroscience, the two projects should not focus on the same neural system / techniques.

 To help your research on the topic of the projects, for each of your six chosen projects, could you please fill the form Lab visit report (Office document, 19kB) and the submit the completed forms to Elaine Sparey ( cc'ing Conor Houghton  ( by the 22 November.


You will undertake two research projects lasting four months each. By the end of each project you will need to prepare a report summarizing your approach and results which will be assessed by project’s supervisors. Reports should have approximately 15 pages, including figures, written in Arial, font 11, and 1.5 line spacing. By the end of April and by the end of August could you please e-mail your reports to project's supervisors and to Lindsey Watson.

By the end of September you will need to prepare a research proposal for your PhD (this is required by the Wellcome Trust). To ensure the proposals arrive on time, by 7th September: Submit to Elaine Sparey a brief document stating your preference of project with brief justification (no more than 300 words). Then by 26th September (or preferably sooner), please complete Wellcome Trust application form with help and guidance of joint supervisors. The form as available here and guidance on completing this form is here. If you complete the application before, you can start work on the project during this time.

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