School of Medical Sciences

Study options

What is physiology?

phys·i·ol·o·gy n [L physiologia natural science, fr. Gk, fr. physis, nature + -logos, study] 1: A branch of biology that deals with the functions and activities of life or of living matter (as organs, tissues, or cells) and of the physical and chemical phenomena involved. 2: The organic processes and phenomena of an organism or any of its parts or of a particular bodily process. phys·i·ol·o·gist n

Physiology is, first and foremost, a science: it is concerned with how living organisms work. Ultimately, understanding how living organisms work will allow us to understand what goes wrong in disease and provide a rational scientific basis for the treatment of disease. As a science, physiology depends on the acquisition of knowledge by observation and experiment, and the interpretation of experimental observations. Of the biological sciences, physiology is highly quantitative in its approach and it also has close links with biochemistry, biophysics, molecular biology, mathematical modelling, pharmacology, and zoology.

Mammalian physiology may be viewed as a cornerstone of scientific medicine and it is therefore not suprising that a large part of medical research world wide is centered on physiology.

Why study physiology?

Physiology is an active and developing science which promises to remain one of the most exciting biological disciplines for the foreseeable future. It offers a broad training in scientific and technical skills that naturally feed into other disciplines. However, physiology is an important subject in its own right and (for example) neurophysiology and neuroscience (which study the brain and nervous system) are some of the fastest growing areas in biology.

There are even more exciting prospects! One real challenge of the future is to take the discoveries of the molecular biologists and fit them into an integrated picture of the functioning of the whole organism. Writing in the prestigious journal: Nature, Peter Newmark stated "we must have a new generation of bright physiologists able to pick up from where the molecular approach runs out".

Within physiology, the techniques of molecular biology are already being used by physiologists to study the fundamental workings of the nervous system and other tissues. It is even possible that in the future `molecular physiologists' will design specific treatments at the molecular level to reverse diseases that are due to defects in physiological processes.

What do physiologists do?

Physiologists have many roles in society because physiology occupies a central place amongst the biological sciences. Some examples of careers in which a training in physiology is either essential or highly desirable are:

  • Audiology
  • Bioengineering
  • Environmental Health
  • Food Science
  • Nutrition
  • Optometry
  • Pharmacy
  • Radiography
  • Radiotherapy
  • Sport Science
  • Toxicology
  • Veterinary Medicine

Postgraduate research opportunities

Potential supervisors and general information on the type of research project areas available on the Postgraduate research projects. Alternatively, you can browse our research section to find potential projects that interest you.

Please contact the appropriate person directly with your enquiries, or for further information contact the graduate student co-ordinators.

For Information on our Doctoral programme please contact

For more information on the Honors, Postgraduate Diploma and Masters programme please contact: