The Denouement of an Exciting Journey

You've made it! This bittersweet year is the last you'll spend in McGill Physiology. You can almost taste that diploma and you know you're excited for the Physiology grad event. We're happy to tell you that the previous years in the department are well worth it once you've reached U3! You have A LOT of options on what courses to take for your upper level PHGY and upper level science classes. Now's the time to look back on all the previous courses you've had and pick out your favorite subjects, even if you just learned about them for a few weeks, because chances are you have the option to take entire classes devoted to them. There are even options that you might be completely new to, it's never too late to find a passion! Besides the wide diversity in course subjects, the U3 class options also offer many different grading schemes. No more having 5 classes each with a 30% midterm and a 70% final- these courses offer a mix of presentations, weekly summaries and discussion, term papers, non-cumulative class tests, midterms and finals. Make sure to check the course syllabi to find the best fit for you!

Rest assured, this year will fly by in no time, so be sure to make the most of it and stay involved with as many physiology events as your undoubtedly hectic schedule permits!


In U3, there is no required physiology course. You need to choose 9 credits of upper-level physiology (ULP) courses from a wide pool of available PHGY, EXMD, and other life science courses. Be careful! The Honours Project course (PHGY 461D1/D2) is worth 9 degree credits, but only fulfills 3 ULP credits! Also, not all EXMD courses can be credited towards ULP, as some such as EXMD 504 are considered upper-level science (ULS).

For more information, please consult the departmental website.

Upper Level Physiology (ULPs)

Here PULS outlines some of the more common ULPs students take. This list is non-comprehensive. 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.

Course Pros Cons Evaluation
BMDE 505: Cell and Tissue Engineering

Winter 2018
  • Easy 20% from simply showing up to every class (2hr lecture once a week)
  • Very interesting subject matter, classmates are majority biomedical engineering grad students that are genuinely engaged
  • 4 (which most people opt to do) grant proposal has no set length, but requires creative thinking and you are expected to put as much work into it as the term paper
  • Some of the lectures are a little boring as they are solely engineering based, and some are repeat lectures from classes like EXMD 506 and artificial cells
  • Participation: 20%
  • Presentation: 40%
  • Grant Proposals: 4 @ 10% ea.
EXMD 503: Advanced Endocrinology 2

Winter 2018
  • Interesting material, fantastic profs
  • No midterm!
  • Very little work through the beginning of the semester
  • Final is worth a lot
  • 15-20 page paper
  • All of the evaluations occur at the end of the semester - unsure of how you are doing in the course until the very end
  • Term Paper: 25%
  • Seminar Presentation: 10%
  • Final: 65%
EXMD 506: Advanced Applied Cardiovascular Physiology

Fall 2017
  • Super nice course coordinator (Dr. Schwertani is chill)
  • Last class is a great review for final
  • Small class size (~30 students)
  • Great lecturers, usually a different one every week
    • Because there’s a wide variety of lecturers some are better than others
    • Some even give you their final exam questions directly
    • Some really interesting clinical lectures (e.g. mitral valve replacement)
  • Class is only 3 hours once a week (2h lecture, 1h group presentations)
  • Clinical opportunities - you can easily get to know profs and doctors and get valuable clinical experience
  • Is clinical-based and teaches you really interesting cardiology concepts
  • Presentation groups are assigned on first class so the first presentation already begins the second class
  • Was held at the Glen Hospital last year (far away)
  • Particpation: 5% (attendance is written down)
  • Term Paper: 30% (10-15 pages double spaced)
  • Presentation: 15% (~40 minute presentation, group of 3 students, present the article assigned by lecturer
  • Final: 50% (12 short answer questions and choice of 2 out of 12 essay questions)
PHGY 425: Analyzing Physiological Systems

Fall 2009
  • Easiest option to learn programming skills (MATLAB) for processing physiological data (vs. BMDE 519)
  • Small class size (~25 students), mix of NEURO and PHGY
  • No final
  • Not recommended for students who have never programmed before (TA’s introductory lectures explain MATLAB in terms of other languages)
  • Extremely frequent evaluations which can be tedious (1-2 small assignments per week)
  • Profs lecture styles and engagement will vary (some are easier to hear than others)
  • Assignments: 70%
  • Presentation and Paper: 30% (in pairs)
PHGY 451: Advanced Neurophysiology

