Summer Neuroscience Workshop

15th Annual Summer Workshop: #2 on Saturday, March 20, 2021 (Virtual 1-day Workshop)

*since 2007 (Impact: 132 biology and psychology undergraduate faculty from 27 US states)

Hardware and Software Experiments to Teach Neuroscience

During 2021, we will hold multiple online 1-day workshops. The first one will be on March 20 (June and August – dates to be announced). We look forward to returning to the in-person format after the pandemic ceases.

The first of several virtual on-line NeuroWorkshops will be held from 10 am to 5 pm on Saturday, 20 March. Dr. David Donley of Harding University, Arkansas will be assisting with hosting of this 1-day Workshop, together with TA/PhD student Ziao Chen.
The focus of this workshop will be primarily on implementation and active engagement with NEURON simulations. The goal is to provide an easy-to-use method for running NEURON tutorials (all web-based, no installation required) and to discuss strategies for implementing these simulations in the classroom/labs. Neither attendance at a previous workshop nor experience with programming is required.
WHAT IS NEW?  – You can now run all NEURON code on the browser directly using Google Colab. That is, NO install needed on your end at all.  Our team has been working with Workshop alumnus Dr. David Donley (of Harding University, Arkansas) and have together figured out how to run everything on Colab. David led the development of a conference paper NER2021-Donley et al.  to be presented at the 10th IEEE Conference on Neural Engineering, May 4-6, 2021.  Dr. Peter Hastings (DePaul University) has also been trying the Colab method and helped us along…and could possibly share his experiences based on the class he is teaching presently using Colab.
If you are interested in participating in the 1-day virtual workshop, please register using the link below:
After registration, a link and additional information for joining the virtual workshop will be sent out no later than March 18th.
Also, feel free to pass on to interested colleagues and grad/undergraduate students.
David Donley and Satish Nair



Saturday, 20 March 2021 (all Central/Chicago times)

           [ Questions during the sessions? — Please use Google Doc HERE to the extent possible]

10-11:45am: Introduction to Google Colab and use of the six computational neuroscience simulations/tutorials (DAVID)

–       Introduction to “computational thinking” and the role of modeling/simulation in undergraduate education (~15 minutes)

–       Introduction to Google Colab (~5 minutes)

–       General introduction to running S-labs in Colab (loading .mod files directly or importing from Google Drive) (~10 minutes)

–       Implementation of S-labs in the classroom (~15 minutes)

o    Coding exercises (commenting out sections, what is Python vs. NEURON)

o    Demonstrations vs. inquiry-based exercises in the classroom

o    Integration of mathematics (calculation vs. simulation)

o    Differentiation for active learning (modeling hypothetical situations – “Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep” example)

–       Share what you learned! Activity: Participants will spend a few minutes working with one or two of the S-labs. Participants will generate 1 powerpoint slide and save as a picture to share with the group and post to discussion. (~20 minutes)

o    Work with one of the simulations and share with the group something that you (Links to an external site.) can be anything, biology, that you figured out how to run a simulation, anything! The goal is to make some progress.

–       Post a question: Participants will pose a question to the group on any aspect of the simulations. Biological, technical, mathematical, etc. … Question should be posted to the discussion forum. (~5 minutes)

–       Answer a question!: Participants will work to answer one or more question(s) posed by another participant. Answers should be posted as a thread from the original post in the discussion forum. (~15-20 minutes)

–       Break (5-10 minutes)

11:45-12:30: Concurrent breakout working sessions. Participants will have an opportunity to work with and learn about specific models/simulations, ask questions, and engage in discussion

–       Breakout Session 1: (20 minutes; 11:45-12:05)

o    Room 1: S-lab #1 (David Donley);

o    Room 2: S-lab #2 (Ziao Chen);

o    Room 3: S-lab #3 (Satish Nair;

Return and reset/break (5 minutes)

–       Breakout Session 2: (20 minutes; 12:10-12:30)

o    Room 1: S-lab #4 (Satish Nair);

o    Room 2: S-lab #5 (Ziao Chen);

o    Room 3: S-lab #6 (David Donley);

12:30-1:00pm:   Lunch

1:00-2:30:     Big picture theory of tutorials using the mammalian fear circuit and fear conditioning as context (SATISH) – Participant reverse engineer the fear circuit based on the description in the 17-minute video to be watched prior to the Workshop. They then share their sketches by showing it up to the camera.

2:30-3:30:     Break, surveys, and opportunity to provide feedback

3:30-4:30:     Concurrent breakout discussion sections. Participants will have an opportunity to discuss specific topics including application of simulations/tutorials for research, general uses of Google Colab in the classroom, and opportunities for collaboration.

