Where we are

Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience
University of Cambridge
Downing Site
Cambridge, CB23DY
United Kingdom

For gorgeous photos of pretty Cambridge, we recommend following Martin Bond’s “A Cambridge Diary” / @acambridgediary

A place steeped in history…

In the late 1800s, Sir Michael Foster was appointed by Trinity College as Praelector in Physiology – the first in this role in Cambridge. The University gave him a tiny room, which a few years later expanded and became the current Physiology building (see photo on the right), and just like that the Physiological Laboratory was born.

Foster, an outstanding experimentalist, was first and foremost a visionary and committed teacher. He trained a generation of scientists who proceeded to make discoveries that opened up entire fields in, among others, neuroscience and reproductive physiology. Among them was Lord Edgar Adrian, who recorded action potentials from single nerve fibres and later mentored Alan Hodgkin and Andrew Huxley. According to historic accounts, The Physiological Laboratory was a centre of excellence where teaching and collaboration were front and centre, and the success of this approach resulted in six Nobel Prizes (Adrian, Hill, Hodgkin, Huxley, Edwards, Tsien) and an enduring legacy. If you are interested, read more about our history here.

The Physiological Laboratory

…with a bright and inclusive future

While the Physiological Laboratory as such does not exist anymore, the PDN department occupies two large buildings in Downing Site in central Cambridge, Physiology and Anatomy, and houses over 50 research groups. PDN’s work spans the Physiology, Development and Neuroscience domains, and huge efforts are made by all – from senior leadership to summer students – to make this place as inclusive as possible. Within PDN, the Galliano Lab is particularly close with the Jones, Poort, and Beltramo labs: we share space, equipment and ideas, as well as a lot of coffee.

Neuroscience in Cambridge has blossomed since the time of Adrian, and over 800 neuroscientists work across multiple departments and institutes dotted across town. Cambridge Neuroscience facilitates networking and collaborations, and brings us all together for a big annual meeting as well as a huge variety of smaller events, such as weekly seminars, journal clubs, and career development workshops.

“Although everyone knows that many animals rely on the sense of smell far more than we do, I am bound to say that until I began to work on the olfactory organ I had no idea what a large and complex affair it might be.”

Lord Edgar Adrian

Lord Adrian’s drawing of the olfactory system, from The Semon Lecture, 1955, “The action of the mammalian olfactory organ”

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