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Facts & figures

Global leaders in physiology

  • 1883 discipline is established
  • #3 in Australia 2021 QS Subject Rankings
  • #28 in the world 2021 QS Subject Rankings
  • 16 discipline research laboratories

Discipline of Physiology

Leaders in teaching and research in the physiological sciences
We aim to discover the origins of human diseases by advancing knowledge in the fields of biology and medicine, especially as they relate to the nervous, cardiovascular and muscular systems.

How can you study physiology?

Physiology is the study of the functions, mechanisms and structures of living organisms. It utilises the experimental methods as well as the techniques and concepts of the physical and chemical sciences.

Research is aimed at the integration of the various activities of cells, tissues and organs at the level of the intact organism. In many instances the solutions to physiological problems are of practical value in medicine or help in our understanding of our bodies and those of other animals.

Undergraduate courses

There are a number of ways you can study physiology units as an undergraduate student at the University of Sydney.

You may choose to undertake either a:

The following degrees will allow you to major or minor in physiology:

Physiology is also an important part of an interdisciplinary major in neuroscience. Although there are no first-year units in physiology, we recommended that in first year you study chemistry (required), molecular biology, maths and physics.


You can undertake honours in anatomy and histology through:

Honours in anatomy and histology is open to internal and external applicants who meet the entry requirements. For more information about eligibility and taking an honours year, visit our honours page.

Postgraduate courses

You can study anatomy and histology units into the following postgraduate degrees:

Postgraduate research

For more information, please visit our postgraduate research page.

Units of study in this discipline

In second year, your lectures have an emphasis on cellular neurophysiology; muscle; blood; respiration; the cardiovascular, renal, gastrointestinal, endocrine, reproductive, sensory and motor systems; and principles of data analysis.

Semester 1
Semester 2

About the discipline

We are part of the School of Medical Sciences and have a rich tradition of research in physiology. Established in 1883 by Sir Thomas Anderson Stuart, we have been an integral part of the University's research and teaching activities since its early days.

Our principal aim is to discover the origins of human diseases by exploring the fields of biology and medicine, especially as they relate to the nervous system, cardiovascular system and muscular systems. Basic research into the mechanisms by which these systems function is paramount. Such research will allow for improved methods of preventing, diagnosing and treating diseases.

We teach in the Faculty of Science, Sydney Medical School, Sydney Dental School and Sydney Pharmacy School.

We have made many significant contributions in the field of physiology.

  • Conducting classic studies on the properties and physiological actions of snake venoms, particularly the tiger and black snakes (Charles J Martin).
  • Investigating miner's phthisis and pneumoconiosis in the Broken Hill mines and finding that lung disease in miners had resulted from the inhalation of dust which resulted in the payment of compensation to those affected (Professor Henry G Chapman).
  • Describing a novel method for determining the body's centre of gravity which led to the development of the anti-G aerodynamic suit designed to protect fighter pilots against blackout and loss of consciousness (Professor Frank Cotton).
  • Inventing ergometers to test specific kinds of athletic activity (Professor Frank Cotton).
  • Conducting pioneering research into the regulation of blood pressure, including the mechanisms that cause high blood pressure (Professor Frank Cotton).
  • Mathematical modelling of the cardiovascular system (Emeritus Professor Michael Taylor).
  • Studying the central visual pathways to identify how the brain sees objects (Professor Peter Bishop and Emeritus Professor William Burke).

Our research

We pursue knowledge about the normal and abnormal function of the body, with laboratories organised by the general theme of their research. Most of our laboratories are in the Anderson Stuart Building on Camperdown campus.

Our laboratories

  • Andrology Research Group
  • Blood Cell Development
  • Developmental and Cancer Biology
  • Developmental Neurobiology
  • Developmental Physiology
  • Embryonic Stem Cells
  • Environmental Control of Physiology
  • Epithelial Transport
  • Human Reproduction
  • Lipid Metabolism Laboratory
  • Molecular Embryology
  • Vitamin D, Bone and Skin
  • Auditory Neuroscience
  • Developmental Neurobiology
  • High Blood Pressure Group
  • Molecular Neuroscience
  • Neurobiology
  • Retinal and Cerebral Neurobiology
  • Systems Neuroscience
  • Vision
  • International Research Networks Laboratory

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