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Unit of study_

PCOL3911: Toxicology (Advanced)

Semester 1, 2024 [Normal day] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

We are constantly exposed to chemicals over our lifetime that can harm us and lead to disease and even death. The study of toxicology helps you understand why a chemical or drug can have toxic effects and what your risk is for harm. This understanding is central to drug development and chemical and drug regulation. In this this unit of study you will gain further knowledge in target organ toxicology (lung, liver, CNS), environmental toxicology (such as asbestos and pesticides) and the diverse world of plant and animal toxins. The fundamental mechanisms for toxic reactions in the human body will be explored. As a final consequence of exposure to many toxicants, the biology and causes of cancer are discussed. As part of the unit you will be introduced to methods for the collection and analysis of data from human and animal populations, including clinical trials, forensic problems and epidemiological data. You will be set special advanced assignments and additional practical data management activities related to the material covered in lectures and practical work. These may also involve advanced practical work or detailed investigation of a theoretical problem. 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

Unit code PCOL3911
Academic unit Pharmacy
Credit points 6
a mark of 70 or above in [(PCOL2011 or PCOL2021 or MEDS2002) or (BMED2401 and BMED2405)]
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Slade Matthews,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Supervised exam
Final exam
Written exam with MCQ
40% Formal exam period 2 hours
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO9 LO10
Presentation Tutorial presentation
Oral presentation
8% Multiple weeks 5 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO2 LO5 LO3
Tutorial quiz Quizzes
Invigilated online MCQ examination
10% Multiple weeks 2 x 15min quizzes
Outcomes assessed: LO3 LO9 LO5 LO4
Participation Tutorial participiation
2% Ongoing n/a
Outcomes assessed: LO2
Assignment Toxicity Modelling
Written report.
15% Week 07
Due date: 08 Apr 2024 at 23:59
900 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO4 LO6 LO7
Skills-based evaluation Data Management Skills Assessment
Apply functions/answer questions on Excel workbook.
5% Week 11 10 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO8
Assignment group assignment LD50 report
20% Week 12
Due date: 17 May 2024 at 23:59
1400 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO5 LO8 LO9 LO10 LO11 LO12
group assignment = group assignment ?

Assessment summary

Detailed information for each assessment can be found on Canvas.

Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2014 (Schedule 1).

As a general guide, a high distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a distinction a very high standard, a credit a good standard, and a pass an acceptable standard.

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100

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


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.


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.


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.


0 - 49

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

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:

Late Penalties 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.

Support for students

The Support for Students Policy 2023 reflects the University’s commitment to supporting students in their academic journey and making the University safe for students. It is important that you read and understand this policy so that you are familiar with the range of support services available to you and understand how to engage with them.

The University uses email as its primary source of communication with students who need support under the Support for Students Policy 2023. Make sure you check your University email regularly and respond to any communications received from the University.

Learning resources and detailed information about weekly assessment and learning activities can be accessed via Canvas. It is essential that you visit your unit of study Canvas site to ensure you are up to date with all of your tasks.

If you are having difficulties completing your studies, or are feeling unsure about your progress, we are here to help. You can access the support services offered by the University at any time:

Support and Services (including health and wellbeing services, financial support and learning support)
Course planning and administration
Meet with an Academic Adviser

