University of Sydney Handbooks - 2019 Archive

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Study in the Discipline of Physiology, School of Medical Sciences, is offered by Faculty of Medicine and Health. The Discipline of Physiology is the focus of teaching and research in the physiological sciences at the University of Sydney. Units of study in this major are available at standard and advanced level.

About the major

Physiology is the study of how the human body works and is a core discipline area in medical and life sciences. Physiology plays the central role in the medical sciences, integrating from the molecular and cellular levels through to the whole tissue and organs to understand whole body function. The study of physiology combines the use of examples of common body dysfunctions to enable a broader understanding of both the normal and abnormal functioning of the human body. A major in physiology will give students a thorough understanding of how the body works and the generic skills of data analysis, interpretation and communication they need. These skills may enable physiology graduates to pursue a range of careers in, for example, medicine, allied health, research, and biomedical engineering.

Requirements for completion

A major in Physiology requires 48 credit points, consisting of:

(i) 6 credit points of 1000-level core units
(ii) 6 credit points of 1000-level selective units
(iii) 6 credit points of 2000-level core units
(iv) 6 credit points of 2000-level units according to the following rules:
(a) 6 credit points of 2000-level PHSI coded units
(b) 6 credit points of MEDS coded physiology units for students in the Medical Science stream
(v) 12 credit points of 3000-level breadth units
(vi) 6 credit points of 3000-level specialisation units
(vii) 6 credit points of 3000-level interdisciplinary project units

A minor in Physiology is available and articulates to this major.

First year

CHEM1XX1 Chemistry 1A and 6 credit points from a selection of: BIOL1XX8 Human Biology (MEDS1X01 only available to students enrolled in the Medical Science stream), BIOL1XX7 From Molecules to Ecosystems.

The major in Physiology begins in first year with the study of chemistry relevant to the life sciences, and a choice of human biology, which is strongly recommended, or biology that takes you from molecules to ecosystems and positions human health and disease in this context.

Second year

PHSI2X07 Key Concepts in Physiology (MEDS2001 only available to students enrolled in the Medical Science stream), PHSI2X08 Integrated Physiology.

In the second year of your Physiology major you will explore core physiological concepts and principles that are applied to the various organ systems, and apply your understanding of basic physiology to systems-based scenarios across muscle, sensory and disease complications.

Third year

12 credit points from a selection of:
PHSI3X09 Frontiers in Cellular Physiology, PHSI3X10 Reproduction, Development and Disease, NEUR3X06 Neural Information Processing, NEUR3X03 Cellular and Developmental Neuroscience
and 6 credit points from a selection of:
PHSI3X12 Physiology of Disease, NEUR3X04 Integrative Neuroscience, HSTO3003 Cells and Development: Theory.
Interdisciplinary project units for Major:
PHSI3888 Physiology Interdisciplinary Project or SCPU3001 Science Interdisciplinary Project.
For a Minor students choose 6 credit points from a selection of: PHSI3X09 Frontiers in Cellular Physiology, PHSI3X10 Reproduction, Development and Disease, NEUR3X03 Cellular and Developmental Neuroscience
and 6 credit points from a selection of: NEUR3X04 Integrative Neuroscience, PHSI3X12 Physiology of Disease, HSTO3003 Cells and Development: Theory.

In your third year of the Physiology major you will have the opportunity to study two subjects of breadth in physiology. This includes advanced knowledge of cellular physiology in the context of biological processes and human diseases, physiological processes that regulate normal reproduction and development and how these may go awry, cutting edge issues in the neurosciences, and mechanisms that drive neurons and neural circuits throughout the brain and body.
You will also be able to study a subject of specialisation in physiology, including specialised topics in neurosciences, whole body physiology, and physiology of disease, as well as mechanisms controlling animal development.

For a minor you will investigate one area of breadth and one area of specialisation.

In your third year of the Physiology Major you must take at least one designated project unit. In Physiology we offer PSHI3888. Students may otherwise be interested in taking an industry and community project (SCPU3001) instead.

Fourth year

The fourth year is only offered within the combined Bachelor of Science/Bachelor of Advanced Studies course.

Advanced Coursework
The Bachelor of Advanced Studies advanced coursework option consists of 48 credit points, with a minimum of 24 credit points at 4000-level or above. Of these 24 credit points, you must complete a project unit of study worth at least 12 credit points. Advanced coursework will be included in the table for 2020.

Meritorious students in the Bachelor of Science/Bachelor of Advanced Studies may apply for admission to Honours within a subject area of the Bachelor of Advanced Studies. Admission to Honours requires the prior completion of all requirements of the Bachelor of Science, including Open Learning Environment (OLE) units. If you are considering applying for admission to Honours, ensure your degree planning takes into account the completion of a second major and all OLE requirements prior to Honours commencement.

Unit of study requirements for Honours in the area of Physiology: completion of 36 credit points of project work and 12 credit points of coursework. Honours units of study will be available in 2020.

Contact and further information


School of Medical Sciences
Anderson Stuart Building F13
University of Sydney NSW 2006

Physiology Administration

T +61 2 9351 3478

Learning Outcomes

Students who graduate from Physiology will be able to:

  1. Exhibit a deep and integrated knowledge of physiological principles and concepts and their role in the workings of the major systems of the human body.
  2. Exhibit a broad and coherent body of knowledge of the methods used in the physiological sciences and explain why current disciplinary knowledge is both contestable and testable by further inquiry.
  3. Select and apply practical and theoretical techniques and tools to carry out physiological investigations.
  4. Source, collate, synthesise and critically evaluate information in physiology from a range of relevant sources.
  5. Integrate understanding from other disciplines including physics, chemistry, mathematics and other biomedical sciences into a coherent body of physiological knowledge.
  6. Communicate concepts and findings in physiology and their implications through a range of modes for a variety of purposes, using evidence-based arguments that are robust to critique.
  7. Evaluate the role and relevance of physiological research findings to society, including the translation to health outcomes across a range of social and cultural contexts.
  8. Define a problem, formulate a hypothesis and plan an investigation in physiology.
  9. Develop creative and innovative approaches to problem solving in the field of physiological research and work effectively, responsibly and safely in individual and collaborative contexts.
  10. Address authentic problems in physiology, working professionally, responsibly and ethically within collaborative, interdisciplinary teams.