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What is Pharmacology?

Pharmacology is really important for most people in everyday life. However, to many people, a discipline that focuses on drugs is seen as something scary and unpleasant perhaps, and as something that requires a large amount of time and effort to grasp even the basic principles. In our outreach we try to make Pharmacology exciting, understandable and relevant to the general public in an attempt to encourage people to take an interest. If more students study Pharmacology, not only would our healthcare system benefit, but our economy and the world at large would benefit too.

The Department aims to:

• promote further study and careers in Pharmacology,

• help support learning and enrich the curriculum in local schools,

• provide a regular programme of Research Seminars in Pharmacology,

• provide members of the public with resources and information about our teaching and research via our website and other media.



The Department participates in a number of public outreach activities, the largest of which is the annual University of Cambridge Science Festival. Further details about Cambridge Science Festival and Open Days can be found here.

In addition, there are hundreds of events at the University that are open to the general public and many of these events are free of charge. Have a look at events coming up at the University through the What’s On website or find out more about our annual festivals (see One event that several researchers within the Department have taken part in over the last few years is Café Scientifique where researchers give a talk in a local bar to provide insight into their everyday research – these events are free to the public, sponsored by the Medical Research Council and a podcast accompanying each event is produced by the Naked Scientist; for example, Dr Ewan St. John Smith recently gave a talk about naked mole-rats.

Work experience

We are happy to consider applications from suitably qualified applicants from universities in the UK or abroad for research studentships, usually for 4 – 6 weeks over Summer. Informal enquiries should be addressed to the Principal Investigators in the Department. More information can be found below.


Cambridge Science Festival

The Masterclass is held on the same day as the Cambridge Science Festival’s ‘Science on Saturday’, which involves a host of mostly free events for visitors of all ages. Details of the next Festival will be posted on the University web site early each year. The Department of Pharmacology runs an event called Medicines Under the Microscope, which examines the effects of common drugs on the heart rate of the water flea Daphnia magna (e.g. caffeine from Red Bull, nicotine from nicotine patches and ethanol from alcohol containing beverages). Children of all ages are welcome to attend and have the opportunity to catch their own pet, look at its heart, eye and legs etc. under the microscope and even take it home (with instructions for care of course!) Using a microscope linked to a television, researchers from the Department then assist in helping everyone present count the heart rate of the water flea and how drugs such as nicotine and ethanol affect the rate: real pharmacology for all to see!


Young Pharmas 2019

Over the past three months, sixteen bright sixth formers from Netherhall, Long Road, Hills Road and Comberton have been busy carrying out scientific experiments and investigating key concepts in pharmacology.

Young Pharmas is an exciting annual outreach scheme headed by the labs of Prof. Colin Taylor and Dr. Ewan Smith, in which several hands-on practical sessions give students currently studying biology and chemistry the opportunity to experience what a career in science might be like, by highlighting the importance of making accurate scientific measurements and introducing modern techniques such as fluorescence microscopy.

During a day-long Pharmacology Masterclass, students were given an undergraduate-style lecture on the structure and function of muscle, and how diseases can be treated by targeting receptor proteins with drugs that influence tissue function. In small groups, students then got to tackle two practical experiments – an ileum preparation and a Langendorff heart preparation - which demonstrated the effects of various drugs on muscle tissue. These budding scientists weren’t afraid to ask some seriously insightful questions to the post-doctoral staff and PhD students from the department either!

A final presentation evening was held at Corpus Christi College where students had to present their findings in the form of a poster - congratulations to Ellen Chaplin from Hills Road for winning the prize for best poster! Prof. Alasdair Coles from the Department of Clinical Neurosciences then delivered an engaging talk about the trials and tribulations of getting the immunotherapy drug alemtuzumab, also known as Campath-1H, into the clinic to treat patients with multiple sclerosis and other immunological illnesses.

As well as aiding in the understanding of current A level subjects, the aim of Young Pharmas is to get students thinking about science in a wider context beyond the classroom, and give a taster of what life as a University of Cambridge student might be like. Hopefully the department will see some of these Young Pharmas return for their university studies in the future!

Young Pharmas 2018

Tuesday March 20th saw the culmination of the 2018 Young Pharmas course. Students from Hills Road, Long Road and Netherhall 6th form colleges completed 2 evenings of hands on experiments, followed by a 1-day masterclass where they were really able to get to grip with drug-receptor aspects of pharmacology. On the final evening this week, students had to present a poster on some aspect of their work and this year’s winner was Harry Hurst from Long Road - congratulations! Before presentation of the poster prize, students, parents and staff were given an exciting talk by Dr Amy Milton from the Dept. of Psychology about the science of drug addiction, a talk that sparked a lot of questions from the audience.



Further information can be obtained from and