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 Lecture 1. Introduction to toxicology; Lecture 2. Epidemiology in toxicology Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO3 LO9
Tutorial 1 Tutorial (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO5 LO8 LO11
Week 02 Lecture 1. Disposition of toxicants; Lecture 2. Cause and effect Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO3 LO4 LO9 LO10
Week 03 Lecture 1. Mortality and morbidity statistics; Lecture 2. Analysing dose-response data (LD50) Lecture (2 hr) LO8 LO9 LO11 LO12
Tutorial 2 Tutorial (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO5 LO6 LO8 LO11
Week 04 Lecture 1. Pesticide toxicology; Lecture 2. Adverse drug reactions and interactions Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO6
LD50 insecticides cockroaches Practical (3 hr) LO1 LO3 LO8 LO11 LO12
Week 05 Lecture 1. Pharmacogenomics; Lecture 2. Thresholds and risks Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO6
Tutorial 3 Tutorial (2 hr) LO1 LO3 LO5 LO6 LO8 LO9 LO11
Week 06 Lecture 1. Analysing population data; Lecture 2. Non clinical toxicology - drug safety Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO6 LO9
Week 07 Lecture 1. Clinical toxicology; Lecture 2. Nano particles Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO6
Tutorial 4 Tutorial (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO8 LO9 LO11 LO12
Week 08 Lecture 1. Lung toxicology; Lecture 2. Renal toxicology Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO5 LO6
Forensic and clinical toxicology Practical (3 hr) LO1 LO5 LO6 LO11
Week 09 Lecture 1. Liver toxicology; Lecture 2. Cone snail toxins Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO6 LO7
Tutorial 5 Tutorial (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO8 LO11 LO12
Week 10 Lecture 1. Snake and spider toxins; Lecture 2. Neurotoxicology 1 Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO6 LO7
Week 11 Lecture 1. Neurotoxicology 2; Lecture 2. Carcinogenesis Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO4 LO6
Tutorial 6 Tutorial (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO8 LO9 LO10 LO11
Week 12 Lecture 1. Cytotoxic drugs; Lecture 2. Toxicity of molecular targeted drugs Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO6
Week 13 Lecture 1. Plant toxicology; Lecture 2. Review of course learning objectives Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO7

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.

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

Sections of these textbooks complement the lecture series:

  Klaassen, Curtis D. Casarett and Doull’s Toxicology: The Basic Science of Poisons. 8th ed. New York, N.Y: McGraw-Hill Education LLC, 2013. Print.

  Klaassen, Curtis D. Casarett & Doull’s Essentials of Toxicology. 2nd ed. New York, N.Y: McGraw-Hill Education LLC, 2010. Web.

  Burcham, Philip C. An Introduction to Toxicology. London: Springer London, 2014. Print.

  Goldfrank, Lewis R. Goldfrank’s Toxicologic Emergencies. 11th ed. New York, N.Y: McGraw-Hill Education LLC, 2011. Web.

Prescribed journal articles will also be made available to students via Canvas and the library eReserve.

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. apply methods and ideas from the syllabus to real world problems in toxicology
  • LO2. contribute to the public debate in relation to safety and efficacy of therapeutic agents and contribute to the public discourse on environmental hazards and carcinogenesis
  • LO3. interpret epidemiological and statistical data from published studies and evaluate risks associated with toxicants (both environmental chemicals and pharmaceuticals)
  • LO4. describe the process of carcinogenesis and will be able to explain how the epidemiology of cancer relates to exposure statistics
  • LO5. interpret study data and decide whether claims made are consistent with the evidence reported in the study
  • LO6. describe the regulatory requirements for establishing the safety of new therapeutic agents and explain the meaning of data arising from such studies
  • LO7. explain how an understanding of natural poisons can contribute to the development of therapeutic agents
  • LO8. use Excel to generate a non-linear model of dose-response data and derive the LD50 value from the model
  • LO9. employ standard epidemiological formulae to assess changes in risk associated with exposure to putative toxicant
  • LO10. discuss the Hill criteria for causality and implement this with respect to the assessment of the effect of toxicant exposure including tobacco and aflatoxins
  • LO11. work in a team on a large project with large datasets and generate a report to form a cap-stone project due at the end of semester
  • LO12. use Prism or other software to perform basic statistical analysis of laboratory data.

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.

Assessment weighting was revised based on student feedback. These changes provided more feedback (feedforward) and marks leading into the final examination.

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.

To help you understand common terms that we use at the University, we offer an online glossary.