–       Breakout session 1: (30 minutes; 3:30-4:00)

o    Technical question(s)/comment(s) about the tutorials (ZIAO)

o    General uses of Google Colab in the classroom (DAVID)

Return and reset

–       Breakout session 2: (30 minutes; 4:00-4:30)

o    Applications for research with undergraduates (SATISH)

o    Collaboration related to implementation and/or assessment (DAVID)

o    Technical Topics (ZIAO)

4:30-5:00:     General Discussion/Wrap-up session and Conclusions (SATISH/DAVID)


See Neuro Workshop Flyer Summer 2020

3-Day Summer Course

  • July 15 to July 17, 2020
  • Starts at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, July 15, and ends at 5 p.m. on Friday, July 17 (travel days of Tuesday or Wed 15/16 July and on Saturday 18 July)
  • Limited to 10 participants
  • Deadline of March 31, 2020
  • Review of applications may begin earlier

Seats are limited and so apply early.

Application deadline: March 31, 2020

The workshop will introduce several active learning-based virtual (software) labs and one hardware experiment that can be incorporated in existing neurobiology or physiology courses, or used as basis for the development of new courses. The software modules are free and can be hosted on any desktop or laptop computers, and the hardware experiment can be custom-built locally at low cost. Workshop participants will be trained and provided with materials to support the implementation of these virtual labs and hardware experiment. Limited to 15 faculty (we strongly encourage you to bring another faculty member from physics/math/…, if possible; not a requirement)

‘Software’ Experiments or Virtual Labs

In recent years, computational neuroscience has developed tools to abstract and generalize principles of neural function using mathematics. These tools have proven powerful for research over a wide neuroscience spectrum including molecular, cellular and systems levels. However, computational neuroscience also can provide valuable active learning tools for teaching neuroscience. Several comprehensive, yet easy-to-use software packages (Software Experiments or Virtual Labs) to model neurons and networks are available free of cost for the development of active teaching modules. Such neural ‘models’ can be used alone or together with simple biological experiments, to demonstrate basic neurobiological concepts, and give students active hands-on experience and significantly improve student learning experience.

What will you get?

  • Neurobiology modules (‘virtual labs’ or software experiments) for neuroscience or general physiology courses – Nernst & Rest potential, Action potential, Bursting, Synaptic transmission, Central pattern generator, Simple networks
  • Ideas for hardware labs, including some lesson plans that utilize hardware from
  • Year-round follow-up from Mizzou via phone and webinars to help you implement (and develop) software modules into your curriculum
  • Introduction to quantitative thinking in neuroscience
  • Introduction to computational modeling
  • Ability to use NEURON as a tool for teaching and research
  • Contacts and comradeship with like-minded scientists and educators in the region
  • Participation in a neuroscience support-network
  • We will also need your help – in identifying barriers to learning (students), and to professional development and implementation of curricular modules (faculty and administrators) that limit increasing undergraduate capacity in neuroscience at your institution.

Who’s Eligible?

  • Faculty at 2-year and 4-year colleges and universities
  • High school teachers with an interest in teaching neurobiology (2 have attended so far)
  • Must be US citizens or GC holders

To apply:

Click here to apply for the 2020 summer neuroscience workshop.

Please be prepared with:

  • Statement of interest (1 page) including how the workshop may possibly enhance course you teach or your program, and
  • Curriculum vitae

Location and accommodation:

The Workshop will be conducted on the University of Missouri campus. During 2020, we will cover costs associated with lodging and meals at the MU residence halls, with single and double occupancy rooms. Faculty members may opt to bring a faculty colleague physics/math/computer science/… disciplines, but with interest in neuroscience. Their expenses also will be covered. Please note that we cannot cover lodging costs if you stay off campus, except for reimbursing at the dorm rate/day. Also, if you desire to say off campus, you will be responsible for finding your own accommodation. A list of Columbia-area hotels may be found at


During 2020,  a grant will cover costs associated with accommodation in University dorms (single and double occupancy rooms), and meals at the dorms. If you decide to stay off campus, we can only reimburse at the dorm rate/day. Travel and all other costs are to be borne by the attendees.


Satish S. Nair

Dr. David J. Schulz  (Neurobiology)

  • 218 LeFevre Hall
  • Division of Biological Sciences
  • University of Missouri
  • Columbia, MO 65211
  • 573-882-4067

Dr. David Bergin (Evaluator)

  • 16 Hill Hall
  • Educational, School, & Counseling Psychology
  • University of Missouri
  • Columbia, MO 65211
  • 573-882-1303

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