Virtual Lab is a Medical Research Council project for schools. It offers an interactive web-based experiment designed to allow anyone, anywhere in the world, to engage with contemporary medical research. The aim of the website is to increase confidence among young people to discuss science; to provide experiences in support of their university applications and career development.
There is currently a scarcity of opportunities for students to access contemporary research. Modern medical research requires expensive equipment and reagents and highly specialised expertise, but Virtual Lab provides a means for students to take part in a research project. The web-based user interface invites you to become a virtual apprentice researcher in a real study.
The most recent experiment was about stem cell research. Although we are no longer collecting the data, you can still have a go at the archived experiment pitched for GCSE Science/Biology and A-level Biology.
Download the Virtual Lab evaluation for a detailed assessment of our pilot experiments.
1. Background information: this includes the scientific basis and rationale for the experiment.
2. The training phase: this allows students to learn how to analyse the data and receive feedback on how they have performed.
3. The experiment: students work as an apprentice scientist, analysing the results of an experiment, answering questions, putting forward their conclusions and sharing ideas.
The Virtual Lab site hosts one experiment at a time; the results and reflections of participants of previous experiments are available to view in a digital scrapbook. Participants are encouraged to post comments and share ideas and discoveries with each other.
The Virtual Lab experiment and activities are designed for use in a variety of educational contexts, from school lessons to after school clubs. Students can engage with the investigation on their own or through an organised workshop in school. Participating schools can request a Virtual Lab Ambassador to run a workshop that will engage pupils in the experiment and associated activities*. For further information about the Virtual Lab and how to book an Ambassador please see the information for schools or contact Emma Newall, Virtual Lab Project Manager.
Do Rats Need Maps?
An interview with Dr Hugo Spiers
The Spiers lab at UCL
Articles for further reading
Human spatial navigation: A review in the journal Current Opinion in Neurobiology
A Guardian newspaper article, 15 Nov 2011
A New Scientist article on the neuroscience of navigation "Where am I?" (subscription required)
Useful websites and interactives about animal behaviour