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Physiology is the study of the mechanisms that drive living organisms. As such, it is a branch of biology with the aim of understanding how biological and chemical mechanisms in an organism carry out physical functions of organs, cells, and systems such as the nervous system — including how cells communicate with one another. Physiology divides into animal, plant, cellular, and microbial physiology, each of which concentrates on different physical functions that are important to their study; each studies both normal and abnormal functions, and is thus vital to understanding both health and illness.

Course Details

Duration: Three to four years (full-time study); six to eight years (part-time study)

Difficulty: Advanced

Entry Requirements: Undergraduate degree or equivalent general education

Course Description

Core Curriculum

The core topics introduce the field of physiology and give students the skills and understanding to choose and pursue their interests in the specialized topics. The Director of Studies will make adaptations based on student ability and schedule. On completing the core, students will be able to independently read the historical and academic literature. The core topics are:

  • Biochemistry
  • Chemistry
  • Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology
  • Neuroscience
  • Physiology and Anatomy
  • Pharmacology
  • Methodology
  • Endocrinology and Reproduction
  • Physiological Control
  • Exercise and Environment
  • Neuroscience
  • Physiology and Pharmacology of the Central Nervous System


Specializations should be discussed with the Director of Studies. On completing specializations, students will be able to independently read advanced literature and conduct a final project in that topic. Some suggested specializations are:

  • Animal Models of Disease and Injury
  • Bioinformatics
  • Comparative Physiology
  • Drug Discovery and Development
  • Vertebrate Form and Function
  • Embryology
  • Gene Cloning and Expression
  • Human and Molecular Genetics
  • Immune System in Medical Microbiology
  • Stem Cells
  • Protein Structure and Function
  • Psychology
  • Social Impact of the Biosciences
  • Tissue Pathology

Final Project

The final project in physiology consists in one or more papers written on an area of specialization. The paper should take the form of a report on an experiment either conducted or designed by the student, or a dissertation elaborating an original argument about, interpretation of, or perspective on an experiment, method, or theory in physiology. All final projects should be discussed with the Director of Studies, who will assist in choosing an appropriate focus and method. Advanced students may be advised to submit their paper for publication in an appropriate academic journal.

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