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Unit outline_

MEDS2002: Foundations of Pharmacology

Semester 1, 2022 [Normal day] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

Have you ever wanted to know how drugs work? Pharmacology is the study of the properties and biological actions of drugs and chemicals and the key roles they play in the prevention and treatment of human diseases. In this unit of study you will be introduced to the foundational concepts in pharmacology: a) principles of drug action, b) pharmacokinetics and precision medicine, c) drug design, and d) drug development and regulation. Additionally, you will learn the tools pharmacologists use in their investigations and develop skills in laboratory and problem-based enquiry. You will have the opportunity to explore and apply the core concepts in pharmacology through practicals, simulations and problem-based workshops. By undertaking this unit you will not only learn to view health and disease through the lens of a pharmacologist, you will further develop valuable skills in critical thinking and problem solving, communication, digital literacy, teamwork and interdisciplinary effectiveness. This unit of study is highly recommended for students interested in pursuing a career in medicine and allied health professions (e.g. nursing, pharmacy, physiotherapy, dentistry) and medical research pathways.

Unit details and rules

Academic unit Pharmacy
Credit points 6
CHEM1XX1 or CHEM1903
PCOL2555 or PCOL2011 or PCOL2021 or BMED2401 or BMED2801 or BMED2802 or BMED2804 or BMED2805 or BMED2806 or BMED2807 or BMED2808
Assumed knowledge

[(BIOL1XX7 or MBLG1XX1) or (MEDS1X01 or BIOL1XX8 or BIOL1XX3)

Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Tina Hinton,
Lecturer(s) Andrew McLachlan,
Orin Chisholm,
Slade Matthews,
Tina Hinton,
Robert Vandenberg,
Kellie Charles,
Macdonald Christie,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Final exam (Record+) Type B final exam Final exam
Timed, proctored examination via Canvas
40% Formal exam period 2 hours
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO7 LO8 LO10
Online task Continuous assessment
4 quizzes - one at the end of each module
10% Multiple weeks 15 mins to answer 10 questions
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO8 LO7 LO5 LO4 LO3 LO2
Assignment EBL research topic
Report on chosen research topic
10% Multiple weeks 500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO9 LO10 LO12
Assignment group assignment Concentration-response curves practical report
Practical report
10% Week 05 1500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO12 LO11 LO10 LO9 LO8 LO7 LO2
Assignment group assignment Cholinesterases and inhibitors practical report
Practical report
15% Week 08 1500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO4 LO11 LO10 LO9 LO8 LO7
Presentation group assignment Integrated assessment presentation
Group oral presentation
10% Week 12 2 minutes per person presentation
Outcomes assessed: LO6 LO9 LO10 LO11 LO12
Assignment Personal reflection
Personal reflection on your learning in MEDS2002
5% Week 13 500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO6 LO12 LO10
group assignment = group assignment ?
Type B final exam = Type B final exam ?

Assessment summary

  • Continuous assessment

This involves 4 quizzes, one at the end of each module containing 10 multiple choice questions that you will need to answer online within 15 minutes from starting each quiz. In total the quizzes are worth 10% of your overall unit of study mark. See your Canvas site for more information.

  • Concentration-response curves practical report

This involves writing a group laboratory report based on your Concentration-response curves practical. This assignment is worth 10% of your overall unit of study mark and feedback will assist in the preparation of your Cholinesterases and inhibitors report. See your Canvas site for more information.

  • Integrated assessment

This involves a group presentation (10%) of your thinking around a major area of enquiry as part of your integrated assessment portfolio. This assignment is worth 10% of your overall mark. Your presentation is due during the scheduled session. See your Canvas site for more information.

  • Cholinesterases and inhibitors practical report

This involves writing a group laboratory report based on your Cholinesterases and inhibitors practical. This assignment is worth 15% of your overall unit of study mark. See your Canvas site for more information.

  • EBL research report

This involves an individual written research article (~500 words) on a topic identified and chosen from one of the two EBL case studies and will require integration of information from lectures and independent research to create a concise research article. This research report is worth 10% of your overall unit of study mark. See your Canvas site for more information.

  • Personal reflection

This involves reflective practice resulting in an individual 500 word reflection on what and how you learnt in the course of this unit of study, how you developed graduate qualities in the process of your learning, and how your perspective has changed as a result. This personal reflection is worth 5% of your overall unit of study mark. See your Canvas site for more information.

  • End of semester exam

All material in the unit of study is examinable, but not all material can be examined within the constraints of the formal assessment process. There is one final examination lasting 2 hours containing multiple choice and short answer questions, worth 40% of your unit mark. Sample questions will be provided for you to familiarise yourself with the question types.

Assessment criteria

Result name Mark range Description
High distinction 85-100%

Work of exceptional standard: Mastery of topics showing extensive integration and ability to transfer knowledge to novel contexts; treatment of tasks shows an advanced synthesis of ideas; demonstration of initiative, complex understanding and analysis; work is very well presented; all criteria addressed and learning outcomes achieved to an outstanding level

Distinction 75-84% Work of superior standard: Excellent achievement, consistent evidence of deep understanding and application of knowledge in medical science; treatment of tasks shows advanced understanding of topics; demonstration of initiative, complex understanding and analysis; work is well-presented; all criteria addressed and learning outcomes achieved to a superior level
Credit 65-74%

Competent work demonstrating potential for higher study: Confident in explaining medical science processes, with evidence of solid understanding and achievement; occasional lapses indicative of unresolved issues; treatment of tasks shows a good understanding of topic; work is well-presented with a minimum of errors; all criteria addressed and learning outcomes achieved to a high level

Pass 50-64%

Work of acceptable standard: Satisfactory level of engagement with and understanding of topic; some inconsistencies in understanding and knowledge of medical science; work is adequately presented, with some errors or omissions, most criteria addressed and learning outcomes achieved to an adequate level

Fail 49% or less Work not of acceptable standard: Unsatisfactory achievement and engagement with the medical science discipline; inadequate understanding or fundamental misunderstanding of topics; most criteria and learning outcomes not clearly or adequately addressed or achieved; lack of effort/involvement in the unit


For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

This unit has an exception to the standard University policy or supplementary information has been provided by the unit coordinator. This information is displayed below:

All assignments must be submitted by the due date and quizzes and exams attended when they are scheduled. Students are expected to manage their time and to prioritise tasks to meet deadlines. Assessment items submitted after the due date without an approved extension using a special consideration or special arrangement form or request will incur penalties. Failure to meet assessment deadlines will incur mark deductions of 5% of the maximum awardable mark available for every day past the due date (for electronic submissions, days late includes Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays). These deductions will continue for 10 calendar days, until the solutions for the assignment are released, or marked assignments are returned to other students. At that point the mark awarded will be zero. For example, on an assignment given a mark of 70/100, the penalty would be 5 marks if submitted up to 24 hours late, resulting in a final mark of 65/100. If the assignment is submitted 6 days late, the penalty would be 30 marks and the final mark would be 40/100. If the assignment is more than 10 days late, submitted after the solutions for the assignment are released, or marked assignments are returned to other students, the final mark will be 0/100.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 1. Introduction to MEDS2002 Lecture (1 hr)  
2. Introduction to Pharmacology Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO5
X- Lab Orientation Practical (2 hr) LO7 LO9 LO11
Week 02 3. Introduction to pharmacodynamics, definitions and nomenclature Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2
4. Autonomic pharmacology Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2
EBL Introduction and EBL1A: More is not better Workshop (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO9 LO10 LO11 LO12
Week 03 5. Receptor theory and targets of drug action Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2
6. Responses to agonists Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO4
Concentration-response curves Practical (4 hr) LO1 LO2 LO7 LO8 LO9 LO11
Week 04 7. Responses to antagonists Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO4
8. Research-led seminar: GPCRs, biased agonism and concentration-responses Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2
EBL1B: More is not better Workshop (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO9 LO10 LO11 LO12
Week 05 9. Introduction to molecular pharmacology and drug discovery Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO4 LO5
10. The shape and properties of drugs Lecture (1 hr) LO4
Integrated assessment workshop Workshop (2 hr) LO6 LO9 LO10 LO11 LO12
Week 06 11. How drugs interact with their targets 1 Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO4
12. How drugs interact with their targets 2 Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO4
Cholinesterases and inhibitors Practical (4 hr) LO4 LO7 LO8 LO9 LO10 LO11
Week 07 13. Allosteric modulation of drug targets Lecture (1 hr) LO2 LO4
14. Research-led seminar: Discovery and development of new drugs to treat pain Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO4 LO5
Integrated assessment workshop Workshop (2 hr) LO6 LO9 LO10 LO11 LO12
Week 08 15. Absorption and distribution Lecture (1 hr) LO3 LO4
16. Metabolism and pharmacogenomics Lecture (1 hr) LO3
Molecular modelling of cholinergic compounds Practical (4 hr) LO1 LO4 LO7 LO9 LO11
Week 09 17. Excretion Lecture (1 hr) LO3
18. Pharmacokinetics Lecture (1 hr) LO3
Pharmacokinetics and pharmacogenomics Practical (4 hr) LO3 LO7 LO8 LO9 LO11
Week 10 19. The importance of log P in drugability Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO3 LO4 LO5
20. Research-led seminar: From molecule to precision medicine: Understanding variability in response Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
EBL2A: Why can't I drink? Workshop (2 hr) LO3 LO9 LO10 LO11 LO12
Week 11 21. Introduction to drug development and regulation Lecture (1 hr) LO5
22. Preclinical pharmacology Lecture (1 hr) LO5 LO7
EBL2B: Why can't I drink? Workshop (2 hr) LO3 LO9 LO10 LO11 LO12
Week 12 23. Toxicology Lecture (1 hr) LO2 LO3 LO5
24. Clinical trials Lecture (1 hr) LO5 LO7
Integrated assessment oral presentation Workshop (2 hr) LO6 LO9 LO10 LO11 LO12
Week 13 25. The who, the how, and the why of product regulation Lecture (1 hr) LO5 LO7
26. Research-led seminar: Drug development case studies - the good, the bad and the ugly Lecture (1 hr) LO5 LO7
Drug development Practical (4 hr) LO5 LO7 LO9 LO10 LO11 LO12

