Career, Training

RTEI 2022: feedback on the research initiation course for L3

From January 18 to April 26, 2022, L3 students in the Neuroscience course with AMU and NeuroSchool followed the RTEI teaching unit: a module of initiation to research to understand the work of the researcher and to have a better vision of his daily life.

Estimated reading time : 7 min

What is RTEI?

The RTEI course, for “Recherche Tuteurée et Épreuve Intégrative“, is a recent pedagogical innovation in the Neuroscience course, which gives students the opportunity, as early as L3, to carry out a research project, just like the researchers they will possibly become in the future. Students are divided into thematic groups and work on subjects from which they must extract a problem. They develop an experimental approach and synthesize their results in a public poster presentation. During the module, they are introduced to research practices, work independently, and understand the skills they can use to carry out their projects.


The module focuses on 4 objectives to help students gain more maturity in their course:

  • The first is to introduce students to the laboratories, and to “get their feet wet”. The latter carry out their projects under the supervision of tutors, who are teacher-researchers from different neuroscience laboratories in Marseille (INT, LNC and LPC of Saint-Charles, Hôpital Nord…). The researchers transmit the approaches resulting from their specialization, and supervise the experiments selected during the development of the project.
  • The second objective is to put into practice the knowledge that the students have acquired in their Bachelor’s degree. Indeed, the L3 is the end of the Bachelor cycle, and it is the occasion to estimate the contribution and the scope of the teachings in their application to the projects (fundamental knowledge, methods…).
  • The third objective is to make the students go through all the steps of a research project: screening and bibliographic analysis, determination of the project’s problem, definition and implementation of an experimental protocol, data collection, then finally analysis, synthesis and presentation (communication) of the results in the form of a poster. It is also an opportunity to develop skills such as the ability to work in a group, produce a synthesis or plan a project.
  • The last objective is to be able to make an assessment at the end of the experiment. The posters are evaluated and the groups are debriefed with their tutors and the course leaders. This allows to discuss the support provided by the tutors, to make the students aware of their competencies (by analyzing their strong and weak points for example), to “break” the abstract representation of the university teachings, and to bring a better idea of the future curriculum to the students to help them in their orientation.


At the beginning of the module, students are asked to form teams of 5 and to choose 2 themes from a list of proposals. These are made according to the available tutors and the diversity of the fields of study of their laboratories in Marseille. The students get their first or second choice and initiate bibliographic research to determine the subject of their project.

They are then accompanied by their tutors, who give them guidelines according to the theme and the possible options. Once the topic is determined, the tutors provide ideas to guide the approach to the project and provide a specific bibliography. Students then begin independent work. Thereafter, they are guided according to the ideas to develop and the experiments to choose.

When the experiment to be implemented is chosen, the students build a protocol as they go along, with feedback from their tutors. Once the protocol is finalized, they have 2 weeks with equipment and a dedicated room to experiment. They can eventually come back to the operations in the lab. The next 15 days are dedicated to data analysis, with alternating guided and autonomous phases.

Finally, the synthesis phase leads them to develop the elements of their approach and the results. The conclusion and discussion parts are integrated and the whole gives rise to a visual presentation: the poster. The presentation of the L3 posters took place on May 18th and was evaluated by the teachers. NeuroMarseille invited the neuroscience community to come and question and encourage the students.

A pedagogical innovation

In terms of management, the module required tutors to set up a 22-hour teaching schedule with the students, and a slot was made available in the students’ timetable every Tuesday to make progress on their project, either independently or by asking their tutors. This modularity allows more freedom of organization, to observe the students’ progress for the tutors and to give enough time to the students to understand.

At the level of projects, RTEI allows to approach standard or particular techniques according to the platforms of the laboratories. The Marseille laboratories cover a wide range of research fields, including cellular and molecular neuroscience as well as cognitive neuroscience. Thus, the students were divided this year into 14 different groups with subjects as varied as “the bilingual brain”, “modeling of a neuron-astrocyte synapse”, “marking of glial cells by immunohistofluorescence” or “effect of an enriched medium on Alzheimer’s disease in mice”. Techniques covered included EEG, transcranial magnetic stimulation, NIRS, Patch-Clamp, as well as other techniques such as cell labeling.

Finally, this module brings a practical side to the undergraduate training, often perceived as too theoretical. Students can experience the practical application of the curriculum earlier, and have a better idea of their orientation. NeuroSchool, at the origin of this initiative, is convinced of the benefits of this experience, and contributes each year to the improvement of the curriculum of its students by studying the possibilities of pedagogical innovations.

What do the students think?

    Melissa Study of the neural bases (...) by c-fos labeling

    What is your general opinion on the RTEI teaching?
    This UE allows us to do an autonomous work, for my part we wrote a whole report which really allowed us to see what is a real research work. The preparation of a poster and the presentation of our work shows us how research is not something easy and allows students who are still in the dark to be sure of their future approach to research.
    I personally was already convinced that I wanted to do research as a profession, but this course confirmed my choice.

      Tom Internal representations of the action

      How did the EU help you in your orientation?
      This allowed me to manage a schedule in the length (writing article, poster, passage of participants) and to be autonomous in a team work (in parallel of the tutor's look). The team exceeded the objectives in time (deadlines not exceeded) and in participants (+200%).
      How did you perceive your teachers in this module?
      Our tutor, Mrs. Vaugoyeau, set a course for us at the beginning of the semester. From then on, we were autonomous. We gave her a weekly report on the project which allowed us to get back on track when necessary.

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