Information for first year students

This page provides information particularly relevant to first year Neural Dynamics students; it is updated at the start of each academic year so the details below relate to 2018-19.


A document describing the supervisor and student relationship and the research culture we hope to encourage can be found at Expectations (PDF, 52kB)

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 2018-19, and each of them is described in detail below.

Week   Dates   Activity
0   18 - 22 Sep   Introductory week
1 - 4   25 Sep - 20 Oct   Foundations of Neuroscience
10 - 11   27 Nov -  8 Dec   Mathematical Modelling in Physiology and Medicine
    23 - 26 Oct  

Home Office Training Course

    1 Nov  

Home Office Exams

    Oct / Nov   Visits to labs offering projects
    Oct - Dec   Computational mini-projects
13-25   22 Jan - 4 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
18 September All day Faculty event Registation / Induction
19 September 9:30-11:30 Medical School, D1/3 Welcome and Health and Safety talk
21 September 12-1 Room G1, 65 St Michael's Hill Meeting with Programme Directors
21 September 1-2 Room G1, 65 St Michael's Hill Meet current Neural Dynamics Students
21 September 4-5 Merchant Venturers Building 3rd Floor Common Room

Panel discussion and social event

We will also organize individual meetings with you all early in the week after Introductary Week. There will be a social event and an academic event with the new student early in the term.

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) along with a reading list 2017-18 Foundations Reading List (Office document, 77kB).
  • Mathematical Modelling in Physiology and Medicine
    Description of the module is available here. The timetable and location will be available nearer the time.
  • 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 five chosen projects, could you please fill the form Lab visit report (Office document, 19kB) or Lab visit report (Office document, 36kB)  and the submit the completed forms to Elaine Sparey ( cc'ing Conor Houghton  ( by the 25 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 Elaine Sparey (

Students will need to complete the Four-year PhD Student in Basic Science form through the Wellcome Trust grant application submission system, Grant Tracker.  All Wellcome funded students on the programme already have a Portal account which was used to complete a form prior to starting their rotation year.  Students should log into theiraccounts using the email address and password they set up last year. If any CV or contact information within your account is no longer correct, please update your record once you have logged in. 

When logged into Grant Tracker, the form will be available by going to ‘apply for funding’ then the ‘Biomedical science research’ tab. The form is called: ‘Four-year PhD Studentship in Basic Science’. Hitting ‘apply’ will open a new form.

Forms must be submitted by the end of September.


Other Information

We have an informal wiki page for other information at:

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