Outreach

Outreach

Scientists at the MRC BNDU are involved with a wide variety of outreach activities throughout the year, from visiting schools and participating in science festivals to hosting patient groups and work-experience placements in the labs.

The MRC BNDU is keen to facilitate understanding of what scientists do (and how they do it), ultimately working towards a culture where increased dialogue means that society can benefit more fully from scientific research outcomes. We are eager to help attract as many school pupils and University students as possible into careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). In particular, given the sparseness of computational modelling groups in the UK, we welcome University student placements in this area of research.

Case studies of some recent outreach activities are profiled here. For more information about our outreach programme, please contact Prof. Peter Magill (peter.magill@pharm.ox.ac.uk)

Please note that, for work-experience placements in a lab-based environment, the Unit can only host persons who are 16 years of age or older at the start of the work experience period.


Social Media

 

You can keep up to date with news, research, outreach events and other activities at the MRC BNDU by following us on Twitter.

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Schools' Open Day at the Unit

 

 

An annual event, Years 10-12 pupils from local secondary schools are invited to the Unit to see medical research for themselves. Our scientists put down their tools for the day, and talk with small groups of pupils about Unit research and what it’s like to be a scientist. We host a range of practical actvities, such as using microscopes to spot different types of nerve cell and the connections they use to pass messages, or trying out magnetic stimulation of the human brain, or using computers and mathematical tools to model the interactions of nerve cells. We also lead interactive discussions around a broad range of topics, from how the electrical activity of nerve cells is recorded to why animals are used in medical research. Schools Day often leads to individuals coming back for periods of work experience. In addition to our annual Schools Day, we also host open days that are tailored for specialised groups of school pupils, such as those enrolled with the charity Generating Genius.

 

Widening Access and Participation in STEM

 

The Unit champions several schemes that are designed to support secondary-school pupils progress into university degrees and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). As part of our innovative work-experience placement scheme, visiting pupils work alongside Unit scientists and receive personalised mentoring to gain practical skills and to learn more about key concepts and challenges in neuroscience and medical research. Working together with our partners, including charities such as in2scienceUK, our pupil mentees also receive guidance on university applications, wider information about STEM careers, and training in transferable skills.  Please note that, for work-experience placements in a lab-based environment, the Unit can only host persons who are 16 years of age or older at the start of the work experience period.

 

Showcasing Science

 

Unit staff and students often talk about science at events held outside our labs. Our engagement activities include site vists to local schools and charity groups, as well as volunteering at science festivals, such as the Cheltenham Science Festival, the Oxfordshire Science Festival and the MRC Festival of Medical Research, where we talk with diverse audiences about the brain, neuroscience and biomedical research.

Research using Animals

 
The use of animals is vitally important for the Unit’s science, and we are committed to communicating - in an open and transparent way - exactly when, how and why we use animals in brain research. In the BNDU, some of our research uses small rodents, and our work adheres to and promotes the exacting standards set by the regulatory frameworks that are in place in the UK and wider Europe. Most of our outreach activities provide opportunities for the public to learn more about research using animals. Both the Medical Research Council and the University of Oxford have signed up to the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research.

 

 

Patient Engagement and Involvement

 

Our research is designed to provide substantial advances in the understanding of how the brain works (or its 'function'). This knowledge helps us to work out what occurs when the brain does not work properly (its 'dysfunction'), such as in diseases. The work of several BNDU Groups is focussed on neurodegenerative disorders of the brain, especially Parkinson’s disease which is characterised by difficulties in movement and thought. The Unit regularly host visits for people affected by Parkinson's, so that they can gain first-hand insights into Parkinson's research in real, working labs.  Unit members also travel off-site to engage people affected by Parkinson's, for example, at local group meetings in Oxfordshire and further afield. The Unit's outreach activities are often coordinated with the national charity Parkinson’s UK. The Unit is also a key contributor to the Oxford Parkinson’s Disease Centre.

Accessible Research

 

We aim to make the results of our research as accessible as possible. With this in mind, every research paper published by the Unit includes a brief summary in plain English. Our research papers and their summaries are available on our Publications page. We also make video summaries of key research, which are available here (YouTube). Where possible, the Unit’s research papers are published in an Open Access format. Open Access is about making the products of research freely accessible to all. It allows our research to be spread quickly and widely, and helps to increase the use and understanding of our research by the wider public, charities, business and government. Every research paper published by the Unit is also deposited on a freely-accessible public database (Europe PMC) that can be accessed here.