Syllabus: TBD
  • Marking scheme is all non-cumulative and there’s no final which is amazing!! So you just need to make sure you keep up with classes
  • Very interesting topics if you like neurophysiology and all lecturers (5 of them) are very good
  • You need to make sure to keep up with material because there’s a class test every 2.5 weeks
    • Extra tip - pace yourself well for Cooper’s test, he’ll make you write a lot and you don’t want to run out of time
  • Class Tests: 5 @ 20% ea.
PHGY 488: Stem Cell Biology

Fall 2017
  • Small class size (~20 people)
  • Interesting material
  • Long answer exam questions (e.g. pick 4 of 7)
  • Straightforward exam questions - easily graded
  • Course Coordinator: Dr. Anastasia Nijnik is great!!!
    • Dr. Nijnik is a fantastic prof and really cares about her students, she emphasizes what she wants you to know for the final
    • She (audio) records all her lectures!!
  • Term paper is graded fairly
  • 2x 2 hour lectures per week
  • A lot of evaluations
  • Presentation: 20% (in pairs)
  • Term Paper: 25% (5 pages single spaced)
  • Particpation: 5%
  • Final: 50% (written)
PHGY 502: Exercise Physiology

Winter 2018
  • Nice to have class with the U3s all together again
  • One 2hr lecture per week (sometimes less if they finish early)
  • Lecturers are generally very dynamic, engaging, interesting
  • Covers a broad range of topics
  • Focus can be quite microscopic / cellular
  • Goes over lots of experimental data, lots of graph interpretation (con if you’re not keen on that)
  • Best to be familiar with resp and cardio sections of PHGY 312 - profs expect this knowledge to be fresh
  • Doesn’t tell you how to bulk, just tells you how to improve your cardio
  • Midterm Paper: 40% (10 pages)
  • Final: 50% (MC)
  • Particpation: 10%
PHGY 513: Cellular Immunology

Winter 2018
  • Different prof every class talking about their speciality - can get an understanding of a broad range of current immunology topics
  • Only have to answer 3 questions on the tests (1 per lecture) so can literally not know 3 of the 6 lectures and still get 100
  • 3 class tests (NON-cumulative) and 6 lectures per test, only have to answer 3 of 6 questions (and it’s 1 question per lecture so it’s chill)
  • Some topics can be dry
  • Some lectures could be confusing without any immunology background
  • Tests: 3 @ 20% ea.
  • Term Paper: 35%
  • Participation/Guest Lecture: 5% (attendance)
PHGY 516: Physiology of Blood 2

Winter 2018
  • Physiology of Blood 1 is *NOT* a pre-req
  • Lots of profs (e.g. Nijnik!), interesting topic
  • Small class, this year ~20 people, the year before only had 7
  • Elaborating from PHGY 313 content, Blank is the course coordinator for this course as well
  • Opportunity to improve your presentation mark by participating in discussions after other students' presentations
  • Seminar every class, read a paper and email a couple questions
  • Quite long, but only once a week
  • 1x 3 hour class once a week
    • 2h lecture, 1h seminar
  • Presentation: 15%
  • Final: 45%
  • Term Paper: 40%
PHGY 524: Chronobiology

Fall 2017
  • Prof is super keen on answering questions (actually gets a little offended if you don’t)
  • Interesting material that hasn’t been taught before!
  • Lots of assessments, so if you don’t do well on one there’s plenty to fall back on
  • Small classes
  • Lots of assessments
  • Not recorded
  • Material can get a bit dry
  • Midterm: 20%
  • Paper: 20% (5 pages)
  • Seminar: 20%
  • Final: 25%
  • Participation: 5%
  • Summary Figures for Seminars: 5%
  • Summaries of In-Class Article Discussion: 5%
PHGY 531: Topics in Applied Immunology

Winter 2018
  • Seminar style class - small class size allows you to interact extensively with your peers
  • Assigned papers cover a wide variety of immunology topics
  • Small workload - you have to work very hard for your one moderating class, but for the rest of the semester you just need to participate
  • Profs bring snacks to class!
  • Traditionally taken by IHI students
  • Require a solid immunology background to understand the papers
  • Must read 2 papers every week
  • Traditionally taken by IHI students
  • Moderating a Seminar Class: 50%
  • Participation: 50%
PHGY 550: Molecular Physiology of Bone

