Programs of study

Our programs

Welcome to physiology! In our department, three programs[?] of study are offered: Major, Honours and Liberal. These three programs are similar in most of the curriculum, but differ at key points, making them unique. In addition, the Department also offers two joint majors with the departments of Physics and Mathematics, as well as an interdepartmental honours program in immunology. We will attempt to guide you through your choice of program.


The Major program is the curriculum that presents to students a deep understanding of human and mammalian physiology in all of its aspects. In addition to the intensive study of physiology, a strong background in the related life and biomedical sciences is founded. Fields such as biochemistry, molecular biology, neuroscience and immunology are explored.

The Major program is 65 credits in weight, and thus allows the pursuit of a minor or elective courses outside of physiology.

This program of study best suits students who wish to pursue intensive studies in physiology while having the option to take courses in other areas of their interest.


The Honours program is the curriculum axed on experimental research. In addition to learning a strong theoretical background, students have the opportunity to interact with leading experts in the field of physiology while conducting guided experimental research in a laboratory setting. Courses and seminars are also offered in scientific methodology and communication, presenting students a complete preparation for a career in scientific research.

The Honours program is 75 credits in weight, leaving little room for electives or a minor. Admission into the Honours program is limited, and selection is made before entering U2. Students interested in the Honours program should have a strong academic standing in U1 and are advised to speak to the departmental advisor.

This program of study best suits students who wish to pursue a career in scientific research in the field of physiology.

The following table summarizes some of the core Honours Physiology courses.

Course Pros Cons Evaluation
PHGY 351: Research in Physiology

  • Vollrath will know your name (and sometimes you’ll see her daughters <3)
  • You get to play with zebrafish
  • Bonding with honours friends!
  • No one really knows what’s going on
  • Lab techniques you learn are legit the same as in PHGY 212/213 and BIOL 301
  • Have to write full lab reports for every prof (x4)
  • The take home midterm is actual hell
  • Half lecture, half lab
  • Legit no one knows, but you’re almost guaranteed at least an A-
  • Mythical grading scheme
PHGY 359: Tutorial in Physiology

  • Very little effort required
  • Can pick your supervisor
  • Pass/fail course
  • Have to read papers every month
  • Full year course (two consecutive semesters)
  • 4 meetings with supervisor per semester
  • As long as you meet with your supervisor 4x, you pass! No grades!
PHGY 459: Physiology Seminar

  • Teaches you how to read and discuss scientific papers
  • Learn how to write a grant (cry)
  • Papers are so dry and they take so long to read it sucks the life out of everything
  • You have a write a full 10 page single spaced grant
  • Spontaneous presentations of grant proposal may be required - they will give you 2 days to prep a 30 min presentation…
  • Literally nobody knows how they’re doing in this class until the end...and it’s 6 credits
  • This course is the worst experience of McGill
  • Full-year course (two consecutive semesters)
  • Participation: 50% (25% per semester)
  • In-class Tests: 20% (10% per semester
  • Oral Presentation: 10% (Winter)
  • Grant Application: 20% (Winter)
PHGY 461: Experimental Physiology

Syllabus: N/A

  • Learn research techniques and get research experience
  • Depends on your prof and research
  • Pretty easy (about 15 hours per week)
  • Learn how to write a paper and how to discuss research
  • Hard to tell if you are doing well and its 9 credits :/
  • Has a long paper and a presentation
  • Depends on your prof...
  • Full-year course (two consecutive semesters)
  • Completely decided on by your supervisor!
  • Overall Lab Work: 60% (throughout the year)
  • Oral Presentation Progress: 15% (February)
  • Final Paper: 25%


The Liberal program allows maximum flexibility to students. Students are required to take core physiology courses, but have a reduced number of required courses outside of the Department. This allows students to explore the other sciences in their undergraduate degree while also maintaining an in-depth study of core physiological concepts.

The Liberal program is 46-50 credits in weight, and students are required to take a minor in another discipline.

This program of study best suits students who wish to pursue studies in physiology in conjunction with other fields of science.

Joint Majors Physiology-Mathematics and Physiology-Physics

The Department of Physiology offers two joint major programs with the departments of Mathematics and Physics. These joint major programs are aimed at students who wish to pursue a degree in physiology with strong physical and mathematical foundation. Subjects emphasized will be electrophysiology, biometry, mathematical modeling, and more. The joint major programs contain all core physiology courses, but a lower number life science courses outside of physiology. The aim is to complement a core physiological foundation with theoretical and applied principles in physics or mathematics. Culminating in a year-long research project, these programs also provide a strong foundation for graduate studies in experimental physiology.

