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Unit of study_

PHSI3909: Frontiers in Cellular Physiology (Adv)

Semester 1, 2021 [Normal day] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

Everything that happens in our bodies is the result of the actions of cells. In this Unit of Study, you will have the opportunity to: Build on your existing understanding of the cellular and molecular basis of how our bodies work, explore what goes wrong if key cell types do not work as expected and learn about the exciting new techniques and paradigms that allow us to link events at the level of the body to the activity of single cells. This unit will help you develop a strong framework for future study and employment in medicine and health.

Unit details and rules

Unit code PHSI3909
Academic unit Department of Medical Sciences
Credit points 6
A mark of 70 or above in 6cp from (BMED2402 or BMED2403 or BMED2405 or BMED2406 or MEDS2001 or PHSI2X05 or PHSI2X06 or PHSI2X07)
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Melkam Kebede,
Lecturer(s) Melkam Kebede,
Jacky Stoeckli,
Robert Vandenberg,
Philip Poronnik,
Peter Thorn (Physiology),
Renae Ryan,
Tutor(s) Craig Campbell,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Assignment Written assessment replacing exam
Written assessment
40% Formal exam period 7 days
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO4 LO5 LO10
Presentation group assignment CBL
Video presentation submitted in week 8; submit questions for week 9
15% Multiple weeks 10 min
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8 LO9 LO10
Small test Midsemester
15% Week 06 60 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO10 LO5 LO4
Assignment Research project
Written Research Communication
30% Week 13 To be discussed with project supervisor
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8 LO9 LO10
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 level.


75 - 84

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

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

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

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:

All assignments must be submitted by the due date and quizzes and exams attended when they are scheduled. Due dates refer to Sydney time. 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
Multiple weeks Cellular Physiology Practical (9 hr) LO3 LO6 LO8 LO10
Literature Review Project (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO10
Challenge-Based Learning (CBL) Workshop (9 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8 LO9 LO10
Week 01 Introduction to PHSI3009 & 3909 Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO10
Introduction to module 1 - Cell structure Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 02 What gives cells their shape? Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2
Membrane Structure and Function Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 03 Molecular mechanisms of membrane proteins Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2
Cellular polarity and its maintenance Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 04 Cell to cell communication Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2
How do cells move things? Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 05 Introduction to Module 2 – Cell Signaling Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 06 Intracellular membrane compartments Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 07 How do cells know what is happening in the outside world? Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2
Chemically coupled systems Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 08 Compartmentalisation of Cellular activities Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2
Integration of signalling Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 09 Lipid Signalling Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2
Insulin Signaling in Target Cells Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 10 Introduction to Module 3 – Protein Structure and Function Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2
Molecular mechanisms of pumps Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 11 Molecular mechanisms of transporters Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 12 Ligand Gated Ion Channels Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2
Voltage gated ion channels Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 13 GPCRs and G-proteins Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2

Attendance and class requirements

Attendance: 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). It may be possible to attend a different practical or tutorial session by special arrangement with the UoS coordinator.

Attendance will be recorded from students' arrival date on campus or from March 31st, whichever is the earliest. From Week 1, students enrolled in this unit should engage with and study all online content, as directed in the Canvas site, including the submission of any required formative tasks and completion of any asynchronous activities.

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.

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. Develop a deep and integrated knowledge of physiological principles and concepts and their role in the workings of the major systems of the human body
  • LO2. Develop a broad and coherent body of knowledge of the methods used in the physiological sciences and explain why current disciplinary knowledge is both contestable and testable by further inquiry
  • LO3. Select and apply practical and theoretical techniques and tools to conduct physiological investigations
  • LO4. Source, collate, synthesise and critically evaluate information in physiology from a range of relevant sources
  • LO5. Integrate understanding from other disciplines including physics, chemistry, mathematics and other biomedical sciences into a coherent body of physiological knowledge
  • LO6. Communicate concepts and findings in physiology and their implications through a range of modes for a variety of purposes, using evidence-based arguments that are robust to critique
  • LO7. Evaluate the role and relevance of physiology research findings to society, including the translation to health outcomes across a range of social and cultural contexts
  • LO8. Define a problem, formulate a hypothesis and plan an investigation in physiology
  • LO9. Develop creative and innovative approaches to problem-solving in the field of physiological research and work effectively, responsibly and safely in individual and collaborative contexts
  • LO10. Address authentic problems in physiology, working professionally, responsibly and ethically within collaborative, interdisciplinary teams

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.

The lecture schedule has been substantially revised since 2020.

More information can be found on Canvas

Additional costs

There are no additional costs for this unit.

Site visit guidelines

There are no site visit guidelines for this unit.

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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