Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2023

Course Description

Here’s where things get interesting. My course is normally a lecture and fact- based class- I believe that while science is more than facts, the facts are the vocabulary to form the more important concepts So there’s a lot of memorization. I’ll be assessing (educator speak for testing) you on use and application of what I hope you know- I’ll provide worksheets and study guides to help with this. Some of this will look like a math class- physiology is very quantitative and I want you to get comfortable with that.

Physiology is the set of disciplines in biology which takes all of the individual cells of the body and puts them together to make a functional organism. It is the great integration step which ranges from cellular function to the basis for animal behavior and interaction with the environment. It is the coolest subject ever.

This course will deal with this broad topic by considering the challenges an animal faces in surviving in what is ultimately a very harsh environment; that is, the maintenance of homeostasis. We will concentrate on the general challenges and solutions, but will use particularly exemplary or interesting cases to illustrate the points. To this end, a comparative approach will be taken, but the mammalian system, and in particular human physiology, will be emphasized.

Within the large theme of homeostasis, we will have 3 “sub-themes” explored in different ways. One sub-theme will be the concept of surface area- to-volume ratios and how size affects an animal’s form and function. In my mind, this concept runs through most of the adaptations seen in multicellular organisms. You will need to be familiar with not just the structures and functions we cover, but how they relate to this theoretical framework. A second sub-theme will be the function of animals and adaptations to different environments. Finally, in the lab, we will be exploring the concepts of metabolism and energy use by animals, as well as some other lab exercises. Please keep in mind that, although I have separated these topics out here, they will all relate to each other.

The lecture will be, at its heart, a lecture, with you on occasion taking the role of lecture (see below). You should feel free, however, to bring up points that are unclear or are simply interesting to you. Often (I hope) in the course of explaining a particular principle, some connection to another system, or to some observed phenomenon may occur to you. Please mention it! Connections of this sort are very helpful in helping solidify memory (really! There’s research to back this up!). And if it is unclear to you, there’s a strong chance it is unclear to someone else, also. Do both of you a favor, and ask for more information.

The lab will serve to reinforce the lesson in the lecture, and in some cases give students an idea as to how the systems work “in real life.” The lab segment is tied into the course. Lab handouts will be available on the Moodle site.

Student Outcomes

Learning Goals:

  1. Understand methods of biological inquiry that lead to new scientific knowledge.
  2. Be able to organize, analyze, and interpret quantitative data and scientific information
  3. Advanced course experience in cellular and molecular biology, organismal biology, and ecology and evolution.

Goal 1 is about both lecture and lab. Outside readings will address this, too. Goal 2 is largely, again, lab and lab reports. Goal three- this is an organismal class, though there will be significant cellular biology as well.

Additionally, I have the goal of students understanding, quantitatively, how size and form affect function of multicellular organisms (in this case, animals)