Fall 2017
  • GREAT course coordinator (Dr. Murshed)
  • Small class size (~20 people)
  • Almost everyone gets an A
  • No Final
  • Takes participation not for a grade but says that if you have good attendance and you’re a few percentage points away from that A you’ll be bumped to the next letter grade
  • Class helps you learn to read paper and generate hypotheses instead of just asking you to memorize information for an exam
  • Papers are hard to get started (must formulate and test a novel hypothesis)
    • Also grading really depends on what prof’s paper you write
  • Molecular Cell Biology can be dry if you aren’t interested in it
  • Literally the most boring class you can take at McGill, unless you like bone stuff
  • Can be hard to get a spot, as grad students/dentistry students need to take it as well
  • Weekly summaries due
  • You will have no idea how you are doing in this class
    • Dr. Murshed likes to email you your marks (via Excel Spreadsheet) sporadically instead of using myCourses
  • 3 Papers: 40% (5 pages double spaced)
  • 2 Group Presentations: 25%
    • Groups are assigned by Dr. Murshed
  • Weekly Paper Summaries: 30%

Upper Level Sciences (ULSs)

Here are some common ULSs that students take. This list is non-comprehensive. 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.

Course Pros Cons Evaluation
ANAT 321: Circuitry of the Human Brain

Fall 2017
  • Dr. Ragsdale teaches the entire course, he is amazing
  • Material is really interesting
  • A lot of overlap with PHGY 314 (especially visual system)
  • More than half the class got an A this Fall 2017
  • Straight forward exams
  • Honestly no cons, unless you didn’t like CNS/PNS section in PHGY 209
  • Might be hard to get into as a PHGY student - you will have to email the ANAT advisor during add/drop to get in
  • Midterm: 35%
  • Readings: 5%
  • Final: 60%
ANAT 322: Neuroendocrinology

Winter 2018
  • A- average in previous years, relatively easy for a PHGY student with a good background ready to put in some work
  • Make sure you enjoy endocrinology before taking this course, it is a lot of material
  • Midterm: 40%
  • Final: 60% (non-cumulative)
ANAT 541: The Molecular and Cellular Biology of Aging

Syllabus: TBD
  • Genuinely interesting lectures that you can be engaged in without needing to worry about memorizing details or writing notes
  • Awesome course coordinators and lecturers
  • Good career experience writing grant proposals and getting feedback
  • Quizzes are very fair and entice you to read and extract key points from papers
  • Lots of opportunity to build your grade throughout the semester
  • Relatively long 3hr lecture once a week that sometimes goes over time during student presentations
  • Attendance and Participation: 10%
  • Quizzes: 20% (based on research articles, every 2 weeks)
  • Oral Presentation: 25% (about a primary research article)
  • Grant Proposal: 15% (about assigned hypothesis)
  • Grant Proposal: 30% (based on paper from oral presentation)
BIOL 303: Developmental Biology

Syllabus: TBD
  • Prof Rao is the sweetest lecturer! His pace is very slow but not boring, so you have time to digest the presented knowledge before he moves on
  • Interesting content if you like development (hox genes, morphogens, embryogenesis, axis determination, neuron development, etc)
  • The other lecturers move through material very quickly
  • Midterm is ridiculously hard to the point where Prof Hendricks gave us a bonus assignment to make up 10% of our midterm mark (he refuses to just curve it)
  • You’re going to get sick of hearing about Shh and Wnt signalling
  • Midterm: % TBD
  • Term Paper: % TBD (peer evaluations included)
  • Final: % TBD
BIOT 505: Selected Topics in Biotechnology

Fall 2017
  • HIGHLY recommended
  • 1x 3hr guest lecture per week covering topics within the (huge) field of biotechnology (ex. Profs from the departments of computer science, physics, chemistry, biology, Physiology’s own Dr. Chang on artificial cells)
  • Some lectures are very dry and long
  • Weekly Quizzes: 75% (based on class material, done on myCourses)
  • Grant Proposal: 25% (1 page, about a novel idea using biotechnological concepts)
EXMD 504: Biology of Cancer

Fall 2017
  • Course material is not difficult at all and evaluations are all MC (which is a pro unless you’re not great at MC exams)
  • Wide variety of topics about cancer
  • Only once a week for 2 hours (sometimes less)!
  • Many different profs come in and talk about their field, really interesting
    • Phil Gold teaches a lecture!
  • Both midterm and final were really easy/straightforward
  • Different prof every lecture, some are great while others not so much
  • Some lectures are very cellular (there’s also a lot of immunology which can be a pro or con depending on your background/ interest in it)
  • Midterm: 30% (MC)
  • Final: 70% (MC)
NEUR 310: Neuron Development