The Joint Major programs are 77 credits in weight, leaving little room for electives or a minor. Students interested in pursuing a joint major should speak with their departmental advisor prior to or at the start of the U1 year.

This program of study best suits students who wish to pursue studies in physiology with a high degree of specialization in mathematics and physics.

The following table summarizes some of the core MATH and PHYS courses in the Joint Majors program.

Course Pros Cons Evaluation
BIOL 309: Biometry

Syllabus: TBD

  • Glass is a really interesting lecturer who uses a lot more than just notes on a whiteboard
  • The assignments are very similar to textbook questions/examples
  • The exams are a little harder than in class/assignments, memorizing is not enough you actually have to understand the theory
    • You have access to all of the past midterms and finals so that is useful
  • Take this before you take MATH 437 -- MATH 437 rehashes a lot of this material in more details
  • Take this at the same time as MATH 326: Non-linear Dynamics & Chaos
  • Assignemnts: 4 @ % TBD ea.
  • Midterm: % TBD
  • Paper: % TBD
  • Final: % TBD
BMDE 519: Biomedical Signals & Systems

Syllabus: TBD
  • You learn a lot about using MATLAB, and the fundamental tools used in signal analysis (either a pro or a con depending on if this interests you)
  • No other course will ever teach you to manage your time like this one (also either a pro or con depending on your outlook)
  • Midterm and final are offered over a 2 week span (you can pick 72 consecutive hours during this period to write the exam)
  • Lectures don’t really prepare you for the assignment questions as well as they should
  • The professor expects you to have significant knowledge before starting the class
  • You have exactly 72 hours to do a take-home midterm and final- must prepare very well for this (write a bunch of MATLAB functions to do shortcut analyses in preparation)
  • Weekly assignments take 10h+
  • This course requires previous knowledge of MATLAB. Either take PHGY 425 (an actual intro to MATLAB) in your 3rd year, or spend some time in the summer before your 4th year learning the basics
  • Learn how to build functions in MATLAB before doing an assignment. Often the assignments are repetitive involving using the same analysis technique for 10 signals. Save the analysis technique as a function then run each signal through it.
  • Try to get ahead on the first week’s assignment so you have two weeks to do subsequent ones
  • Weekly Assignments: % TBD
  • Midterm: % TBD
  • Final: % TBD
MATH 326: Non-linear Dynamics & Chaos

Syllabus: TBD
  • The most interesting PHGY/MATH course you’ll take
  • Some computational stuff about approximating dynamical systems
  • Learn this before the first quiz because it’s tested repeatedly even tho it’s only 1 or 2 lectures
  • 2x In-class Quizzes: % TBD
  • Midterm: % TBD
  • Final: % TBD
MATH 437: Mathematical Methods in Biology

Syllabus: TBD
  • Super interesting class
  • Dr. Khadra is extremely engaging and excited about this topic
    • You will never fall asleep in class
  • No midterm
  • The paper/presentation project is really cool-- you pick a paper of mathematical biology of your choice to analyze and have fun with
  • Covers different mathematical models within two main biological streams: immunology and neuroscience
  • Basically a continuation of MATH 326 applied to life sciences
  • You mostly learn about how to use systems of ODEs to represent physiological systems
  • 3 assignments throughout the term (a month to do each) but are REALLY long
  • XPPAUTO (required program used for time series and bifurcation analysis) is no friend to strangers
  • Assignments: 3 @ 10% ea.
  • TBD
PHYS 519: Advanced Biophysics

Syllabus: TBD
  • TBD
  • TBD
  • TBD

Interdepartmental Honours in Immunology

The Interdepartmental Honours in Immunology (IHI) is a demanding and highly structured joint program between the departments of Physiology, Biochemistry, and Microbiology and Immunology aimed to give students a complete training in the field of immunology. Along with a core training in physiology, molecular biology, and biochemistry, students are exposed to research techniques and seminars, allowing them to be immersed in academic research in their undergraduate years. Culminating in a year-long research project, the IHI provides a solid preparation for graduate studies in immunology as well as related life sciences.

The IHI is 77 credits in weight, leaving little room for electives or a minor. Students interested in pursuing the IHI should speak with their departmental advisor prior to or at the start of the U1 year.

This program of study best suits students who wish to pursue a career in scientific research in immunology and its related fields.

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