Attendance and class requirements

The University of Sydney Coursework Policy 2014 states:

55 (2) A student enrolled in a unit of study must comply with the requirements set out in the faculty resolutions, award course resolutions or unit of study outline about undertaking the unit of study, including on matters such as: (a) attendance at and participation in lectures, seminars and tutorials; and (b) participation in practical work.

The Faculty of Science resolutions states:

9(1). Students are expected to attend a minimum of 80% of timetabled activities for a unit of study, unless granted exemption by the Associate Dean.

Thus, attendance at a minimum of 80% of all timetabled classes is compulsory for successful completion of the course. Attendance will be recorded. If you do not show sufficient cause for absence from any part of the course you may not be allowed to sit the final examination. Absences from scheduled practical, workshop or tutorial sessions must be supported by appropriate documentation (also see Guidelines for Special Consideration/Arrangements for important information relating to absence from scheduled classes in the Policy and Additional Information document in Canvas). It may be possible to attend a different practical or workshop session by special arrangement with the UoS coordinator.

NOTE Students who have selected the remote learning option must attend all scheduled classes remotely and attendance will be recorded at all sessions.

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings

Prescribed readings

All readings for this unit can be accessed through the Library’s reading list system Leganto, available on Canvas.

  • Recommended Textbook

J.M. Ritter, R.J. Flower, G. Henderson, Y.K. Loke, D.J. MacEwan and H.P. Rang: Rang and Dale’s Pharmacology, 9th ed (Churchill Livingstone, 2020)

  • Study Aid

M.J. Neal: Medical Pharmacology at a Glance 7th ed (Blackwell Scientific Publications, 2012)

For general reading see Trends in Pharmacological Sciences, Trends in Neuroscience, Australian Prescriber, Current Therapeutics

Web Resources

Links to appropriate web resources can be found under the Resources tab on Canvas.

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. describe important drug targets and drug actions at the cellular and molecular levels
  • LO2. explain the relationship between concentration and effect and derive important drug parameters from concentration-effect curves
  • LO3. discuss how drugs are absorbed, distributed, metabolised and excreted and the factors affecting their deposition in the body
  • LO4. explain the relationship between molecular structure and drug activity
  • LO5. outline the processes involved in drug discovery, development and regulation
  • LO6. integrate pharmacology knowledge with knowledge in other disciplinary areas of the biomedical sciences
  • LO7. describe experimental methods used in pharmacological enquiry and conduct laboratory experiments using a variety of instruments and assays
  • LO8. describe the essential components of an experimental design and analyse (using statistics), interpret and critique data arising from laboratory experiments
  • LO9. use digital and other sources of information and technologies to research and identify information and critically evaluate the credibility of information sources and information for reliability and relevance
  • LO10. communicate effectively through oral, written and visual means
  • LO11. work collaboratively and effectively with peers in group- and team-based learning activities and assessments
  • LO12. demonstrate the capacity for self reflection as well as reflection on the relevance of pharmacology to society.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

Close the loop feedback on your Unit of Study Survey feedback will be provided following the release of marks.

Be sure to read the policy and additional information on your unit Canvas site.

Work, health and safety

We are governed by the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 and Codes of Practice. Penalties for non-compliance have increased. Everyone has a responsibility for health and safety at work. The University’s Work Health and Safety policy explains the responsibilities and expectations of workers and others, and the procedures for managing WHS risks associated with University activities.

General Laboratory Safety Rules

  • No eating or drinking is allowed in any laboratory under any circumstances 
  • A laboratory coat and closed-toe shoes are mandatory 
  • Follow safety instructions in your manual and posted in laboratories 
  • In case of fire, follow instructions posted outside the laboratory door 
  • First aid kits, eye wash and fire extinguishers are located in or immediately outside each laboratory 
  • As a precautionary measure, it is recommended that you have a current tetanus immunisation. This can be obtained from University Health Service:


The University reserves the right to amend units of study or no longer offer certain units, including where there are low enrolment numbers.

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