Connecting European Neuroscience

NENS Clusters

Education and Training Clusters, 1st edition - Autumn 2020

In its strategic decision to increase the value and benefits of NENS membership, the FENS Committee for Higher Education and Training (FENS-CHET) has launched the Education and Training NENS Clusters initiative, which aims to stimulate and/or strengthen the cooperation among NENS school programmes.

The first Call for NENS Clusters was launched in autumn 2020, and the next Call for NENS Clusters is scheduled for autumn 2021.


Awarded NENS cluster proposals in 2020

Following the 1st Call for Education and Training Clusters launched in autumn 2020 among NENS graduate school programs, 4 cluster proposals have been awarded and will be developed in 2021:

1. MoViR NENS Cluster 

The MoViR NENS Cluster will be formed to design a virtual practical training on neuroanatomical tracing and electrophysiology. It will mainly be used to define the different stages of the practical work to be created in virtual reality, the feasibility (technical level and interface with humans) and utility.

Cluster Partners:

The MoVir consortium comprises 3 partner institutions in collaboration with 2 SMEs.

a. The Bordeaux Neurocampus Department manages training programs in Neuroscience at the master and PhD levels at the University of Bordeaux. The EMN-Online master is an e-learning program that is already developing, in collaboration with Practeex (a start-up in Bordeaux), a stress/anxiety behavioural practical training to be played on a computer, coded with the Unity language.

b. The Universitat Jaume I Master’s Degree in Brain and Behaviour Research trains researchers in behavioural neuroscience. The program allows the theoretical and methodological grounds of this discipline to be acquired, along with the competences needed to undertake basic and clinical research. An essential part of training is carried out in the laboratory.

c. The Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology is to excel in basic scientific research. It is associated to the Warsaw PhD School in Natural and BioMedical Sciences that offers interdisciplinary education in 4 scientific disciplines: biology, chemistry, physics, medicine. Their role in the cluster will be to bring in their expertise in computational neuroscience. They will be supported by Elmiko, a company specialized in designing and developing medical electronics and IT solutions.

The training in VR will initiate master and (early) PhD students to experimental approach. VR will rely on the particularities and assets of this experimental approach, e.g. active learning, trial and error learning, student autonomy, in learning processes. This training will be achieved without having to deal with ethical constraints with regards to animal experimentation. The cluster will serve to eventually develop virtual practical training that could be delivered as an e-learning resource on the Moodle platform of the EMN-online master and other graduate programs.

This cluster is funded by the FENS Committee of Higher Education and Training (CHET).

2. Trilateral course on Glia in neuroinflammation

The “Trilateral course on Glia in neuroinflammation” aims to develop a multi-campus on-line teaching material to be used by master and PhD students in each university member of the NENS cluster. By using a blended pedagogical approach consisting of practical video materials and multi-campus on-line lectures about the contribution of macrophages, microglia and astrocytes to neuroinflammation in the peripheral and central nervous system, the course will offer the students the opportunity to learn more about methods and topics complementary to the ones that are usually used in their lab, without the need to actually visit a particular university. The modular nature of this course will allow further development and sustainability inside the NENS cluster and hopefully, on long-term, will serve as a model of a multi-campus European curricula in neuroscience. 

This cluster is funded by the FENS Committee of Higher Education and Training (CHET).

Cluster Partners:

 3. NENS Brain & Mind Cluster

The Brain & Mind Cluster joins the expertise of neuroscience study programs in Finland, Denmark, Hungary and Italy.  

The goal of the cluster is to allow students to take courses organized at the other partner universities. Since neurosciences encompass several subfields, none of the participating universities can cover all of these areas alone, and together we will be able to offer a larger selection of courses for our students. The cluster activities will also enhance contact of students and teachers from different programs. In the first phase, we will offer online courses to students of other partner programs. Once travel is again possible, we will promote visits of both students and teachers to partner programs. In addition, we will build an online platform for joint activities and aim to further develop collaboration among the cluster partners in teaching and research in the field of neuroscience.

This cluster is jointly funded by IBRO-PERC and the FENS Committee of Higher Education and Training (CHET).

Cluster Partners:

4. Advanced skill training in Neuroscience courses: a case study of Drugs & Brain

This cluster unites four graduate schools that share a dedication to enhance the learning experience in neuroscience courses, to include skill training and to stimulate an interdisciplinary mindset. Future neuroscientists should ideally combine a range of competences that go beyond in-depth knowledge of their research domain. Communication and networking skills, ability to manage international collaborations, and understanding the multidisciplinary context of neuroscience are arguably equally important. This cluster will develop and introduce novel teaching formats in order to achieve advanced training of multiple skills during a PhD-level neuroscience course.
This multidisciplinary five-days course covers all major neurobiological aspects related to traditional psychopharmacological treatments and new developments in drug modulation of brain function, its underlying mechanisms, as well as targetable biological systems and processes. Each school of this cluster provides specific expertise on one or more of these aspects.
The set-up of the course is intended to encourage active participation of students and to stimulate interaction between experts and participants. To achieve this, students will, after following expert lectures in the morning, work on challenging problems or statements, present and discuss the outcome in a plenary meeting, during live-streamed Q&A sessions. Further, students will present their research project in a pitch presentation. This will foster their argumentation, discussion and presentation skills, and encourage to network with peers and experts.
To assure that participants are well prepared for the course, profit maximally from the lectures and being fully equipped to engage in discussions, background material will be provided online in the form of prerecorded lectures, knowledge clips and literature. Students will study this material beforehand, and are monitored, i.e. using quizzes, in their progress.
The course is mainly intended for PhD students and junior post-docs. Second year master students with a strong motivation to pursue a PhD in neuroscience may attend providing places are available. A maximum of 50 participants can attend the course on-site. Another 50 students of NENS schools can participate in the online activities such as the access to the informative, background material on psychopharmacology and the online discussion platform. 

This cluster is jointly supported by IBRO-PERC and FENS Committee of Higher Eduxcation and Training (CHET).

Cluster Partners: