Divisions and Departments

The Life and Mind building will be home to the Department of Experimental Psychology and a new Department of Biology, combining the existing Departments of Plant Sciences and Zoology. Please read on below for more information on these Departments and their respective Divisions.


As humans we are stewards of the natural world. However, we are also exposed to threats that arise as a consequence of our interactions with pathogens, plants and animals – as well as other humans. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed how vulnerable humanity can be, even in the developed world where many people enjoy security, health, and prosperity. Even once the pandemic has receded, we will remain vulnerable to the environmental consequences of a changing climate, including rising temperatures and sea levels, and food and water insecurity.
Meeting these challenges requires both a deep understanding of biological mechanism, and a firm grasp of human psychology and behaviour. More than ever, we need to work together to conduct high-quality, innovative research that will allow us to change the world for the better. Gathering world-class psychologists and biologists under the roof of the state-of-the-art Life and Mind Building (LaMB) provides an exciting opportunity for interdisciplinary research that meets the emerging challenges of the 21st century.

Experimental Psychology

Over the last fifty years, the way in which research in Experimental Psychology is conducted has changed dramatically. Research facilities in the existing Tinbergen Building suited the old model of isolated and self-contained laboratories, providing facilities for individual research groups. Research today is much more collaborative and centralised.  It often relies on major pieces of high-technology equipment provided in advanced facilities, for example, human brain imaging (MRI), human brain recording (MEG and EEG), brain stimulation (TMS, tDCS), sleep labs, virtual reality and retinal scanners. Furthermore, the researchers in Experimental Psychology are an integral part of the larger Oxford Neuroscience community – working closely together with colleagues in Psychiatry, NDCN, DPAG and Pharmacology – as well as strongly linked to research on human behaviour in other social-sciences departments, such as Education and Linguistics. A new building will enable the much needed overhaul to the types of research spaces required for contemporary research. 
In planning the interim modular building, the Department has made a first move to creating consolidated and highly collaborative spaces, in which members of Experimental Psychology and colleagues across the University interested in human behaviour can work together. The result is a much more effective footprint yielding much more productive and joined up research activity. As additional advantages, such shared spaces foster multidisciplinary collaboration and enhance the cross-fertilisation of ideas and methods across different research groups, which particularly benefit students and early-career researchers. 
The co-location of office, data analysis, teaching, and social spaces with colleagues in the biological sciences is also perceived as a major advantage of relocation. Members of Experimental Psychology are enthusiastic about working with colleagues in the biological sciences to explore how our understanding of the psychological and brain mechanisms of human behaviour can contribute to solving major global challenges rooted in biological phenomena. Experimental Psychology will also benefit enormously from mutual influences in how we address similar types of questions in vastly different organisms (from viruses to humans) using related methodological and analytical approaches. Such synergies will enrich our discovery science, as well as the societal impact of our research, and will feed into improvements in teaching.



The Departments of Plant Sciences and Zoology at Oxford have long and distinguished histories, having been centres for research in plant physiology and development, epidemiology, evolutionary biology, ecology and behaviour for more than a century, including hosting research by multiple Nobel prize winners and dozens of Fellows of the Royal Society. More recently, they have provided numerous examples of successful impact of research, with major commercialisation from spin-out companies, and policy and advice provided at the highest levels of government. The two departments have jointly taught the Biological Sciences degree for more than 25 years, and this recently underwent a major revision to a 4 year MBiol course in Biology with a research intensive final year, with almost 100 students carrying out year long research projects embedded in research groups.
The taxon-focussed labels of these two departments no longer capture the breadth and diversity of modern biology research, and the Life and Mind Building has provided the impetus for the merger of these two departments to form a new Department of Biology from 2022, with co-location in the building from 2024. The academic drivers for this are numerous, including the fact that many of our research programmes address bacterial, viral or other forms of life. Equally, many problems are studied across taxonomic boundaries, or address the interactions between animals, microbes and plants. Further, many of the great biological challenges of the 21st century, such as how we feed 9 billion people, how we mitigate the effects of  climate change and emerging diseases, and how we live with biodiversity require connection across multiple scales and disciplines in Biology. Designing the building with this vision has enabled us to create wet and dry lab facilities that are integrated across the entire building to deliver capacity for the next decades in Biology research.
We are also excited by the prospect of sharing a building with Experimental Pyschology that has been designed for collaboration and ease of interaction. Shared teaching, meeting and social spaces, grouped around a central atrium acting as a hub for engagement, will enable us to find common ground, both in terms of how we educate students and in terms of our research topics. While working together on the design of the building, we have found many common areas, from shared approaches in data and network science, to shared research interests in sensory, social and cognitive science. Many of these underpin key challenges facing humanity today, and our vision for the Life and Mind Building includes the delivery of enhanced collaboration between the departments in these areas.
Further infomation about the merger of Plant Sciences and Zoology to create the new department of Biology can be found here.