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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.



The Department hosts a Pharmacology Masterclass for Year 12 students from across the region. Details and application procedure can be found below. 


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!


Pharmacology Master Class

The class is held on a Saturday in March and provides practical experience with smooth muscle contraction, microscopy, and measurement of intracellular Ca2+ signals. Staff are also available to answer queries about university admission and the Natural Sciences, Medical and Veterinary courses at Cambridge. There are also opportunities to visit our research labs and to tour Pembroke College.

This event is open to students in Year 12. Applicants must:

  • Have achieved A* or A in GCSE Biology or GCSE Dual Award/Combined Science.
  • Be studying A-level Biology*, as well as another science subject at A-level.
  • Be intending to apply for, or be considering applying for a science degree at university.

*or other qualification at this level e.g. International Baccalaureate


Schools are contacted in January with application details for the Masterclass. Teachers who would like to receive further information about the event should contact Dr Emily Taylor ( before mid-January. The handbook for the most recent class is available here. We are unable to consider further applications for 2014 because the class is already oversubscribed.

Further information can be obtained from and