Our courses

PhD Boot Camp

Our PhD Boot Camp is an annual three-week course for first year PhD students that covers the fundamentals of neuroscience and technology. The course was developed in partnership with the Cajal Advanced Neuroscience Training Programme and is centred around a fundamental principle: no “black boxes”.

During Boot Camp, PhD students are given intensive, hands-on instruction beginning with basic principles and moving to advanced instrumentation and robotics. The course aims to empower students, providing a framework for how electrons can lead to ‘intelligence’ in the form of an increasingly sophisticated robot. Boot Camp culminates in a Centre-wide event/celebration where the capabilities of student designed robots are displayed in a skills contest. Instructors include Drs Elena Dreosti and former SWC Group Leader Adam Kampff.

Elena Dreosti and Adam Kampff describe The Last Black Box course for PhD students at the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre. To find out more about the Cajal Programme visit: www.cajal-training.org

Outreach courses 

Neuronauts

Neuronauts is a fully funded two-week summer camp for London secondary school students entering years 10 and 11 to learn fundamentals in engineering, computer science and neuroscience. The course is hosted by SWC and organised by a team of PhD students and external collaborators. 

The students are invited to SWC to build systems and run their own behavioural neuroscience experiments. The hardware for these experiments comprises a “neurokit”. The neurokit, made up of a Raspberry Pi 4 microcomputer, Arduino microcontroller, an EMG sensor, and an Electronics and Breadboard starter kit, teaches students the physics behind common electronic devices and computer systems. While designing their own experiments, students will use the Bonsai and Python programming languages to analyse acquired data. Neuronauts was inspired by SWC’s PhD Boot Camp. 

The first Neuronauts camp will take place at SWC from 25 July to 5 August 2022.

Neuromatch Academy

Neuromatch Academy is an online Computational Neuroscience and Deep Learning course. SWC Group Leader Athena Akrami was one of the first organising members of the Academy. She served as Chair of Mentor Recruitment in 2020 and sits on the Board of Directors in 2022. 

First convened in March 2020 in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Neuromatch conference gave rise to the Neuromatch Academy with the mission of making neural data science inclusive and accessible worldwide.

BrainCamp 

BrainCamp was founded by SWC PhD student Egzona Morina to encourage young people in Kosovo to think about science in a new light and inspire them to invest their time in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects. The course started in 2018 with students in Prishtina, Kosovo, participating in a five-days of neuroscience training. 

Throughout the years the topics have alternated between basic to computational neuroscience. Every year, the last day of the course has featured a quiz reviewing topics covered during the week.

In 2021, the cohort expanded to include students from Albania, Hungary, Latvia, and North Macedonia as well. 

Many PhD students and postdocs from SWC have participated as teachers over the years: Jesse Geerts (2018), Francesca Greenstreet (2018), Anna Lebedeva (2018), Simon Thompson (2018), Federico Claudi (2019-2021), Miranda Mathews (2019), Egzona Morina (2019-2020), Philip Shamash (2019), Elina Jacobs (2020), Zane Mitrevica (2020-2021), Alice Koltchev (2021), Christopher Hall (2021), Marta Maciel (2021), Nicole Maug (2021), Shanice Bailey (2021), Quentin Pajot-Moric (2021), Sarah Olesen (2021), Flora Takacs (2021), Edmund Chong (2021), Ali Haydaroglu (2021), and Peter Vincent (2021). BrainCamp is made possible through the XhM Foundation and SWC.

Other courses involving SWC

Neuropixels

A powerful tool for recording from hundreds of neurons at a time, the Neuropixel probe was developed in 2017 through a collaboration between scientists at HHMI Janelia Research Campus, the Allen Institute for Brain Science and UCL together with engineers at the nanotechnology company imec and the project was funded by Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Gatsby Charitable Foundation, Allen Institute for Brain Science and Wellcome

The Neuropixels course trains scientists to use these probes in acute and chronic experiments. The 2021 Neuropixels course was organised by a team including SWC affiliate Matteo Carandini. SWC PhD student Flora Takacs served as one of the teaching assistants and some SWC researchers delivered lectures during the course including SWC Group Leader Yoh Isogai, SWC affiliate Kenneth Harris, SWC Research Fellow, Dario Campagner and SWC PhD student Anna Lebedeva.

Bonsai course

The Bonsai programming language was developed by Gonçalo Lopes and team headed by previous SWC Group Leader Adam Kampff. A visual reactive programming language, Bonsai plays a key role in operating closed-loop behavioural neuroscience experiments. Bonsai is currently taught by Gonçalo as part of the CAJAL Advanced Neuroscience Training courses.

CAJAL courses

The CAJAL Advanced Neuroscience Training Programme provides hands-on neuroscience training courses. Founded by The Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS) and the International Brain Research Organization (IBRO), it serves as the hub in Europe for connecting neuroscientists with students worldwide to share ideas and build a network. 

SWC Chief Scientific Officer Professor Tom Otis serves as Treasurer in the CAJAL General Assembly (2021-2023) and Group Leader Professor Sonja Hofer was announced President-Elect for 2022.

TINS – Transylvania

The Transylvanian Institute of Neuroscience (TINS), based in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, is dedicated to understanding the role of neural circuits in health and disease. It hosts the Transylvanian Experimental Neuroscience Summer School (TENSS) at Transylvania’s Pike Lake, where SWC Group Leaders Athena Akrami, Professor Sonja Hofer, and Professor Tom Mrsic-Flogel were invited as lecturers in 2022. Teaching assistants included SWC postdocs Mitra Javadzadeh (former SWC PhD student) and SWC Research Fellow Fred Marbach. 

TENSS is composed of labs and lectures, and focuses on experimental neuroscience methods for probing the neural circuit, including optical and electrophysiological techniques.