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Bristol University trains scientists of tomorrow

Press release issued: 10 January 2011

The University of Bristol, an international centre of excellence for the neurosciences, has been selected in a nationwide competition to host a new graduate programme in multidisciplinary neuroscience research.

This four-year PhD programme will see researchers and students working together on a new approach to neuroscience, which draws on the expertise of clinical and basic neuroscience, as well as theoretical disciplines such as computer science, engineering and mathematics. 

Stafford Lightman, Professor of Medicine, said the programme would open up new avenues of research: “This new development will be a landmark for the training of a new cadre of scientists who will be able to work on neuroscience problems underpinned with a knowledge of applied mathematics.” 

The course, which will be open to four students per year between 2011 and 2015, has been made possible by funding from the Wellcome Trust, which received a total of 60 submissions for the award of just four new programmes nationwide.  The programme, entitled ‘Neural dynamics: from synapses to systems in health and disease’, will combine the expertise of several faculties in Bristol, namely Medical and Veterinary Sciences, Engineering and Medicine and Dentistry, and also the Bristol Neuroscience network.

Zafar Bashir, Professor of Cellular Neuroscience, said: “By developing cross-disciplinary expertise in advanced experimental methods, combined with advanced analytical methods, the programme will build capacity in an area where academia, industry and government all recognise that there is a critical skills shortage in the UK and worldwide.”

The PhD builds on Bristol’s globally acclaimed reputation in neuroscience and will enable the University to foster more links with key industrial partners.

Richard Apps, Professor of Neuroscience, said: “This is a major boost to neuroscience research at Bristol and together with our postgraduate programmes funded by the BBSRC, EU and the MRC, places Bristol at the forefront of neuroscience training in the UK.”

Dr Rafal Bogacz, Senior Lecturer in Computer Science, added: “Bristol has great research expertise in both experimental neuroscience and mathematics and computer science, and the programme will strengthen the collaboration between them.  Mathematical modelling of neuroscience problems invariably results in novel concepts of understanding of the processes underlying neuronal regulation, not only at the individual cell level but also at the network level.”

Further information

Emphasising the cross-discipline nature of the new programme, the PhD is co-directed by four members of staff from three Faculties - Professor Richard Apps and Professor Zafar Bashir (School of Physiology and Pharmacology, Faculty of Medicine and Veterinary Science); Dr Rafal Bogacz (Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering); and Professor Stafford Lightman (Henry Wellcome Laboratories for Integrative Neuroscience & Endocrinology, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry).

Bristol Neuroscience: Neuroscience is one of the key areas of research at the University of Bristol. Furthermore, the city of Bristol has one of the largest concentrations of researchers engaged in neuroscience in the UK, many of whom are internationally recognised. In 2003 Bristol Neuroscience (BN) was established to enable all neuroscientists working in Bristol – both within the University and its partner hospitals across the city – to make full use of all available resources and expertise. BN runs numerous activities to encourage the dissemination of ideas, to create opportunities for interdisciplinary research, and to facilitate the pursuit of neuroscience to the highest possible standard. For further information on BN please see or contact Dr Anne Cooke,

Please contact Lindsey Watson for further information.
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