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.

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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.

Reseach 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 ('dysfunction'), such as in diseases. The work of several BNDU Groups is focussed on neurodegenerative disorders of the brain, especially Parkinson’s disease (PD) which is characterised by difficulties in movement and thought. Unit members often coordinate research and outreach activities with the national charity Parkinson’s UK, and we host patients and their carers and families in our labs, so that they can see some Parkinson's research in action. The Unit is also a key contributor to the Oxford Parkinson’s Disease Centre.