The main course targets both students with a biological/experimental background (“experimentalists”) and ones with a quantitative background (“theorists”). Two primary objectives of the course are to help students cross the traditional discipline boundaries that most are still trained in, and to get experimentalists and theorists to collaborate on a research project.
For the experimentalists, this often means catching up on their math and programming skills; for the theorists, on their (neuro-)biology. Because course projects will be computer-based, “catching up” is asymmetrical. When theorists engage on a course project, they can usually get by with limited neurobiological background. When experimentalists engage on a course project, however, they need some proficiency in programming and a solid understanding of the underlying mathematics.
To level the playing field and counterbalance this asymmetry, we offer an optional pre-school that teaches students with little or no programming skills the basics of modern programming languages (e.g., MATLAB or Python). The pre-school will also provide refreshers on standard math topics such as linear algebra and calculus, important to better follow the course. While a four-day school cannot be a replacement for the mathematical education that students from quantitative disciplines enjoy, it will give students a sufficient head-start to focus on lecture contents and the research projects, once the main course starts.
Unsure on whether to attend the preschool? It's easy: if you have no knowledge of MATLAB or Python, then you should take the preschool. If you do know how to program in these languages, then it depends on your math background. Check out our little exam here to test your skills. Try to answer as many questions as possible within twenty minutes. The solutions are here.
- If you managed to do all exercises (and you have some knowledge of MATLAB/Python) then you should skip the pre-school.
- If you more or less managed everything, with a few difficulties here or there (but you do know how to work in MATLAB/Python) then the pre-school may be a good idea, but you should consider it optional.
- If you managed to solve exercises 1 to 6, but had difficulties afterwards, then you should take the pre-school.
- If you had many problems in exercises 1 to 6, and the rest was pretty incomprehensible, then we'd strongly recommend to catch up on your high school math first before taking either the pre-school or the main course. Experience has shown that you will get very little out of the course without a solid background in quantitative thinking.
Please note, that there is an additional fee for the pre-school: 400 EUR , which covers tuition, housing, and boarding for the extra days. Applications to the pre-school are part of the application to the main course.