The Core of Physiology

U2 is the most vigorous year of the program. With our base of knowledge in earlier years, we take courses that bridge the gap between textbook science and the frontiers of research. This is the year that we get an in-depth yet varied taste of research initiatives and different body systems. We will gain a conceptual understanding of how intricately our beautiful bodies thrive.

While the 300 level physiology courses are known to be killer, it is important to get involved with the community of people you will be with in all of your classes. Don’t forget to come out to events run by PULS to meet people with similar interests, make friends, and have an excellent year!


A comparison table that summarizes these core courses can be found below. Advice given here is purely based on students' opinions and past experiences. They are in no way an accurate reflection of what the courses have to give, and views expressed here are not necessarily the views expressed by the Department of Physiology, the Faculty of Science, or McGill University.

PHGY 311 - Channels, Synapses, and Hormones

In-depth presentation of experimental results and hypotheses on cellular communication in the nervous system and the endocrine system.

Prerequisite: PHGY 209 or Permission of Course Coordinator

PHGY 312 - Respiratory, Renal, and Cardiovascular Physiology

In-depth presentation of experimental results and hypothese underlying our current understanding of topics in renal, respiratory and cardiovascular functions explored beyond the introductory level.

Prerequisite: PHGY 209, PHGY 210

PHGY 313 - Blood, Gastrointestinal, and Immune Systems Physiology

In-depth presentation of experimental results and hypotheses underlying our current understanding of the physiology topics in immunology, blood and fluids, and gastrointestinal physiology.

Prerequisite: PHGY 209, PHGY 210, PHGY 311
Or permission from Course Coordinators

PHGY 314 - Integrative Neuroscience

In-depth presentation of experimental results and hypotheses underlying our current understanding of how single neurons and ensembles of neurons encode sensory information, generate movement, and control cognitive functions such as emotion, learning, and memory, during voluntary behaviors.

Prerequisite: PHGY 209

Course Pros Cons Evaluation
PHGY 311: Channels, Synapses & Hormones

Fall 2017
  • Dr. Cooper is pretty good at explaining his content and goes through a few examples in class
  • Dr. Sharif recycles many of the questions he presents in class on his class tests so if you study those you are good
  • Dr. Krishnaswamy is a breath of fresh air, very good at explaining and his class tests are very straight forward
  • Dr. Cooper’s tests require a very good understanding of his lectures and content
  • There are not much practice questions to work on so use what is available to you very diligently
  • The final exam is LONG
    • The tests don’t really prepare you for the exam (tests are much easier & you have a lot more time)
  • There are two marking schemes-- the one that yields a better final grade is used
    1. Scheme A
      • 6 x Class Tests: 22%
      • Paper: 13%
      • Final: 65%
    2. Scheme B
      • 6x Class Tests AND Paper: 25%
      • Final: 75%
PHGY 312: Respiratory, Renal, & Cardiovascular Physiology

Winter 2018
  • **Will be updated as the current U2s finish this course!***
  • You finally get to learn about the *signature* systems you signed up to learn in Physiology
  • The cardiovascular section is very interesting
  • Dr. Shrier teaches a portion of the cardiovascular section
  • Dr. Hanrahan is a great lecturer
  • This course requires more conceptual understanding as opposed to rote memorization
  • The cardiovascular section requires some graph reading
  • The renal section requires you to purchase a course pack that is very dense, and actually holds examinable material that is NOT covered in lecture (kind of like an additional textbook)
  • You are given a 200+ question bank to study from for the respiratory section but no answer key is provided
  • For most U2s, it is your *first* PHGY oral presentation!
  • Class Tests: 2 @ 20% ea.
  • Oral Presentation: 20%
  • Final: 40%
PHGY 313: Blood, Gastrointestinal, & Immune Systems Physiology

Winter 2018
  • **Will be updated as the current U2s finish this course!***
  • Dr. Nijnik teaches a section of this course!
  • The blood section is very straight forward
  • Paper topics are assigned by the profs (you do not get to choose)
  • Profs have changed recently (not that much info on them)
  • Class Tests: 2 @ 20% ea.
  • Term Paper: 20%
  • Final: 40%
PHGY 314: Integrative Neuroscience

Fall 2017
  • The material is interesting and the professors present lots of material related to various neurological processes
  • The textbook is very long but not really needed for most of the sections (more on this in the cons)
  • The testing is very fair and given a good knowledge of what was taught, it is one of the easier 300-level physiology courses
  • Dr. Chacron requires students to read some chapters in the textbook (he will test on this content in the midterm).
  • Content can be heavy at times and mildly overwhelming
  • Your success on the paper really depends on the professor you choose to write your paper for
    • The marking schemes are very different and some mark harder than others, so choose wisely
  • Midterm: 32%
  • Term Paper: 20%
  • Final: 48%

About us

The Physiology Undergraduate League of Students (PULS) is the elected student government of the Department of Physiology at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Views expressed on this site are not necessarily those of McGill University, or McGill University's Department of Physiology.

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