BSc Medical Physiology with a Modern Language / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Physiology RSM

Course unit fact file
Unit code BIOL20942
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? No


This Research Skills Module is designed to develop your experimental design, report writing and practical skills. You will investigate a range of topics including the control of breathing and cold pressor test in humans, the setting of the cell membrane potential, the heart’s response to drugs and the stimulation of skeletal muscle contraction. You will design and carry out a research project related to the human response to exercise.


Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Excitable Cells: the Foundations of Neuroscience BIOL10832 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Cell Membrane Structure & Function BIOL21141 Co-Requisite Compulsory
Membrane Excitability: Ion Channels & Transporters in Action BIOL21321 Co-Requisite Compulsory
BIOL20942 Pre & Co-requisites are BIOL10832 and BIOL21141 OR BIOL21321The Unit is aimed at students on the Degree Programmes of Physiology and Pharmacology/Medical Physiology. It may also be of interest to those studying Biomedical Sciences and Biology.It is compulsory for students to have studied EITHER BIOL21141 Cell Membrane Structure & Function OR BIOL21321 Membrane Excitability: Ion Channels & Transporters in Action.


• To provide the opportunity for students to perform human volunteer practicals, an exercise project and to study cell physiological methods.• To give the students experience in: data presentation, use of some standard statistical analyses and writing up results in publication format.

Learning outcomes

• To be able to devise, perform, analyse and write up (in publication format) a small scale research project relating to the human response to exercise.• To be able to perform a range of experiments using standard physiological techniques and to learn the need for good experimental technique, laboratory practice and for control experiments.• To use statistical techniques to analyse data.


Students will be allocated a mini-research project on an aspect of the human response to exercise. A minimum of two experimental days will be spent working on this project.Further days will be devoted to: investigating the effects of changes in motor nerve stimulus parameters on skeletal muscle contraction, using the frog sciatic-gastrocnemius preparation; examining using computer simulations of electrophysiological techniques, and the function of the mammalian heart; and determining the control of ventilation by changes in blood gas concentrations and investigating the cold pressor response.Another element of the unit is using fluorescence microscopy to determine channel localization in cultured cells.An electronic manual will be provided, which will contain further recommended reading. The mini-research project will require students to do a short literature search.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
The report is expected to contain data which has been analysed using appropriate statistical tests. There are several parts of the practical work which require data handling.
Group/team working
Students work in groups of 8-12 to conduct exercise projects and 3-4 for human practicals.
Students are free to design their own study (within the constraints of the ethical approval).
A member of the group needs to ensure that experiments are conducted on time and in an appropriate manner.
Project management
Students are expected to design their own experiments (with advice from staff) and to manage their own time in the lab.
Oral communication
Students give small group presentations about their exercise projects to the rest of the group.
Problem solving
Questions associated with each practical.
Students conduct research projects which aim to test a hypothesis they have thought up.
Written communication
Students are expected to write a report of their exercise project and short answer questions based on the other practical sessions.
This unit gives students a good grounding in some basic physiological principles, as well as designing experiments using human volunteers.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 55%
Written assignment (inc essay) 45%
Students will write up their mini-research project in the style of a published paper, which will contribute 45% of the unit mark. The remaining 55% of marks will be derived from completion of online worksheets accompanying the other practical classes (50%) and a mark for the oral presentation (5%).RSM Attendance guidelines:Students are expected to attend all scheduled RSM sessions on time (N.B. Health and safety information will be delivered at the start of practical sessions, and students who are not present at the start may be asked to leave the lab). Students who arrive late will be marked as absent for that session. Failure to attend a session (an unauthorised absence) will result in a 10% (i.e. 10 mark) penalty being applied to the overall RSM mark (i.e. a student obtaining a mark of 65% overall will instead receive a mark of 55%).

Feedback methods

Feedback will be provided on online worksheets, most of which will be returned during the RSM. The mini project report will be marked on Blackboard and extensive feedback will be provided before the end of the Semester.

Recommended reading

McArdle, W.D. et al (2009) Exercise Physiology: Nutrition, Energy and Human Performance. 7th Ed. Lippincott, Williams & WilkinsStaff will recommend reviews about some of the cell physiological methods employed. Students will be expected to perform literature searches as part of the mini-project.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Practical classes & workshops 36
Independent study hours
Independent study 64

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Tristan Pocock Unit coordinator

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