Syllabus: TBD
  • Sweet sweet Ragsdale is here for 4 very awesome lectures
  • Small-ish class? I dunno, but like 20 people actually show up
  • Not cumulative! Everyone does badly on the midterm (if they actually show up to write it), but final exam material is actually similar to PHGY 314 (LTP/LTD, neural plasticity, ion channels)
  • All the profs are really great if you ask them questions
  • Material can be dry (definitely memorize pathways and important proteins)
  • Main prof for the course was allegedly very boring, but that’s subjective
  • Exam and midterm are short and long answer, not multiple choice (be prepared to regurgitate whole pathways and suggest experiments)
  • Midterm: % TBD
  • Term Paper: % TBD (assigned topics, option to trade)
  • Final: % TBD
PATH 300: Human Disease

Winter 2018
  • *Would recommend this class only in U3 (a lot of overlap with 300 level PHGY classes)*
  • Dr. Zorychta is REALLY SWEET, cares about her students doing well
  • Many weekly tutorials given by TAs
  • Recorded
  • NTCs available for the course
  • You’ll leave the exams feeling like you failed (but you won’t have actually done as bad as you think)
  • Prof does not post her slides
  • Midterm: 35% (MC)
  • Final: 65% (MC)
  • Multiple Choice: Type A, B and C questions
    • C questions:
      Statement A
      Statement B
    • Answer options:
      a) true, true, causually related
      b) true, true, not causally related
      c) true, false
      d) false, true
      e) false, false
PHIL 341: Philosophy of Science

Winter 2018
  • In lecture, prof essentially just talks about the assigned readings and opens the floor for discussion
  • Easy material and light workload
  • Good opportunity to take a PHIL course and have it count toward your degree, if you’re interested in philosophy
  • Will be extremely boring if you’re not passionate about analyzing the philosophy of scientific explanation (don’t take this if you’re expecting debates about ethics in science; that’s not what this course is)
  • 2x 1.5h lectures/week
  • Discussion Papers: 4 @ 5% ea. (500 words)
  • Presentations: 2 @ 10% ea. (5 minutes to summarize readings)
  • Final Paper: 60%
PHIL 343: Biomedical Ethics

Fall 2017
  • 2x 1 hr lecture
  • 1x 1h conference
  • Content is relevant with current events/ societal issues, very interesting
  • TA and prof are very helpful and easy to approach
  • Difficult to do well in without previous knowledge in philosophy
    • Recommended you already know how to write philosophy papers
  • Some topics are sensitive (ex. Abortion, infanticide)
  • Very long readings
  • Assignments: 3 @ 5% ea.
  • Take-home Midterm: 15%
  • Conference Attendance and Particpation: 10%
  • Group Research Project: 20% (can go realy well or really badly)
  • Final: 40%
  • This course isn't a medicine/science course-- it’s an arts course (don’t go in thinking it’s a medical course)
PPHS 501: Population Health and Epidemiology

Winter 2018
  • Interesting material
  • Clear slides
  • Fairly easy marking
  • Lots of weekly assignments (but not hard)
  • Sometimes only get 48h to submit
  • Weekly Assignments: 65% (pretty easy)
  • Book Report/Presentation: 15%
  • Final Presentation: 15% (in groups of 4-6)
PSYC 311: Human Cognition and the Brain

Fall 2016
  • Prof is great, very passionate about what he teaches
  • No slides or recordings
  • Midterm: % TBD
  • Final: % TBD
PSYC 342: Hormones and Behaviour

Winter 2013
  • Easy for PHGY students with tons of science background
  • Long readings (try to get a reading group going)
  • New Prof - don’t have much information on her, she is nice, writes fair exams thus far
  • Midterm: 30%
  • Poster Presentation/Group Paper: 25%
  • Final: 45%
PSYC 526: Advances in Visual Perception

  • Material is relatively easy and familiar for a PHGY student who has studied the visual pathway in PHGY 314
  • Discussion-based lectures help give the material context and make the course more dynamic
  • Cool optical illusions
  • A fair number of readings are assigned-- if you’re adverse to reading papers every week, this may not be the course for you
  • 2x 1.5h lectures per week
    • 1 is a standard lecture, other is based on discussion based on the readings
  • Term Papers: 2 @ 15% ea. (5-6 pages double-spaced)
  • Midterm: 20%
  • Final: 50%
PSYT 500: Neurobiology of Mental Disorders

Syllabus: TBD
  • *can also count as a ULP*
  • Very interesting (if you’re interested in mental disorders), covers a wide variety of disorders, material is not too difficult
  • First couple lectures are a bit dry, background information
  • Different profs every lecture/topic, and they can be hit or miss
  • Class composition is mostly neuroscience majors, they have a better background for this course than PHGY students
  • Midterm: 25% (short answer)
  • Term Paper: 25% (5 pages)
  • Final: 50% (short and long answer)

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

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